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A Beginner's Toolkit for Research

WW1 Soldiers: Diggers in the Family History
A Beginner’s Toolkit

Compiled by Geoffrey H. Dean[1]
 Version 7 (QLD) — 27 December 2014

This ‘toolkit’ is designed to assist people researching soldiers from WW1 coming from a particular area such as Ridgley, Tasmania. It was developed for use in two workshops held at Burnie LINC (library) and arranged by Janine Thom. This is an edited version for use in Queensland.

Now is a good time to begin researching soldiers because:

* Large collections of material are online, including photographs of thousands individual soldiers;
* search engines are available which allow searching for soldiers by place i.e. address at enlistment; or of next-of-kin.;
* the major newspapers from the period are now online.


An excellent basic search engine is the AIF Project which will allow searching by both name and place. It will retrieve individuals or groups in a useful format. It contains a lot of information and is well-presented.

Another place to start is the Discovering ANZACS website. For example go to and use the ‘Advanced search’ option. Put first name = Boyle and last name = Hill and click on ‘Submit’. In the search results click on the record for Boyle Hill and examine.

Discovering ANZACS is a good site to look up Austrlians who served in the New Zealand army e.g. Do an advanced search for Charles Ribbon and load the record at Archives New Zealand.

Another method of obtaining a starting list is to search in Trove Digitised Newspapers (link below) for an article about an Honor Roll (note the WW1 spelling) for the location of interest.

Other methods are to inspect the original Honor Roll if you can find it, perhaps in your local hall; or to contact the local branch of the RSL etc. The Queensland War Memorial Register (online) is very useful (See link below).


The next task is to find the individuals one-by-one in the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and National Archives of Australia (NAA) databases. Often several approaches will be needed.

Do a ‘Name Search’ in the NAA database (See below). Select World War I, enter the surname and click [Search]. You will probably need to use the ‘Refine this search result’ option by entering a Christian name, if you have one; or bund* for Bundaberg (in our case); or qld (for Queensland, a search trick). Note the service number and barcode number. You can follow the prompts to view the service record online, if there is one. [The AIF Project uses the term Regimental number.]

The search engine will allow direct access to the service record where you have the barcode e.g. William Redman is at [Hint: you can put a link in your own documents.] By default the pages for that record will be displayed in a ‘wall’, which gives a useful overview. If the user clicks on the ‘Print’ button the pages will be presented sequentially. (See Appendix 3.)

Next, do a search in the AWM People / Research a Person search box. Enter the ‘Surname’, select First World War and search. Try searching with and without the ‘Service Number’. If the soldier of interest died then there will probably be an entry in the Roll of Honour. If so, then select a likely candidate and examine the information. In particular, look for the Roll of Honour circular which will contain information about his schooling, relatives who were soldiers, parents’ names etc. Information about the names of siblings is particularly helpful.

Examine the Embarkation Roll which will usually have ‘serial number’, ‘date of enlistment’, ‘occupation’ and name of ‘next-of-kin’. The Nominal Roll may also help establish your candidate’s identity.

Look also for a record in the Awards and Honours section although these were not common enough to be helpful for most soldiers.

If the soldier died then follow the links to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) database.

In this fashion, go back and forth as necessary between the AWM and NAA sites to establish the list of valid candidates. Sometimes it is helpful to do some family tree research in to sort out who was who. The Electoral Rolls can be helpful in establishing where a candidate was before or after the war. There are often letters included with the service record which have names and addresses of next-of-kin.

Keep a careful note of ‘Service Number’ and whether it was useful, or different, in each of the NAA and AWM databases. The spelling of surname may also vary from database to database.

The Gravesecrets website — — contains short biographies and often photos for a growing list of soldiers. These are well presented and site visitors are invited to submit information for soldiers of interest to them for inclusion on the website. There is also a growing database for nurses. The site is not-for-profit and is by volunteers.

Further relevant resources are listed below.


NAA - National Archives of Australia
- Service records for soldiers
or [Login as ‘guest’ if prompted]

An experimental viewer in the NAA Record Search database.  (Requires barcode. See also Appendix 3)

AWM - Australian War Memorial
- Researching names on an honourboard
- Roll of Honour
- Roll of Honour circular (details supplied by family)
- Commemorative area details
- Embarkation Roll
- Nominal Roll
- Honours and Awards
- Red Cross wounded / missing enquiries

CWGC - Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- find cemeteries / memorials / grave location

State Library of Queensland—WW1 Select List of Resources
This is comprehensive and well-presented. You can download a document version of the information on the website (PDF). Highly recommmended.

The Queensland War Memorial Register

Trove - Digitised newspapers
Find contemporary name lists and casualty lists

Queenslanders who fought in the Great War 1914-1918
Compiled byOwen Wildman. Contains short biographies and photographs of thousands of Queenslanders who fought in the Great War.
[Or search for Owen Wildman at ]

WW1 soldiers biographies (including photos
[A developing site to which visitors can contribute]

WW1 Military Research expert Q & A session
(Inside History magazine blogspot)

Appendix 1: Select Additional Links

(Mainly from ADOPT-A-DIGGER; downloaded 26 December 2014. Other recent links and text editing by Geoff Dean. Links checked)

Australian Archives
Department of Veterans Affairs: 
State Library of Victoria. [A very good resource] —

War history
History of WW1 —
Australian Flying Corps —
History [unofficial] of ANZAS —
History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918
Army War Diaries —
Anzacs in Weymouth & Portland UK —
The Australian Army History —
Blog—State Library of Queensland-John Oxley Library—

Diggers’ Research
AIF Units and formations
Research family war diaries —

Nurses & Australian Women in other roles

Gravesecrets website —
[A developing site, submissions are welcomed]

World War One Cemeteries -
Australian Cemeteries Online -
42nd Battalion War graves -

Australian War Graves Photographic Archive -

Sutton Veny, England, WW1 graves -

WW1 Australian Soldiers and Nurses Buried in United Kingdom

Australian War Memorial —
National Archives of Australia —
Spirits of Gallipoli —
Picture Sunshine Coast —

Regimental Histories
The Australian Light Horse -
15th Battalion -
AWM Australian Military Units WW1 -
Pioneer Battalions —
AIF Search by Regiment -

Battles & Battlefields
ANZAC Battlefields -
Egypt - [Commercial]
Gallipoli -
Lost Leaders of Anzac -
The Spirits of Gallipoli -
Western Front -
France -
The British Army in the Great War -

Defence Honours and Awards
Australia—  [Includes a pictorial guide to awards in the Australian Honours system, which can be downloaded.]

Appendix 2: Extra Books —

Somme Mud by EPF Lynch; Ed. Will Davies (2010 paperback & ebook)

In the Footsteps of Private Lynch, by Will Davies (book 2008; also ebook)

The Great War by Les Carlyon (2010) [He also wrote Gallipoli (2002)]

From ANZAC to Amiens by CE Bean (1983 reprint) One volume summary account of Australia's part in the 1914-1918 War. An official history. [Online at AWM] [Note the underscores.]

The First World War by John Keegan (book 2000; also ebook)

The Face of Battle, by John Keegan (1976 book, ebook) [A renowned historian.] [Commercial]

Appendix 3: NAA Experimental Viewer [Broadband recommended]

NAA Service records: e.g. William Redman, barcode 8027476

Link to file: format = "Page by page" (traditional)

Link to file: format = "Wall of pages"
[Good for rapid location of particular types of pages e.g. handwritten.]

Link to file: format = "Stream of pages"
[Good for rapid scrolling and printing]

Link to file: "Particular page", e.g. 19

To switch formats while browsing
Click "Wall", "Print" buttons or Back Arrow as necessary

Printing: In "Print" format use <Ctrl> & <P> and select pages to print

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