Researching First World War casualties WW1

Devoran war memorial names

The first challenge is to assemble a list of names to research.

War memorials after 90 years often have quite hard to decipher names and often similar lettering (such as C and G). Fortunately  the Devoran War Memorial has a ‘copy’, a small brass plaque inside the church, along with the beautifully written calligraphy (sometimes hard to read) on the Roll of Honour in the Village Hall.

These names, especially if they have several initials or unusual surnames, are sometimes enough to find a matching casualty on the free online “find a casualty” database on the Commonwealth War Graves Commision website http://www.cwgc.org

Sometimes an obvious match is found, backed up by the additional information that families supplied about names and addresses of loved ones, usually parents and wives. At other times dozens of possible matches for commoner surnames with single initials are suggested.

Searching with the Additional Information Search box on the CWGC website – for example if Devoran is typed in – reveals many of the names on the memorial, as well as others who have a family connection with the village or local villages of the parish of Feock in Cornwall.

This family or address information from CWGC is often a good lead to finding more about the casualty and their relatives through to the national census returns for 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 are the most useful.

Ancestry.co.uk and other similar family history sites also have access to the National Archives records of Military service, with great details such as Medal Record cards, enlistment, casualty and pension records. If the records for a particular name survived in the “Burnt Documents” (many WW1 records were destroyed or partially burnt by enemy action during the Blitz), then great detail can be found about an individual soldier’s life and death.

Other sources include regimental military museums and local history archives or published histories.

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