Honouring Our Military Ancestors
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This time of year many family historians reflect on the lives of their military ancestors, we all have ancestors who were either career servicemen and women or were conscripted in time of war and it is important to honour them. FindMyPast has designated November as Military Month and I thought it would be a good opportunity this month to take a in-depth look at what records they have on offer for researchers.
Military Ancestors Records on FindMyPast
Let’s look at four data-sets in this post.
Plovdiv Civic Cemetery is situated in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The cemetery contains an area maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and contains 55 graves of Commonwealth servicemen who died either as prisoners of war or while serving with the occupying forces following the Bulgarian capitualtion in September 1918. It is also known as St Archangel Cemetery and was formed after the Armistice.
The information available from this data-set is as follows:-
A headstone image and a transcript containing name, age, birth year, service number, rank, regiment, unit, date of death, grave plot. There is also, sometimes, additional information.
Not all our Military Ancestors served overseas, some remained at home employed in essential services or for religious reasons they applied to be exempt from military service. It was not until the beginning of 1916 that the government passed an act that allowed the conscription of men aged between 18 – 41 who had no dependents into military service. Married men were included at a later date and the age extended to 51 years.
Tribunals were set up to hear appeals from men who suffered from ill health, economic hardship and objected to being conscripted on religious/beliefs grounds. Many of these records were destroyed after the end of WW1 on the order of central government. However a sample of records from courts held in Middlesex and Lothian and Peebles were kept for historic reasons. There are a few unofficial collections around the UK which have survived where the mandate from government was ignored.
The records in this data-set are housed at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, they have been digitised and indexed.
The 3,221 records contain what you might expect such as name, address, occupation and employer, but also a code which explains which type of reason was given for exception. The codes are explained in a note at the bottom of the search page. If you find a record for an ancestor also check local newspapers as I have seen accounts of the tribunals reported.
When searching for your Military Ancestors I suggest that you enter last name only as it seems that initials were generally recorded only for first names. Entering a full first name might bring up a nil results when in fact there is a record there.
This is the same sort of records as the Poplar Tribunal papers above. The Northamptonshire collection consists of 11,200 case files which are held at the Northamptonshire Archives. This data-set is an index only, but still holds valuable information. These records are a glimpse into history and are of great use to genealogists searching for Military Ancestors and local historians alike.
10,416 records make up this data-set that covers
- Dorking Rural District Military Service Tribunal registers 1916-1918
- Haslemere Military Service Tribunal minutes 1915-1917
- Woking Military Service Tribunal letter books 1916-1918
- Surrey and Croydon Military Service Appeal Tribunals Guildford committee 1916-1918
See above for a general description of these tribunals.
FindMyPast Newspaper Collection
A quick search of the newspaper collection showed 17,247 hits for the words military tribunal for the period 1910 – 1919. This would be a worthwhile search for Military Ancestors from areas of the country where the tribunal records haven’t survived.
I read a few of the cases and they make fascinating reading, a widow with 4 sons was asking that a son who had been called up be exempt because they ran her business and looked after 69 rental properties for her. She was told that she had no just cause and the son was to report to barracks, he was given one month to assist her in paying bills and arrange a replacement. An Afghan veteran asked for his son to be exempt due to not being fit and asked to take his place. He was referred to the recruiting officer.
An excellent source of family history information.