Where to begin and general tips
This is a guide to researching the lives and careers of members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, known as ANZACs. This guide has been put together by staff at Moonee Valley Libraries.
This guide introduces some of the more easily accessible resources to use to research ANZACs. Many other resources are also available and new web sites and books are continually being released. Many magazines, particularly family history and historical journals have detailed articles about tracing family members involved in World War I.
How to start your research:
- If you are not sure, first check that the person you are researching served as an ANZAC. The Australian War Memorial site has enlistment rolls that will confirm this. If they have a common name you will need to check addresses and names of the next of kin to confirm that you have the right person. They have all kinds of other information, documents, images and recordings as well.
- Search for their Service Record at the National Archives of Australia site. Service Records detail where each service person served, when they joined up, any injuries or honours, and a wealth of other information.
- Now try Trove. This allows you to find photographs or newspaper articles that might refer to the person you are researching, or perhaps their Unit, or a battle they were involved in.
For more information about the websites mentioned above see below.
For a more detailed guide to researching ANZACs take a look at the guide created by the State Library of Victoria.
If the individual you are investigating was from the Moonee Valley area search for them on The Empire Called and I Answered. This database includes information about hundreds of WWI volunteers from this area, and in many cases the entries are very detailed, so you may find that all of your research has been done for you.
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) encourages remembrance and understanding of the Australian experience of war. The website has a great deal of historical information about the events, battles and background of World War I, as well as a wealth of images, documents, transcripts and recordings.
How to search:
Use the People tab to search for a particular person. The result list will guide you to where to search further on the AWM website or may suggest other websites such as The National Archives of Australia.
The AWM in common with many other memorial sites such as the Shrine of Remembrance, the Victorian State Government and the Australian Federal Government are providing more historical information and resources for researchers as the anniversary of the start of World War I and ANZAC day approaches.
National Archives of Australia
The National Archives of Australia hold the personnel records of all Australian servicemen and women. Many have been made available via their website.
Typically service records contain details about enlistment, including biographical information such as name, age, place of birth, marital status, religion, occupational details, next of kin, place, date of enlistment, initial unit posting and details of prior military service.
Service and Casualty Forms give brief details of an individual's service, which may include details of movements, transfers, illnesses, injuries, promotions and awards. If a soldier was killed, it will provide details of when and where along with basic burial details.
Some records also contain details of correspondence both to and from families. This may include letters notifying Next of Kin about illness, injury or death. Letters from Next of Kin may contain requests for details of injuries or illness.
How to search:
Click on the link for War service records, narrow your search to World War I and start with a name search.
The National Library of Australia's Trove website is a collection of resources from libraries and collections across the country that includes books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music and archives. For many people a search of the Trove website will provide at least some information about family involvement in World War I.
Trove gives access to a huge collection, so if you are lucky you may be able to find photographs or newspaper articles about the person you are searching for. If the individual is not mentioned, perhaps try searching for their Unit or for a Battle that they were involved in. Also, many soldiers had photographs taken in uniform before they departed and there is a large collection of photographs that were taken by the Darge Photographic Company at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps that has been made available.
How to search:
A simple name search in the Search area will often give results - although if it is a common name you may get too many results. In this case use the limiting options to make your search more specific.
Tips before you start
- First gather any information you have, and record where you obtained it.
- As you research, continue to take notes and record exactly where you found each piece of information.
- Remember people are great sources of information too. If you are researching a family member, talk to other family who may be able to share stories or information about a grandfather in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) or a great aunt in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). You may be able to obtain copies of photographs, letters, diaries and newspapers from relatives as well.
- Use Birth, Death and Marriage records to confirm birthdates for these family members. See our Tracing your Family History Guide for advice on finding and using these records.
If your research is family history you may find it useful to start with yourself and work backwards. If you haven't already done so put together a family tree. You may also like to use our Tracing your Family History Guide to help you put one together.
Search our catalogue to find lots of fascinating, recent books about the First World War.
Below are just three that you might find insightful.
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