Ask your relatives
As with all family history research, the best place to start finding your family's military history research is with those closest to you. Ask your relatives what they remember; perhaps they have photos, medals, letters or diaries which have been passed down to them. As soon as you have a name and a date, you are ready to start investigating.
If you have an ancestor that was born in the UK or Ireland between 1878 and 1900 there is a good chance that they would have served in the Great War. Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in World War 1, resulting in almost 50,000 Irish fatalities. If your family member took part in this global conflict, Findmypast is the best place to research their story.
Finding your ancestors in our historical records
Unfortunately, it can be harder to find those who survived the war in historical records than those who were killed. Details of casualties were well recorded, and the military units, date of death and location of their burial or commemoration were all kept. If your First World War ancestor died whilst serving you can find them in Ireland's Memorial War record, compiled by the Committee of the Irish National War Memorial. The National Roll of Honour also includes soldiers who died in the three years after the war.
For those who survived the war, valuable information can be found in our medal rolls and service records. You will find more specific details on how to research those who served in the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force below. Don't forget to also check marriage certificates for those who were married during the war. If a man was serving at the time, the details of his service will often be recorded in the occupation field of his marriage certificate.
Missing World War 1 records
Findmypast has the most comprehensive collection of World War 1 records available online. During World War 1 the British Army grew dramatically from under 750,000 in 1914 to over 5 million in 1918. The details of every man who served were carefully recorded and catalogued - you can explore our service records to see some examples of just how detailed they were. Unfortunately, around 60 per cent of service records were destroyed during enemy bombing in the Second World War. The records that survived have been comprehensively indexed by Findmypast. To access them, go to our A-Z of records, type 'service' into the search field and then select British Army Service Records.
British Army Service Records on Findmypast
You can search over 4 million World War 1 British Army Service records on Findmypast. Note that these records are for other ranks only (not officers) and for men who were discharged from the army before 1921. If your ancestor continued to serve in the army after 1921, his records will still be with the Ministry of Defence, and although World War 1 officer records have not been digitised, the majority are accessible at The National Archives in Kew, London.
It's also important to note that before the Royal Air Force was created in 1918, the Royal Flying Corps fell under the control of the British Army. So don't forget to search the British Army Service records' collection on Findmypast if you're looking for a World War 1 airman.