Saturday, 16 November 2013

Family history and military history

Exploring family history (family stories) can lead to a wider understanding of history in general.

When researching family history, particularly family in Europe, it becomes apparent that wars and battles constantly impact directly or indirectly on the lives of families and on the communities in which they live. Military history therefore can be an important aspect of family or local history research. In the twentieth century World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) were major world conflicts but the Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflicts throughout the world have continued to impact upon the lives of families who served as well as on subsequent government policy and relationships between countries.

With the centenary of World War I (2014-2018) approaching there is a focus on exploring the history of the First World War but anyone investigating family history may need to investigate a variety of military events to really understand their family story. In the history of my family I have found family members who fought in the two World Wars, Boer War and Crimean War as well as family serving in the British Army in India. One member was even stationed in the West Indies for a time. The history of Europe is largely a chronicle of conflict. The history of England, for example, involves conflicts with Scotland, Wales and Ireland plus conflicts within each of those countries, particularly in England. Then there was almost constant hostility with the French and from time to time other countries in Europe. The Crusades form another component of military history over several centuries. Then there were the invasions of the Vikings, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, not to mention the Romans.

Libraries, Archives. Museums and other collecting organisations have resources that can help family historians understand the past in which their ancestors lived. Increasingly documents are being digitised and / or indexed and the information made available online, making it easier for researchers to access information. It is important to remember that research is an ongoing process and that information that is not easily accessible the first time you look may be available in a year or two.

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