The State Library can help you can find out about your ancestor who served in World War 1. Over 330,000 Australians served overseas in the Great War and their personnel files and other records give a fascinating insight into their experience.

Our guide to Researching soldiers of World War 1 is a terrific starting point to help you find ancestors who served in the Great War. This research guide includes a handy case study of a solider Daniel T E ‘Ted’ Lynch who joined up in 1915 and fought in the famous battle of Bullecourt with the 12th Field Artillery Brigade. While the guide points you to the excellent online sources available through the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial, it also helps you explore our own rich collections and other websites for unit histories, pictures, oral histories and journals.


Troops on their way to war, T.P. Bennett Collection, H83.103/333

When you are researching a military ancestor, I recommend that you try and confirm the unit in which your ancestor served as soon as possible. Once you know the name of  the battalion, you can then research the broader context of your ancestor’s war through their own unit’s  battles and campaigns.

If you are visiting our Genealogy Centre, check out our new display of books to help research military ancestors. I really like Graeme Hosken’s Digging for diggers and Ronald Montague’s How to trace your military ancestors in Australia and New Zealand.

Researching military ancestors is often a moving experience as you learn about the bravery and hardships experienced by those on active service. To learn more about those who made the ultimate sacrifice, I recommend that you have a listen to the seminar Recovering the Australian war dead at Fromelles for an account of the recent exhumation, identification and reburial of the remains of several hundred Australian soldiers in France.

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  1. When I started researching my families I started with a search for WW2 army records in the NAA and was thrilled to see a photo of my long dead Grandfather included in the records. A year later the scope and value of our Australian service records is still spectacular in comparison to records in other countries. I have traced Australian ancestors in the Boer, First and Second World Wars and have gained a lot of insight into their war lives. I wish it were as easy to find info on my English families.

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