Recently there was an announcement that the Lives of the First World War website was live, so I decided to have a look. This site with its Imperial War Museum branding is, in fact run by a partner D C Thompson Family History Ltd. My heart sank – this is the parent of Findmypast (recent chaos), Scotlandspeople (no money, no info) and British Newspapers Online (Brilliant site but still have to pay). I proceeded with caution.
I started with the search box and put in Madder – 20 results. One was Madder as a forename, so I discarded him, with a note to come back to him another time. This left me with 19 names, which I printed off. First mistake – the print was large, only five names per page. I then compared the list with information I already had – Medal cards, military records etc. It soon became obvious that the names on the site were obtained from the Medal Index cards. Sapper Arthur Edwin Edward Madder is actually Arthur Edward. Checking my copy of the card (there is only a transcription on the site) it is clearly written Arthur Edwin, with “Edward?” written under Edwin.
Arthur Edward is one of my Madders so I dug out all the information I had about him and the next day returned to the site to add facts and “remember” him. First I had to register with the site – no problem, although reading the terms and conditions indicated that money might be required at some point.
I spent a lot of time going round and round the site trying to work out how to add information but eventually realized that I had to add a source before I could enter anything. I had certificates for Arthur Edward so uploaded those. This turned out to be easy – either select the image on your computer or just drag onto the page, then round and round again to find out what to do with it (tip, scroll down the page a bit for instructions!). As I started to enter the information from the birth certificate, I found that Arthur was one of my Madders who had actually been born Smith. What to do? Well I was testing the site, and it said to add what was on the source, so that’s what I did. I added details of marriage and death and then left to carry on the next day.
It was while looking at Arthur Edward’s military record as I tried to work out how to put it onto the site (first page, all pages?) that I discovered my error. The Arthur Edwin Edward Madder on the site was not Arthur Edward Madder, or even his son Edward Arthur Madder (who is on the site as Edward A.) but his nephew Arthur Edwin Madder. Arthur Edward was not listed at all – understandable I suppose as he served as a tailor in Glasgow. Tip – always check the service number agrees.
Disaster. I had entered the wrong information. Could I change it? I logged back onto the site and looked for Sapper Arthur Edwin Edward Madder – he wasn’t there! What had I done? After a bit of thought I wondered if the birth information I had added had affected the entry. So I searched for the same name but with the surname Smith instead of Madder. Up he popped. Hurriedly, hoping no-one had noticed, I deleted the certificate sources I had added to his name. The information disappeared with them and I was back where I had started.
I decided to stick with this man and add the correct information. I didn’t have any certificates for him, just the GRO index references. What to do? There are four different methods of adding evidence: Search Official Records, Add an External Reference, Upload an Image (which I had done with the certificates) or Use you Personal Knowledge. I had a look at the Personal Knowledge method but it seemed to be for memories of the person – not quite right, so I tried the Search Official Records. This produced 8 results of Arthur Edwin and Arthur E, a mixture of Arthur Edward and Arthur Edwin, but I knew which were which. The list looked very much like results from Findmypast, but I could not look at any of them unless I became a “Friend” – at a cost of £6 for a month or £50 a year. These were records I could have seen via my subscription to Findmypast!
Back to the Add an External Reference. This gives you a choice of Website, Book or Copy of original document (this is where I should have put my certificates!). I picked Website and on a separate tab, opened Ancestry, and searched for Arthur Edwin Madder. Using the links here I could go to, for example, the correct GRO birth index page then copy and paste the URL as my source. I could have used FreeBMD or Findmypast as the source, but everything I needed was on Ancestry: BMD, census and, most important, his military record. Although Findmypast has just announced the addition of military records to its site (WO 363 and WO 364), I couldn’t find them there.
So far I have added Birth, Death, Probate, and War record to Arthur Edwin. I could also add census entries or anything else. Will I? I don’t know. I suppose I should go through all the 19 Madders on the site and add at least the basic information. It seems a very laborious process and takes a lot of time that I could better spend elsewhere.
If you don’t already have a subscription to Findmypast or Ancestry etc and you have a lot of WW1 relatives to remember, it might be worthwhile subscribing (sorry, become a friend) to this site, just to access the records. As it is working at the moment, I’m not sure if I will bother.