This Guide to Finding Your Connection explains:
- Choosing someone to search for
- How to search for them
- How to narrow down your search results
- Who you should be able to find, at present
- Who will the Permanent Digital Memorial include
Choosing someone to search for
Your First World War connection could be an ancestor or someone who came from your local area. Many people choose a name from a local war memorial or search for someone who shares their name.
How to search for them
Use the SEARCH BOX at the top of every page. Try surname and service number, if known, e.g. “Smith 40348”
Use the search box to find your person
- Start with a surname, e.g. “Tickle”
- Add a service number if you know it, e.g. “Tickle 13510”
- Try including a first name, e.g. “William Tickle”
- Try initials, e.g. “W Tickle”
- Try wildcards to match variations, e.g. “W* Tickle” to match “Will,” “William” or “Walter”
- Try wildcards with service number, e.g. “Tickle *13510” to match “T/13510” or “S13510”
- NOTE: middle names are rarely included in full. Try searching without and then narrow down your search.
How to narrow down your search
Too many results from your search? Use filters to refine results:
Refine your results using filters
- Use the filters on the left to choose their service, surname or regiment. e.g. “Tickle” (in the Labour Corps)
- Try looking for middle names or initials
- Use the ‘View all...’ links to see the full list of results
- Don’t forget names can be written in many ways. Try looking for variations, e.g. “John”, “Jon”, “Jack”, “Johnny” or “J”
Not sure which Life Story is correct?
Around 8 million people served Britain and the Commonwealth during the war. This means that many of those people share the same name. You may need to find out more information to narrow down your search.
- Does someone in your family have medals, a photo, a letter or a paybook that might provide clues?
- Have you found records in other websites or publications, that might have their military unit or service number?
- Can you use our official genealogy records to find a service record, a war death record or other records for this person? Choose any matching Life Story and press the ‘‘Search Records’ link to search over 300 million military and civilian genealogy records. These are free to search, but most require a subscription to view. Get started in 60 seconds with our short Guide to searching records
What are ‘Life Stories’ and ‘Official Records’?
Life Stories are created by IWM using information from key official record set we call ‘seeds.' When created, each Life Story gives the person's name and a few key pieces of information from that official ‘seed’ record -- now we need you to complete the stories.
Official Records are digital versions of real historic documents about people. There are over 330 million of these on this site. Evidence about a person with a Life Story can often be found in several records -- e.g. in military records, census record, birth records and more.
Find out more about how Life Stories are created and what you can expect to find for members of different forces in our Expert advice for searching records
Who should you be able to find, at present?
IWM uses official records to ‘seed’ the platform and create the Life Stories.There is no complete list of all the people who contributed during the war, so new Life Story records are being added throughout this project. Life Stories added so far:
- British Army (overseas): The first set of Life Stories was created from the Medal Index Card index held by The National Archives. It includes over 5.4 million names of the men and women who served overseas. There is some duplication in this list, and some people are not included -- for instance those who did not go overseas. The duplicates will be merged and missing people added when all Life Story record sets have been added
- Canadian Expeditionary Force
- Royal Naval Seamen
- Royal Air Force Airmen
- Royal Naval Division
Your connections may not have been added yet. We are working on adding UK Conscientious Objectors; New Zealand Expeditionary Force; Australian Imperial Force; Royal Naval Officers; Royal Marines; Royal Air Force Officers and more.
View the latest records list to see which Life Story records have been added recently. Sign up to be kept up to date about new Life Story records.
Who will the Permanent Digital Memorial include
Lives of the First World War continues the vision that the Imperial War Museum established in 1917. It is intended to ‘make it so complete that every man and woman - soldier, sailor, airman and civilian, will find in it a record of their contribution.’ IWM represents the experiences of those from across Britain and the Commonwealth and therefore we aim to include men and women from all the countries who, at the time of the conflict, formed part of the British Empire or those from other nations who contributed to the British war effort.
There is very limited official information still in existence about those who worked on the home front making munitions, and working in the shipyards, on the land and in factories. Where there is some evidence of an individual’s contribution to the war effort we will endeavor to create a Life Story for each of them, in time. We estimate that by the end of the First World War centenary there will be more than 8 million individuals with a Life Story in Lives of the First World War.
Press the ‘Remember’ button
When you find your connections, you can show others who you are remembering by pressing the ‘Remember’ button.
Please share with family and friends
Help ensure every Life Story is remembered, by sharing your connections on social media and by email.
More tips for finding your connection:
- The person may have served under a different name, e.g. did a woman serve with her maiden or married name? Did they use a nickname, e.g. ‘Betty’ instead of ‘Bertha’?
- They might not have served in uniform, worked on the home front or made a contribution during the First World War, e.g. an individual who joined the army after 1919
- They might have served with forces from countries that are not part of Lives of the First World War, e.g. with the German army
- Only IWM can create a Life Story page. We will be introducing a feature that allows members of the public to propose a missing Life Story, when all the large record sets have been added
- To see how to connect evidence and add facts read the guide on Adding to a Life Story
- All the practical information about your account, more on how to search the records and how to use features can be found in our Knowledge Base