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The millions of men and women who have risked their life fighting for their country over the years have all shown incredible courage. To be identified among the very bravest of these is exceptional. Our new military collection reveals the people who have received exactly that honour.
The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for bravery "in the face of the enemy". Up to 2006, it had been presented to 1,354 soldiers, sailors and civilians under military command, all of whom had performed extraordinary acts of valour and selflessness. It’s these people — and deeds — that are described in Victoria Cross Medals, 1857–2007.
The VC traces its history back to the Crimean War in the mid-19th century. At the time, Britain had no award for gallantry that was available to all ranks. So, Queen Victoria authorised the new medal in 1856 and backdated it to cover the conflict of the previous three years.
Bravest of the brave
The first award was made to Charles Davis Lucas, a Rear-Admiral of the Royal Navy who was serving aboard HMS Hecla in 1854. His citation reveals that a live shell landed on the deck of the ship, and "instead of protecting himself he ran forward and threw [it] into the sea as a result of which there were no serious casualties".
Since then, the recipients have all shown similar courage. Take Cecil Knox, who dodged enemy fire on the Somme Canal during World War I, to light a fuse manually after the timer had failed. Or Stanley Hollis, who fought German soldiers single-handedly to save lives on D-Day.
Our records include the detailed citations, so you can see
exactly what each recipient did to earn their award. You’ll also discover their name, birth and death dates, and their last known rank and unit. For most of these heroes, you’ll even find a portrait photo, plus details of their final resting place.
Our military records are available to Premium and Worldwide members. Upgrade your membership now
Anyone who’s fortunate enough to have Irish ancestors will tell you that their stories are among the most fascinating in their family trees. The country has such a rich history that it’s difficult to find people who haven’t had truly remarkable experiences.
We’ve released two new record collections that shed light on the most important events in your ancestors’ lives. Plus, we’ve improved some crucial census collections, to make it easier for you to build your family’s timeline.
Our first new release is a digital archive of the oldest English-language newspaper still in circulation. Belfast Newsletter, 1738–1925 includes contemporary articles on the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the difficulties of the 19th-century Great Famine, and the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921. At a local level, it also contains birth, marriage and death announcements, military notices and other smaller articles that could well mention your relatives by name.
Our second addition goes back even further and looks at your ancestors’ more private episodes. Dublin, Probate Record and Marriage Licence Index, 1270–1858, contains over 100,000 index entries extracted from wills, letters of administration, marriage licences and other personal documents. Most of these include names, dates, places and occupations.
As for our special bonus, that affects partial censuses from 1841 and 1851 covering County Antrim, County Cork, a range of locations across Northern Ireland and a similar assortment for the Republic. These collections were put together from fragments and related records that survived the 1922 fire at the Public Records Office. We’ve now added transcriptions to make them all fully searchable.
All these new records come on top of the 30 million Irish records that we’ve collated over the past few years. These include both Catholic and Anglican parish records, and civil birth, marriage and death indexes.
Our Irish collections are available to Premium and Worldwide members. Upgrade your membership now
You probably think you know the story of the Titanic. However, the tale that most of us are familiar with is a combination of jumbled memories and Hollywood fiction. For instance, did you know neither the builders nor the ship’s owners ever described it as ‘unsinkable’?
Our new records, released to mark the 100th anniversary of the disaster, reveal the truth behind the legend. More than that, they let you discover the 2,224 stories of the people who sailed on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
The most important of our additions is the official passenger list. From the first-class millionaires to the farmers and fishermen in third class, this lists the people who got their hands on the most famous tickets in maritime history.
You can see their names, ages, occupations and even the countries where they were intending to set up home. For example, look out for Isidor Straus, owner of Macy’s department store, returning home to the USA. Or John and Annie Sage, immigrating to the States with their nine children.
Sailors and staff
But the passengers weren’t the only people onboard. Some of the most fascinating Titanic tales come from those who cooked and cleaned for them, scrubbed the decks and eventually managed the evacuation. Our crew records reveal their addresses, nationalities and the duties they performed. Among the most poignant is Captain Edward J Smith, noted as ‘lost’.
The sad truth is that Smith was just one of 1,517 souls who went down with the ship. We have three collections dedicated to those who died. Death registers list their ages, last residences and occupations, making it easy to
follow up your discoveries in censuses or birth, marriage and death records. You’ll also find photographs of many of their memorials, plus files from the coroner’s inquest.
Piece all these records together to see what really happened on 15th April 1912. Search the free* Titanic Collection now
*Terms and conditions apply
One of the most fundamental questions in family history is ‘Where do I come from?’ We have a basic desire to uncover our origins, and learn about the lands that our ancestors occupied.
The best way to answer this question is through immigration records. Our collections of passenger lists, naturalisation papers, passports and other key documents can take you right back to your relatives who first set foot on British soil. You can discover when they arrived, where they landed and, most crucially of all, where they came from.
But immigration records can also work the other way. By definition, anyone who emigrates from Britain becomes an immigrant in another country — and it’s far easier to trace people entering their new country than departing their old one.
If you’re looking for ancestors who came into Britain, the single most important collection is UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960. With more than 16 million records, you can discover Jews fleeing Russia and Germany, West Indians finding new homes after World War II and millions of other arrivals over a century of immigration.
Other useful collections include England, Alien Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869, and UK, Aliens Entry Books, 1794-1921. While they’re not as detailed as the passenger lists, these records go back another 90 years, taking in Irish famine refugees and African slaves.
If your relatives left our shores, the first places to consider are North America and Australasia. Our American immigration collection is vast, with more than 100 million records covering the past 300 years. You can trace your ancestors’ arrivals in passenger lists, gain further details from naturalisation records and follow their ongoing journeys with passport applications and other
papers. Meanwhile, our Canadian passenger lists are some of the most detailed on our site and include thousands of British child emigrants.
Australian immigration is split between those who travelled freely and convicts sentenced to transportation. Our records cover both, and go right back to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. As for New Zealand, our naturalisation records range from 1843 up to 1981.
All our immigration records are available to Worldwide members, while our Premium members can enjoy those for the UK and Ireland. Upgrade your membership now
Welcome to our Ask the experts section. This is where we answer your questions on all things genealogical, so if you have any pressing queries, send us your questions now*.
If your question doesn't appear here, you can email our Member Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 404 9723, and they'll help you with your research.
This month’s question is answered by Chris Paton. Chris is a professional genealogist with both Scottish and Irish roots, and expert knowledge of records from all over the UK.
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