In this week's installment of Off The Record, we're taking a look at a few of our World War 1 collections. Families were torn apart in 1914 as huge swathes of populations were pulled into a conflict the scale of which no-one could have foreseen. Trace your ancestors' incredible journey, and discover their part in the war which changed the world.

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Remember, this is just a sample of our vast World War 1 records. There are so many more to explore! Start exploring our wider World War 1 collection today. 

Harold Gillies Plastic Surgery Archives from WW1

Harold Gillies was a ground-breaking plastic surgeon. Working with soldiers grievously wounded during World War 1, he developed techniques such as skin grafting, which were to prove pivotal to the future of reconstructive surgery. Harold changed the lives of the men he operated on, who might otherwise have lived in shame of their conspicuous injuries. The collection lists 110,000 operations performed between 1917 and 1925. It contains detailed descriptions of the patients, including their age, rank and service number, unit or battalion, the date they were wounded, their Gillies number, details of the injury and how it occurred.

World War 1 Irish Soldiers Wills

The World War 1 Irish Soldiers Wills contains transcriptions for 9000 wills of Irishmen who served in the conflict. That amounts to a quarter of those who died in the war. The wills are mostly not witnessed - therefore considered informal, and written on pre-printed pages included in the soldiers’ service book. Letters home were also treated as indications for soldiers’ belongings.

Most of the men who died were very young, and left everything to their mothers. A few made more than one will. You can search the transcriptions by regiment, place name, and beneficiary.

The original documents are held by the National Archives of Ireland


World War 1 Draft Registration Cards

This huge collection contains 19 million military records, offering a wealth of information about your ancestors at the beginning of the 20th century. Nearly 98% of the US population under 46 registered for the draft. This record set represents a quarter of the American population at the time, and includes details such as the soldiers’ full names, addresses, birth date and place, occupation, next of kin, and a physical description. The collection also includes images, which can often provide supplementary information.

New Zealand World War 1 soldiers

These records include 288,526 New Zealand World War 1 personnel. It includes information from a variety of different sources, including Nominal Rolls, the First and Second Rolls of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Reserve (compiled by the New Zealand Government), Native Reserve Lists, the Military Defaulters List, Smith Index, Halpin Index, and more besides. The collection includes both male and female personnel. The transcriptions can include information such as the subject’s full name, recruiting district, last address and occupation, and country of origin.

Start exploring our wider World War 1 collection today.