Posted by Kristen Hyde on July 21, 2017 in Collections, Research, United Kingdom

Ancestry Progenealogists‘ Simon Pearce, explores some of Ancestry’s key collections for researching the military careers of your ancestors. 

The armed forces were incredibly diligent at keeping records of those who dedicated their time and careers to military service. As such, military records can be incredibly beneficial when researching the lives of your ancestors; not only in their ability to lead to family connections through next of kin documentation, but also in developing a better sense of who your ancestors’ were and what they saw and experienced.

Military specialist and Ancestry Progenealogists’, Simon Pearce has pulled together a shortlist of key collections for researching your military ancestors. In the below video, he unpacks the relevance and context of these records which span from the 1800s, through to WWI and WWII.

Your ancestors’ military involvement might be something you’re contemplating at the moment, particularly as Christopher Nolan’s new film, Dunkirk, premieres at cinemas around the country. The film, which captures the chaos of the Dunkirk evacuation, is an opportunity to better understand the impact the events of WWII had on your family.

The atrocities of the Dunkirk evacuation and the role this event had in the course of WWII was particularly poignant for the actors and production team involved in filming. The casts’ own ancestors were among those who served in the armed forces during WWII.

For example, director, Christopher Nolan’s paternal grandfather, Francis Thomas Nolan was a Flight Sergeant and Navigator, having joined the Royal Air Force in 1941. On April 10-11, 1944, Francis’ unit was part of a bombardment of 789 British bombers, striking enemy railway facilities in France and Belgium. Although the targets were heavily damaged, 19 aircraft did not return – one of which was carrying Christopher’s grandfather. Francis was killed in action on 11 April 1944.

Actor, Tom Hardy, who plays the character of Farrier, is the grandson of Edward Thomas Hardy who served with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Corps of Signals. Joining the Territorial Army in 1937, Edward was called up for service early in WWII. He was stationed in Norway and was evacuated in June 1940 following the German occupation of the country. Edward went on to serve in the Middle East, Sicily, North Africa, and Northwest Europe before being discharged in May 1946.

Whether you’re a famous actor or a humble cinema-goer, we each have so much to learn and appreciate about our ancestors’ courage and commitment to their roles in the armed services. Why not use this weekend to begin finding out more about the military careers of your family members?

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.

Join the Discussion

We really do appreciate your feedback, and ask that you please be respectful to other commenters and authors. Any abusive comments may be moderated. For help with a specific problem, please contact customer service.