Genealogy: Australian War Service Records Online

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1 I N T E R N E T F E A T U R E Genealogy: Australian War Service Records Online Genealogy (family history research) is a wonderful, and sometimes wonderfully frustrating, endeavour. For every discovery there are a million more questions, and seemingly no way to get answers. The good news is that there is a decent amount of information available online for free (although unfortunately much is still tied up in subscription only sites, or held in archives in an undigitised state). Following are some of the more informative sites available containing Australian war service records. Australian War Memorial & Nominal Rolls As part of their journey into their family history most researchers will come across relatives who served in one (or more) of the major wars of the last century. One of the best and more obvious places to start looking for such information is at the Australian War Memorial web site ( This Biographical databases site is a gateway to information about Australians who served with our armed forces. The Nominal rolls are particularly useful for searching for information about individuals who served, but there are also separate databases for those who died in service, and for those who earned medals in service. However, the amount of detail depends on the conflict. The Second World War Nominal roll is particularly detailed in comparison to the nominal rolls pertaining to the other conflicts. The Australian War Memorial The Nominal rolls can answer questions such as date and place of birth, where the soldier enlisted, who was their next of kin, and so on - all vital information for a genealogist in order to confirm (or not) dates, places, relationships, etc.

2 Nominal rolls are available for the following conflicts: Boer War; First World War; Second World War; Korean War; Vietnam War; and the Gulf War Link to these from the Australian War Memorial s biographical databases page ( people/) or from the Department of Veterans Affairs nominal rolls page ( nominal_rolls/pages/index.aspx). WW2 Nominal Roll entry For some of these nominal rolls you are able to print a commemorative certificate. All the nominal rolls will also have a link to information about the nominal roll - what information is included, what isn t included, sources of information, and more. National Archives of Australia For some lucky researchers this is where the meaty information will be found. Amongst a plethora of other great information related to Australia s history, the National Archives of Australia also allows members of the public to perform free searches of their records. Many different types of records are available for searching, but the ones of interest for this article are military service records. When you search for a name, if a symbolic r appears at the bottom right of the record along with the linked words View digital copy, you can view service records for that individual. Unfortunately, records are not available for all individuals, but for those that are, they can be a goldmine of interesting information for descendants about their relative s military service. For those researching their family history the records don t just provide dry dates and confirmation or denial of information, they also provide an insight into who that Once you ve typed in a name you will see a results page similar to the one above. Click on the Display button adjacent to Items to see results, and whether or not a digital copy is available. person was and what they did during the war.

3 Some records are only a few pages long, but in many cases there may be 20 or more pages of digitised records detailing everything from enlistment, illness and injury, commendation, promotions and postings, medals, and so on. There may even be copies of telegrams and communications from the Service to the family and vice versa upon a soldier s wounding or death. Enlistment records often provide a picture of the physical characteristics of the solider, giving height, weight, hair and eye colour, complexion, and so on. Example record from National Archives of Australia In some cases the digitised records are difficult to read - because the originals they were copied from have faded or deteriorated themselves. However, the site is still worth a look to hopefully find out some real life details about your relative. Commonwealth War Graves Commission The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is a non-profit organisation founded by Sir Fabian Ware and established in 1917 by Royal Charter. Sir Fabian Ware was too old to enlist in the Army for service in the First World War, but he went to France with the British Red Cross in He quickly noticed the lack of adequate organised record keeping of war graves and set about changing that. (More information available at: admin/files/ ware.pdf). The Debt of Honour Register lists the 1.7 million servicemen and women who died while serving the Commonwealth

4 during the First and Second World Wars. It also lists the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians killed by enemy action in the Second World War. The detail includes name, rank, service number, date of death, age, Regiment/Service, nationality, grave/memorial reference, etc. Clicking on the name of the person you are interested in may provide additional information such as spouse/parent, residence, and place of death. The Commission ensures the 1.7 million men and women who died in World War 1 and World War 2 are remembered. They construct war cemeteries and plots, erect headstones, and ensure that those who are missing are remembered by the inscription of their names on permanent memorials. The CWGC looks after civilian and military sites in about 150 countries. Example record, Cwlth War Graves Commission Other Informative Sites AIF Project: Australian ANZACS in the Great War This project is being undertaken through the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and is intended to compile a database of the 330,000 service personnel who served overseas in the first Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The records include wonderful detail not only about the soldier s service, but also about his physical characteristics, kin, previous occupation, and religion. AIF Project entry (partial)

5 Queenslanders on the Veldt (Boer War) This database from the State Library of Queensland lists the names of soldiers whose portraits appeared in The Queenslander newspaper during Information could include rank, service details, and personal contacts. If you find a relative, you can contact the State Library of Queensland via their Ask us service ( services/ask) to see if they are able to provide you with a copy. The State Library of Queensland holds The Queenslander on microfilm and in hardcopy. Queenslanders on the Veldt entries These sites are wonderful recorders of our war service history and commemorate the efforts and sacrifices of all those who served. They are not only of great interest and use to genealogists, but are a valuable resource for all Australians. Peta Browne Bundaberg Library

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