I have good news and bad news.
There are millions of records of World War I soldiers available on the internet…enlistment records, unit musters and roll calls, reports of actions, lists of wounded and dead, commendations and much more. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that WWI military information is scattered all over the danged place and a whole lot of it resides in the so-called invisible web so that it doesn’t show up in a regular Google search. You have to know where to look.
Forces Reunited is a good starting place for records of UK soldiers from WWI (and other wars). This is a commercial site, and you have to subscribe to get full access, but you can conduct a preliminary search for free to at least see if there’s information on the particular soldier you’re looking for. Also take a look at the massive Debt of Honour register which records military deaths for the entire British Commonwealth (and back in WWI, it was quite the commonwealth!).
In the U.S. you can search millions of veterans’ gravesite records, a good starting point for gleaning information on a soldier’s rank and military unit. A lot of the action, though, is hidden away in online state archive records of military records. These are really worth scouring, although it takes time to get familiar with what’s available in any given state.
Also be sure to have a look at the Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Army newspaper for the grunts of WWI. A lot of soldiers are mentioned by name in the paper, and even if you don’t find a particular individual, you’ll be captivated by the ‘real time’ reports of the war as it unfolded. In general, newspaper archives from the period are a fantastic resource.
There’s much more out there, including WWI records from Germany, Australia and Poland.
Enjoy (if that’s the right word) your explorations of WWI enlistments and other military records.
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