Lives of the First World War

Remember your ancestor in the IWMs' Lives project.

Remember your ancestor in the IWM’s Lives project.

Share your soldier’s story online.

Lives of the First World War was launched by the Imperial War Museums (IWM) today, and over the next four years it’s going to develop as an enormous collaborative project, where we can all, together, commemorate the lives of our First World War ancestors who served in the British and Commonwealth forces.

So far the names of 4.5 million service personnel have been included, but they are just names, and the IWM has invited us – the general public – to fill in our ancestors’ life stories.

Perhaps you have family photos, letters or anecdotes of your (great-)grandpa’s war years. If so you can upload these. Maybe you’ve researched the family history and found them in the census, BMDs, or Gazette. With official sources such as these, you can provide links to your ancestor’s details. And it’s these official sources that are key to the IWM’s Lives project, which wants to blend the authority of research that is backed-up by official records, with our family memories, so that we can share our ancestors’ life stories and preserve them for the generations to come.

If you’ve researched an ancestor’s war years it’s very likely that you’ll have unearthed details about their experiences that have not been handed down through the generations, so demonstrating the fragility of these  life stories, and how quickly they can get lost in the passage of time. The narrow escape of one particular family’s papers from being taken to the dump provided one of the inspirations behind the Lives project: the photos, letters and postcards of  soldier Thomas William Stratford of the South Wales Borderers, were rescued from the rubbish following a clear-out when his sister Martha (the family archive keeper) moved to a nursing home.

Not only does IWM’s Lives provide an opportunity to share your family’s war stories online, it also provides the chance for you to learn new things about their lives too. As it’s a collaborative project, other people, such as long-lost cousins or members of your ancestor’s regiment, may well contribute to their story too, enriching your understanding of the past. And there will also be the opportunity to create ‘communities’ of ancestors – perhaps of men who served in the same unit, for instance.

As mentioned, Lives so far includes 4.5 million names, but further names will be added in the coming months, so that in the end the 8 million service personnel from Britain and the Commonwealth will all be included.


WW1 MI5 files now online

Once top secret MI5 WW1 files can now be downloaded from The National Archives' website.

Once top secret MI5 WW1 files can now be downloaded from The National Archives’ website.

More than 150 top secret MI5 files from the First World War are now revealed on The National Archives’ website as part of the archives’ First World War 100 programme. With papers relating to organisations and individuals, you can find famous names among the files, from Edith Cavell, Mata Hari, Arthur Ransome and even the Boy Scout Association. And the files are extensive – the Mata Hari download being 87 full colour pages of correspondence and notes. At just £3.30 per digital download these files make intriguing reading to the espionage of the era, even if, like the vast majority of us, you don’t have a direct family history connection to those mentioned.



Campaign calls for you to explore your archive

From tomorrow, 16 November, until 22 November 2013, archives in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are holding a range of talks and events, and online and in-house exhibitions to highlight their collections.

Local, university, business, specialist and national archives throughout the UK and Ireland are inviting the public to experience, understand and take pride in the wealth and variety of material held in archives as part of a brand new campaign, Explore Your Archive.

Explore Your Archive highlights the essential and inspiring role of archives and brings to life some of the individuals, tales and adventures waiting to be explored in archives throughout the UK and Ireland.

The campaign aims to encourage the public to discover the stories that are at the heart of their communities and their identities. It will inspire new visitors to visit archives to share the excitement and passion of finding unique treasures, historical records and artefacts.

Joanne Fitton, Special Collections Manager, Brotherton Library, University of Leeds said: ‘Archives are unlike a museum or gallery where the collections are presented – archives are there for individuals to explore the collections for themselves and find the information or stories which inspire them. The thrill of discovery is at the heart of this campaign.’, the public website for the campaign, includes features such as an archive locator with an interactive map, a live twitter feed promoting Explore Your Archive activities and a video gallery featuring the campaign’s ambassadors. Go take a look!

Our first ebook is now available!

My Family and Other AnnalsAt Family Tree we are pleased to announce our first ebook is now available for you to enjoy any time, anywhere and on any device!

My Family and Other Annals – Adventures in Family History is by Family Tree‘s very own and much treasured Diane Lindsay. Every issue Diane puts ‘family’ and ‘story’ into family history, recounting ancestral escapades and misty-eyed memories that are sure to ring bells with many aspects of your own family anecdotes too. Now we’ve put together a collection of Diane’s popular and beautifully illustrated ‘Thoughts on…’ columns in an ebook for you to download and enjoy again and again.

My Family and Other Annals is available for iPhone/iPad, Kindle and Kindle apps, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps. Also available in HTML for reading online; PDF; RTF; Plain Text; and more!

Search for My Family and Other Annals in your device’s ebook store, or use the following links:

UK iBooks (£2.99)
US iBooks ($3.99)
Canada iBooks ($4.99)
Australia iBooks ($4.99)
New Zealand iBooks ($4.99)

UK Kobo (£2.54)

Nook Books ($3.99)

For other devices and apps, download the format you need from (US$3.99). Pay by credit card or PayPal.

My Family and Other Annals is not yet available in the Amazon Kindle Store, but you can download a .mobi version suitable for Kindle devices and Kindle reader apps from Smashwords.

‘Cheddar Man’ descendants reunited

Cheddar Man descendants

Descendants of the ‘Cheddar Man’ found in Gough’s Cave, Cheddar Gorge, are reunited.

Living descendants of the UK’s ‘Cheddar Man’, who lived 9,000 years ago, have been reunited thanks to

Considered Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, the stone-age remains were found in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, and were excavated in 1903. Genetic fingerprinting later found that some descendants of the Cheddar Man still live in the same area of Britain.

Sharing the caveman’s DNA is Adrian Targett of Somerset and Craig Dent of Melbourne, Australia. Using’s search database Craig was able to contact Adrian and the pair met at the end of May.

‘I knew through my research that my links to the Bristol region dated back many hundreds of years on both my paternal and maternal lineages,’ said Craig. ‘However, I was surprised to learn through my DNA that my link with the region dates back thousands of years. When I first spoke with Adrian and other distant relatives in Stoke Gifford and Winterbourne, the heartland of my paternal link to the region, I was humbled by their kindness and warmth.’s services were invaluable in assisting me to bring these connections to life.’

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