Saturday, 10 October 2015

Exploring family military history

Organisations and resources that may be useful when exploring family military history. This guide was prepared for a talk at Nunawading Library on Exploring Family Military History in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. See part two of this guide for a select list of battles and wars with resources.

National Archives of Australia (
The National Archives of Australia holds Army, Navy and Air Force service records since Federation, which include service during World War I and World War II. Records available in the National Archives of Australia can be found using Record Search, then selecting Name Search. Choose the category of record from the drop down list.

World War I records from National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand can also be located via the website Discovering Anzacs -

National Archives (UK) (
The National Archives (UK) holds a thousand years of records. Discovery, the catalogue of the National Archives, holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by the National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download.

Discovery (National Archives UK) is also available free via the State Library of Victoria website ( if you are a library member.

The National Archives(UK) also has a large number of useful research guides. Under the heading, Military and Maritime, you will find 136 guides. Other useful headings are World War I and World War II.

Each Australian state has an archive.
For Victoria it is the Public Record Office of Victoria ( This archive has recently made available records relating to soldier settlement in Victoria after World War I – Battle to Farm -

State Records NSW ( is the state archive for NSW. They also have a soldier settlement project – A Land Fit for Heroes? -

All the above resources have guides and finding aids plus online indexes. Some also have online exhibitions and / or articles providing useful background information. They also all have sections specifically for family history.

 War memorials and museums
Australian War Memorial - (
The War History section of this website provides information on the military and Australia since Colonial times. The website also has links to digitised publications including unit diaries and official histories.
The People section allows researchers to locate information on Nominal Rolls and other lists held by the Australian War Memorial and other institutions.

Imperial War Museums (UK) - (
Imperial War Museums’ collections cover all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries. For information about individuals use National Archives (UK).
The War and Conflict section includes a variety of useful articles.

Government departments
Department of Veterans Affairs – (
Commemorations, Memorials and War Graves is the section to use especially for locating Nominal Rolls for World War II, Korean War, Vietnam Veterans Nominal Roll and Gulf War Nominal Roll.
Veterans UK has British service records after 1920 -

State library of Victoria (
Search & Discover is the menu tab to use together with Explore Our Collections by theme to locate a section on War, a guide to the extensive collection of books on military history held by the library. There is also a project to digitise World War I unit histories held in the collection. The section, British Colonial History, provides a guide to some of the collection items relating to this topic.

Newspapers are a valuable resource for accounts of battles and, also sometimes, individuals plus the effects of war on a community.
Trove – is the resource to use for Australian newspapers.
Many libraries also subscribe to databases of historic newspapers. For example for British newspapers check Historic e-newspapers in the e-library section on the Whitehorse Manningham Libraries' website – Check the websites for other libraries to check their digital collections.

Databases -
Find My Past - 
These provide access to a range of records, including some military records, for family history research. Most libraries allow their members to search these databases for no charge.
Forces War Records -
Another subscription database but short term subscriptions are available. The general information made freely available on this website may also be worth investigating.

War photographs can be located on many of the websites including Trove, and most of the institutions mentioned.

Check websites for information about specific battles, about military units, uniforms, medals etc.. Also look for photographs and maps online.
See the list of websites and blogs available on this blog for a selection of useful websites.

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