Lives of the First World War, the Imperial War Museum’s permanent digital memorial to 8 million individuals, provides everyone with the opportunity to remember those who served. I had an opportunity to test drive a beta version earlier this year and have become reasonably familiar with the interface. I’ve learned a few things along the way and thought I’d pass along some tips that might be helpful to others just getting started.
Time Well Spent
Be prepared to invest time in remembering an individual. Adding photos, stories and facts can be time-consuming but you needn’t build their entire Life Story in a single visit. My approach is to add the basic facts, if available, such as: full name, rank, regiment, birthdate, birthplace, death date and place of death. If I have a photograph I always add it but additional images and stories can wait for my next visit. Don’t rush – it took 100 years to get to this point and the information you post today will be viewed by our great-great-grandchildren a century from now.
Create a Profile
When you add evidence to Lives of the First World War your name will appear in the “Connected by” column and it will be linked to your profile: here’s mine. Take a moment to add a photo and tell others a little bit about yourself. If you have a website, Twitter id or Facebook account be sure to include it so that others can contact you. Perhaps someone has a photograph or a letter written by your relative and wants to get in touch. Wouldn’t you want to hear from them?
Don’t Give Up Your Search
If you’re unable to find someone in Lives of the First World War don’t give up. If you know their service or regimental number try searching on that rather than by name. If you happen to have a copy of their medal card, service file or attestation paper double check the spelling of their name. I was having a difficult time finding Edward Henry Dobson but when I reviewed the medal card I had on file I found their first name was abbreviated to “Edwd”. When I punched “Edwd Henry Dobson” into Lives of the FWW’s search engine up he came.
Today there are 6 million individuals in the database but more are on their way. If your soldier had a British Medal card or a Canadian Attestation paper then they should be online but there are hundreds of thousands of other Commonwealth soldiers still to be added. Here is a list of the current record sets.
The ol’ Two-Step
I’ve been using genealogy websites for over 10 years but I still found myself scratching my head when it came to adding facts to an individual. Fortunately once you get the hang of it you will quickly become efficient in finding evidence and adding facts.
Step 1 is to find the evidence, that is a record of source for the facts you want to attach to an individual. Every individual in the database has a “seed” record that was used to initially identify them, however there are many more military and civilian records that will include additional details. Once you’ve found a piece of evidence and attached it to your soldier you can move to step 2.
Step 2 is to add facts from the evidence to your individual. This is a manual process that involves filling in fields related to a variety of categories. I recommend opening the source record in a second browser window so that you can easily refer to it while adding your facts.
Member vs Friend
Anyone can browse and view individual Life Stories on Lives of the FWW however if you want to add to a Life Story or search official records you need to become a Member by registering for free.
If you wish to become a Friend there is a cost, currently £6 a month or £50 a year. This not only helps to support the project but also gives you access to additional record sets that may contain information on your individual. If you already subscribe to a genealogy website then you most likely have access to many of these additional record sets. If so there is no need to pay again, you can use the “Add an External Reference” function to link to the evidence you already have.
Managing Your Dashboard
Currently there is no means of organizing the individuals on your dashboard. By default the most recently “Remembered” individual appears at the top of the page but what if you want to “pin” an individual to the top of your dashboard? Bryan Pready, another Lives of the FWW Member, came up with this useful workaround: when viewing your individuals Life Story page toggle the “Remembering” button off and on to move the individual to the top of your dashboard.
Lives of the First World War continues to evolve and new features are being added regularly, many of which have been suggested by the public. Be patient or better yet provide your suggestions on their Improvement Ideas forum.