Resources for World War I research

A woman working at National Shell Filling Factory Number 9 in Banbury, England, during World War I. A woman working at National Shell Filling Factory Number 9 in Banbury, England, during World War I.

One of the things I enjoy most about family research is to go beyond locating ancestors’ names and the dates of birth and death, and find out as much as I can to develop a picture of their lives. I want to know where they lived, what they did for a living, what their hobbies were, etc. I also like to try to place my ancestors in a broader historical context.

Like many of you, I have connected ancestors to World War I. When approaching a topic as daunting and nuanced as the Great War, I figure that one can never know enough. Luckily, there are a wide variety of resources available. Here are some my favorites:

  • It’s a Long Way to Tipperary: An Irish Story of The Great War
    • A project produced by the University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary is a weekly blog that highlights diaries and letters from the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe, County Tipperary. In addition to the wonderful insight it gives us into life on the Irish home front, the project also has an interactive map to trace the Armstrong family, links to resources about Irish wartime life, and brief histories of the Irish regiments that fought in World War I.
  • Forty Maps That Explain World War I
    • A compilation of forty political, topical, and thematic maps that thoroughly and clearly show the world before, during, and after the Great War.
  • BBC History – WWI Centenary
    • A treasure trove of pictures, videos, podcasts, and other World War I-related resources, compiled by the BBC.
  • UK National Archives
    • Aside from being a convenient place to access British online record collections (usually for a fee), the UK National Archives is also working on digitizing millions of pages from soldiers’ diaries and letters, for a project called Operation War Diary.
  • The Great War
    • If you are more of a visual learner, be prepared to become lost in this YouTube channel, which uploads videos that give a week-by-week breakdown of the First World War.
  • German Federal Archive
    • The German Federal Archive has uploaded more than 700,000 documents from World War I, and they are continuing to expand their online collection of combat reports, audio recordings, diaries, aerial images, newsreels, and other resources. Currently, the website is only available in German, but it is accessible internationally.

      German troops, 1915. Courtesy of the German Federal Archive. German troops, 1915. Courtesy of the German Federal Archive.

  • 1914-1918
    • According to the website, 1914-1918 is the result of an international collaborative project to make available a multi-perspective, public-access knowledge base on the First World War. The interactive timeline on this site is not to be missed.
  • Tweets from World War I
    • This project is one of my favorites: a Twitter feed run by master’s students from the University of Luxembourg, providing “real-time” tweets of events that occurred exactly one hundred years ago. Tweets typically include links to newspaper articles and archival photographs, but other sources are exhibited as well.

Do you have any go-to resources for World War I research? If so, please share them in the comments below!

Laura Brown

About Laura Brown

Laura earned a B.A. in History from Boston University, where she focused her studies on 20th century American cultural and military history. Originally from Stockton, New Jersey, Laura completed internships with Historic Newton and Antiques Roadshow before joining the NEHGS staff.View all posts by Laura Brown