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

New starters

Every family in Britain was affected by World War I, as an entire generation was called upon to fight for their country. We have the largest online collection of WWI records to help you discover your family’s heroes.

Imagine we’ve been told that our grandfather, George William Calvey, fought in World War I. He died in 1955, so all we know about him is that he lived in Somerset. Let’s see what we can discover…

  1. Too easy?

    1Start from our military records search page. Enter George’s full name, with Somerset, England under ‘Lived In’ and click ‘Search’. You’ll get two positive results – both are WWI service records, collections of documents built up during a man’s military career. They’re clearly about the same person, so click on View Image to explore the first one. The first page shows George enlisting aged 25. Use the arrows to the top right to move through the pages.

  2. Too easy?

    2Page two includes a personal description plus details of George’s wife and wedding. You then come to several pages with fascinating details of his WWI service. You can clearly see the names of several regiments and battalions –Worcester 5th, Labour Corps 170th – with dates when he joined these units. It’s often easy to learn more. Use Google to search for ‘Labour Corps World War I’. The first result is a site called the Long, Long Trail, which reveals why George’s unit was formed and the work it did, carrying crucial supplies often within range of enemy guns.

  3. Too easy?

    3Return to George’s record, and keep moving through the pages. You’ll come to his Casualty Form. As well as injuries, this shows promotions and transfers, and an entry for 24th March 1917 shows he was promoted to sergeant in the field. However, the most interesting entry is from 2nd June 1917, received from ‘88 F.A.’. This means he was admitted to 88th Field Ambulance. The following entries track his medical treatment – thankfully he was diagnosed with nothing more than ‘PUO’ (fever), and was back in action later that month.

  4. Too easy?

    4You can now use the information from George’s service record to find details of the medals he earned. Search the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards. Use George’s full name, and also enter his main regiment, Labour Corps, as keywords – this will help to differentiate between two men with the same name.

  5. Too easy?

    5There’s one obvious match – click ‘View Image’ to see the index card. This confirms George was a sergeant in the Devonshire Regiment and Labour Corps, and provides his regimental numbers. Most importantly, though, it reveals that he was awarded the British War Medal – given to those still fighting at the end of the war – and the Victory Medal – awarded to soldiers who entered a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918.

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


During your search for George’s records, you may have spotted a ‘pension record’ for a William George Calvey from Long Ashton. These pension records are actually service records for soldiers who were discharged during the war. Can you find William’s record and use it to discover his last regiment before he was discharged?

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