Genealogy website FamilySearch has announced that it has added millions of new, free historical records to help families search for their ancestors, in time for the centenary of end of World War I.
In many allied nations, Armistice Day is a national holiday coinciding with Veterans Day and Remembrance Day to celebrate the endings of both World War I and World War II. In the warring nations of World War I, millions registered for war and millions served. Twenty-one million were wounded and 20 million died.
Family history records for World War I
As countries pause to remember, families seek to document their ancestors’ war-time stories. The stories from World War One are no longer first-hand accounts, but they do exist on documents, in pictures, and as memorabilia. The era’s records supply rich ancestral details including physical characteristics, vital information, service details and more.
FamilySearch has a large, constantly expanding, free collection of World War I records
to help remember these soldiers. Governments on both sides of the conflict, Allied nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Italy) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) created a treasure trove of documents useful to genealogists.
World War I draft records
Some records are unexpected today. For example, American women married to non-American men lost citizenship. Many created citizenship papers
to be re-naturalized. Nearly everyone who had a male ancestor aged 21-30 that lived in the U.S. during WWI can find a record of that ancestor.
Jennifer Davis, a family historian, found all four of her great-grandfathers in the WWI Draft Records online—even though none of them served active duty. “The only picture I have of my great-grandpa Figgins is in black and white from a copy of a newspaper clipping,” said Davis. “In his draft record, it gives a physical description of him and says his eyes are brown. That’s a cool discovery, because I never would have known his eye color.”
The draft records can be the perfect springboard to searching other records, because they often give hints about the registered individual, such as clues to family members listed in the “closest living relative” section or employment clues.
Search the WWI collections at FamilySearch.org.
QUICK LINK: The vital role of World War I army chaplains