22 October 2017
British Army Ancestors - Search, Upload, Remember
I'm going to use this post to shamelessly promote my new British Army Ancestors website.
Some while ago, responding for the umpteenth time to a query about trying to find a photo of a British Army soldier, it occurred to me that setting up a website where people could search for photos or upload their own images, might not be such a bad idea. I wrote a post on my Army Ancestry Research blog about the steps I would take to try and find a photo and then set about working on a bespoke site. The result is British Army Ancestors.
There must be millions, literally millions, of photos of British Army soldiers in private collections and in museums. A quick search on ebay just now reveals 1100 photos from the 19th century and nearly 5,000 from the period 1914-1945. The vast majority of these will be of unnamed individuals but there will be some which do have the person's name scribbled on the front or reverse.
I know from personal experience how important a photo can be. I have been researching the community of Chailey in Sussex for the past 35 years, on and off, and as a result of the information I have posted on my Chailey 1914-1918 blog, people have come forward over the years and offered photos which I have gladly published. My simple belief is that our British Army Ancestors deserve to be remembered and that the world wide web is the best place to do so because of the access it provides. I quickly reasoned, when pulling together the research for my Chailey site, that if I chose to publish it in book form, it would quickly become out-dated. Publishing online allows me to add new information as it becomes available.
This blog is all about army numbers; about using regimental numbers to help piece together a man's army career; understanding when he enlisted, when he transferred, and working out when he might have arrived overseas; the battalion or unit he might have served with. I've spent the last fifteen years digging deep into British Army regimental numbers - and I've not finished yet - and I also appreciate that for many people, finding a photograph of their British Army Ancestor can be the icing on the cake.
At the moment, a couple of weeks after launch, British Army Ancestors is a database of millions of names and a few photographs. This is entirely as expected. But it's great to see people registering, and hugely satisfying to see photos being uploaded. Even though I say so myself, I'm impressed with the search functionality, and it's dead easy to upload a photo. There will be enhancements that I will be adding over the coming months - a gallery of recent additions; the ability to add comments; the ability to connect with other registered users - but at the moment it is very much in promotion mode; posting on Facebook and Twitter, going out to a wider audience, and of course, uploading photos.
So I encourage you to get involved: search for a soldier, upload a photo, remember our British Army ancestors. And if, in the meantime, you need help with research, drop me a line.