Welcome to the Ancestry Academy…

September is here and children all over the country are heading back to school. It’s the perfect time to dig out your pencil case and do some learning of your own – in the Ancestry Academy! Whether you’re a new starter or a top set whiz kid, this week’s lessons will help you develop your family history skills and make brand new discoveries.

Thursday, First Period, History

Military records:
Discover your ancestors’ impact

All our ancestors were affected by the events of their time – and their actions had an impact on those events. There’s no better example of this than our military forebears – war was usually forced upon them, but their bravery in the face of it helped to shape a brighter future.

Teacher’s note: While our World War I service and medal records are available to all full members, all our other military records are only available to Premium and Worldwide members. You may need to upgrade your membership to complete these lessons.

Too easy? Join the Top Set
Take the advanced lesson

Top set

Many families have heroes who fought before the World Wars. Let’s look at how you can use service records, casualty lists and medal records to piece together their careers.

We’ll take on a Scottish identity this time. Imagine we’re exploring the life of our 2x great-uncle, Robert Brown, born in Lanarkshire in 1880. We believe he fought in the Second Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902. Can we prove it?

  1. Too easy?

    1Start with a general search of our military records. Enter Robert’s name and his birth place and year, and let’s also use the year 1899 and location South Africa under ‘Military’. You’ll see two results that look correct, but both are World War I ‘pension records’ – service records for men who were discharged. Hover over the first one and you’ll see that the document year is 1899 – this is one of several WWI records for men who actually started their service earlier.

  2. Too easy?

    2Click ‘View Image’, then use the arrows to the top right to move through the pages. You’ll learn that Robert’s regimental number was 5752. He joined the Royal Irish Rifles on 2nd January 1899 and earned the Queen’s and King’s South African Medals – proving that he fought in the Boer War both before and after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901. Read on and you’ll find some fascinating documents, including a list of misdemeanours during his service – such as carrying his kit on his rifle, and being drunk twice!

  3. Too easy?

    3You can now find Robert’s medal record, to see if that turns up any new information. Search the Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949. Use Robert’s name with 1899 and South Africa for his military service again but this time add his regiment, the ‘Royal Irish Rifles’, as keywords. At first it looks like a lost cause, as there are dozens of Robert and R Browns. But try hovering over each result – the previews include each man’s regimental number. On the second screen, you’ll find an R Brown in the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles with the number 5752.

  4. Too easy?

    4View the image, and you’ll find a list of men entitled to the King’s South Africa Medal. There’s little detail about each soldier, but you can see that many of Robert’s colleagues had either been put on the reserve list or their time in the Army had expired by the time this document was created.

  5. Too easy?

    5Our other crucial Boer War collection is Casualties of the Boer War, 1899-1902. We know Robert wasn’t killed in the conflict, as he was still serving in WWI. But let’s check if he was injured or captured. Just use the name Robert Brown with his regiment as keywords. There’s one match in the Royal Irish Rifles – hover over the result and you’ll see he has the right regimental number. Robert was taken prisoner in Reddersburg! There are no scanned images, but click ‘View Record’, and the Remarks tell you he was eventually released.

Start your homework
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Too easy? See how you do in the Top Set
Take the advanced lesson

Are you finished? Start the next lesson


We have a range of records to help you learn more about Robert’s continued service in World War I. For example, can you find his medal record in the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards? The information on it is difficult to interpret, but what’s the first medal roll that Robert is included on?

Note down the answer and keep it safe until the end of the week – you’ll be tested on your responses on Friday!



Monday's free period

Prize Draw 1

Family Tree Maker

Win 1 of 10 copies of our latest software

Be one of the first people to get your hands
on the new and improved version of our award-winning family history software. It comes complete with improved integration with your Ancestry.co.uk account, advanced charts and reports, interactive timelines and maps, and many more great new features.
We have ten copies ready to be won.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Tuesday’s free period

Prize Draw 2

WDYTYA? magazine

10 subscriptions up for grabs

Trace your family's past and discover your roots with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Brought to you by the team
behind BBC History Magazine, and the
official companion to the successful TV
series, WDYTYA? magazine's features
range from military to social history, telling
the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people and how they used to live. We have ten subscriptions to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Wednesday’s free period

Prize Draw 3

Worldwide Memberships

Win 1 of 5 annual memberships

Our worldwide membership provides everything you need to trace your family history around the world. Scour the globe
with unlimited access to our entire library
of over 7 billion records, plus guaranteed access to all our new releases. We have
five annual memberships to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Thursday’s free period

Prize Draw 4

National Trust passes

Win 1 of 50 pairs of tickets

We’re working with the National Trust to preserve our nation’s history, and help you uncover your family’s place in it. To
celebrate our partnership, we’re giving away 50 pairs of day passes to the National Trust property of your choice. Don’t miss the
chance to experience the history of Uppark, see the beauty of Fountains Abbey, or visit another of the Trust’s 350 properties.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September