Findmypast has recently launched indexed images for people who served in the British army during the First World War. Read their blog for more information.
These service and pension records are held by The National Archives (UK) in two collections:
- Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ (reference: WO 363). This collection comprises the main set of service papers for soldiers who served in the British army and were discharged between 1914 and 1921; there are some earlier papers. Unfortunately, 60% of these records were destroyed in the Second World War and the surving records are known as the ‘burnt documents’. There are papers for about 300 soldiers of the West India Regiment (most relate to discharges before 1914) but it seems that the rest of the records for soldiers of the West India Regiment and for the British West Indies Regiment were destroyed.
- Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (reference: WO 364). This collection is commonly known as the ‘unburnt documents’ and comprises service papers and other records for soldiers who discharged mostly between 1913 and 1921 through length of service or because of medical discharges. These include details for soldiers discharged from the West India Regiment, the British West Indies Regiment and of West Indians who served in the more familiar British regiments. You will find papers for many Jamaicans in the British West Indies Regiment who were discharged in 1916 suffering the effects of the cold (frostbite). They were travelling to Alexandria, Egypt aboard the SS Verdala and were equipped with tropical clothing. However, they needed to travel in convoy and were diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia during the winter!
The two collections have been available online on Ancestry in partnership with The National Archives for a few years but I did find some new information and records. Continue reading
This is an introduction to a number of short blogs on sources for researching Caribbean service personnel in the First World War.
At the outbreak of the First World War there were Caribbean and people of Caribbean descent already serving in the British army in British regiments and the West India Regiment, the Royal Navy and the merchant navy.
In the Caribbean the war was seen by many as a ‘white-man’s war’ or a European war and not their problem. But many wanted to serve to protect the Motherland and to fight as equals. Caribbeans living in Britain enlisted locally; people living in the Caribbean at first needed to travel to Britain to enlist. In Barbados and Trinidad the public arranged for citizens’ contingents to travel to the UK – these were ‘white’ middle-class men – planters, merchants, public servants and clerks, though correspondence with the Colonial Office suggests many were not pure-European. Many black men also made their way to Britain but the War Office resisted recruiting black Caribbeans and even suggesting repatriating some back to the Caribbean. Continue reading
I had heard about DNA tests as a genealogical tool for many years but costs were quite high and I was not convinced of their value to my research or for wider Caribbean genealogical research.
However, because of documentaries such as BBCs Motherland in 2003 Caribbean genealogists increasingly asked me if DNA tests would be useful for their research and help them reconnect with their African ancestors; I added several slides on DNA to my talks.
As the price came down I thought about taking a test – so that I could understand what was involved and if the results could actually help someone to extend their family tree or link them to their ancestral home. I was also curious if such tests would help answer these three questions:
- I do not know where my Grannum / Cranham ancestors came from and so maybe these tests would help to narrow down place of origin
- Maybe I would find a match with someone in Europe which would help me to continue my research
- My family had lived in Barbados for over 250 years. Was I mixed-race?
Mark Johnson was at the National Archives today talking about African and African-Caribbeans who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He described his 17 years research into the lives of the 495 Black aircrew from the Caribbean and West Africa. His extensive experience into this hidden history enable him to help curate the “Pilots of the Caribbean” exhibition at the RAF Museum Hendon (which will move to their museum in Cosford later this year) and write Caribbean Volunteers at War. The Forgotten Story of the RAF’s ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ (Pen and Sword, 2014); a sample chapter is available online at Pen and Sword.
The book describes the history and experience of Caribbean aircrew using personal accounts and archival sources. There is an appendix which lists the men who flew as pilots, navigators, wireless operations and air gunners; the list is also available on his website. The list includes Jamaican-born Colin Patrick Haworth Grannum (born Eisner) DFC, who will be the subject of a later post.
Update (8 July 2014): Mark’s talk is available as a National Archives podcast.
[This article was originally posted on The National Archives wiki Your Archives (now archived)]
Reginald Clifton Grannum, is my paternal great-grandfather.
Born: 17 April 1872, St Michael, Barbados, to Edward Thomas Grannum and Mary Elizabeth Armstrong, nee Jordan
- Alice Edith Simpson (c.1876 – 13 March 1900), married 7 November 1896, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada – no children
- Ada Laura Austin (18 Sept 1872 – 25 April 1966), married 16 March 1903, Glastonbury, Somerset – 4 children
- Clifton Winnington Grannum (1906-1940)
- Dorothy Edmee Grannum (1907-1991)
- Reginald Anthony Grannum (1911-?)
- Joyce Yvonne Grannum (1914-?)
Died: 7 January 1946, St Helier, Jersey
A case study using Colonial Office records held at the National Archives
Reginald Clifton Grannum was a career colonial civil servant serving in a number of colonies in the Caribbean and Africa between 1892 and 1930. Because he was in the colonial civil service during the 19th century it is possible to discover a wealth of information about his life and career and many clues leading to information about his family.
To find out more about his life I used five main sources:
I am doing some research on Caribbeans who served in the First World War for a talk in October. I want to include some case studies for people who received gallantry awards. I ran an internet search and found a lot of websites mentioning a Winston Churchill Millington. The websites say he served in the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) in Egypt and Palestine and received a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). Many of the web sites include a photograph of him and one links to a photograph on Flickr with him receiving the medal from Major-General Chaytor.
I was immediately suspicious because most of the websites said more-or-less the same thing and none provided more detailed information such as battalion in the BWIR, regimental number and date of announcement of the award in the London Gazette.
There is a habit for websites to repeat information without first verifying it and I hoped to find out more.
Today I received TheGenealogist’s latest newsletter and they have just launched a new dataset: an index and images to the Tithe Apportionments for England and Wales held by the National Archives in the collection IR 29. This is a survey of all landowners and occupiers who held land and who were liable to pay tithe for the upkeep of the parish church. The apportionments and accompanying maps (in IR 30) were established under the Tithe Commutation Act 1836 aimed to change payments of tithe (a tax to support the church) from in-kind to money in the form of tithe rentcharge. These tithe apportionments were created to record liability to pay tithe rentcharge. The National Archives has produced a short guide to these and associated records.
[This was copied from my Guild of One Name studies profile page on 8 March 2014]
About the Grannum one-name study
I started researching my own family in 1987 and thought that with such an unusual name that this would not be difficult!
- Flight Lieutenant Clifton Winnington Grannum in the Sudan 1936
At the time I could not find much information before the birth of my grandfather. However, because Grannum, and its variants, is extremely
uncommon I decided to extract all entries I could find. I registered the name with the Guild of One-Name Studies in early 1988.
Origin of the surname
From my research I believe that the name originated in Barbados in the 18th century. Indeed, all the Grannums I have been in contact with have come from the Caribbean and in particular Barbados.
There were Granhams and Garnhams in Barbados in the 17th and early 18th centuries but these were isolated individuals and do not seem to have been related or to have left descendants in the islands. The surname Grannum can be shown to have been in continuous use in Barbados since the 1780s.