Friday, 25 July 2014

Lives of the First World War Website

The Imperial War Museum (IWM), in partnership with DC Thomson Family History, has launched a new website: Lives of the First World War:

Lives of the First World War home page

The IWM is a British museum founded in 1917 with the aim of recording the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its empire during World War I. As part of the museum’s centennial commemoration of the war, the new website was launched.  The objective is to create a permanent digital memorial of the 8 million people who participated in the war effort by crowd-sourcing the data gathering and recording of information about individual soldiers.

The website launched with only soldiers from the United Kingdom, who served in the British Army and was “seeded” with the Medal Index Cards, 1914-1920 dataset. The Army Medal Office created these cards, during the late part of the war in an effort to record every person’s entitlement to campaign and gallantry medals. The cards may include:
  • Individual’s name
  • Service number
  • Rank
  • Unit(s)
  • Date of enlistment
  • Medal(s) received
  • Whether the individual was killed or discharged
  • Remarks
  • Address
  • First theater of war in which they served (usually only provided after 1916)

I think the website has a noble purpose and could become over time a wonderful genealogical source. Like everything in life there are pros and cons:

  • The website is crowd-sourced, but you must enter your source citation first, which can be a personal memory, a website, a document, etc. Bibliographic information is required. After the citation is created then they can begin adding facts to the individual.
  • Even though it's crowd-sourced, other people cannot merely change a fact that has already been entered; they may only dispute the fact by providing alternate information and their source. Exactly how the resolution process works, I've yet to discover.
  • The website allows users to add a multitude a facts about a soldier, including his parents, spouse, children, occupation, residence, religion, etc., which I believe is why this may become a valuable genealogical tool.
  • It is co-sponsored by a well-respected museum so users won’t be doing all the hard work to enter information about their soldier ancestor only to have it disappear later.

  • The website is not intuitive to use, especially the order which users must perform certain steps when adding information. There are good “how to” videos available on the site.
  • It does not seem to be compatible with all browsers and I am still finding little glitches such as drop downs that don’t scroll.
  • The initial record set doesn’t always provide enough information to determine which soldier is your ancestor, especially if they have a common name.
  • No soldiers from countries other than England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are currently included. Nor can they be added at this time. 
Registering to use the site is free. With free access you have the ability to view the Medal Index Card record set, but to have access to other records, you must be a friend. That costs 6 British pounds a month or 50 pounds per year. This provides access to the information from and other DC Thomson Family History products. You also have access to special "friend-only" features, such as the ability to group your digital memorials together. I have chosen not to be a friend at this time, so that is all I can report about Friend-only content and features.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts about the Lives of the First World War website and whether you have started memorializing your soldier ancestors or plan to do so.

You may read my occasional posts about my ancestors who were soldiers and fought in World War I as well as my civilian ancestors whose lives were impacted by the war here.


  1. I found your post very enlightening. I have signed up for the website to tell the story of my great uncle George Danson who has featured several time on my personal blog. but I am afraid my intention remains on my "to do"list. I have a wealth of photographs and family memorabilia, to add to my entry, but it was very useful to get your feedback. Thank You.

  2. Thank you for your review, Schalene. I'm sure many of us will be looking for our WW1 family members and you've given us a really helpful lead into this site.

  3. Hi Schalene - many Australian soldiers are already on the database as they were awarded British medals. I have started memorialising several of my forebears.

    1. That's interesting to know. I looked for one of my New Zealand ancestors who was KIA at Gallipoli and he was not included. When I was asked I was told the intent was to expand to all soldiers of the empire, but not all were included at the time I was memorializing my Scottish ancestors.


Hello, thanks for leaving a comment on the World Wide Genealogy Blog. All comments are moderated because of pesky spammers!

Best wishes
World Wide Genealogy Team