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how to research my Great Grandfather in WW1?

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Debra Report 27 May 2014 15:46

hello everyone

I have come across an old photo of my great grandfather James Madden, (born in London in 1869) in a WW1 uniform.
How would I go about researching what role he had to play etc in the war? I have not got a clue how to go about this - can anyone help get me going on the right track please?
many thanks


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 27 May 2014 18:00

First things first - although a number of full WW1 service records have survived, over 60 percent were destroyed during WW2 bombing. Those remaining are held by the National archives with links to Ancestry, another subscription site.

It might be possible for someone to look at Ancestry for you and post any results.

Medal cards which record service/campaign medals awarded were stored elsewhere and as far as we know exist in their entirety. Again, they can be searched for on the NA with links to Ancestry or downloaded for a small fee. If there are cards for several men with the same surname and/or initial, without family memories it is difficult to identify the correct one. It is always possible that your gt grandfather didn't qualify for a medal.

I believe roots web, a free site, has a forum where you could upload the photo in the hope that someone can identify his regiment. If roots web is incorrect, or there is a better free site, hopefully someone can advise.


Debra Report 27 May 2014 18:15

Ok thank you very much for the information.
Best wishes x


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 27 May 2014 22:48

Having had the chance to look on Ancestry, there are 61 medal card results for (no middle name) James Madden. Unfortunately they only give the details of the regiment served in, which could be one distant from their home. Conscriptees could have been sent to any regiment short of personnel even if they joined up at a local recruiting centre.

If you can get the uniform identified, it might help to eliminate some of them. If he was married or his wife had a child while he was in the army, his regimental number might be on the certificate. that might help in tracking down records.

No obvious surviving pension or service records are jumping off the screen.


Debra Report 28 May 2014 06:37

Thank you kindly x x
He was married in 1901 and had 6 children by the beginning of WW1 so no regimental number on the marriage certificate - I'm thinking he would have been way too old to serve in WW1 as. He would have been in his mid 40's by then..?
But it looks like a WW1 photo to me. Could it have been another war / conflict perhaps? Boar war for example ..?


Persephone Report 28 May 2014 06:43


Have you Googled the name James Madden - Boer War.. there is quite a few hits on there, maybe yours maybe not.. but worth a look.



Debra Report 28 May 2014 06:52

Ok will do, thank you Persie


Debra Report 28 May 2014 06:56

The thing is Persie the records are just a list and I don't know what regiment he was in?


Debra Report 28 May 2014 07:04

Ok I have taken a picture of the photo - how could I go about uploading it here anyone...?
Thank you


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 28 May 2014 14:42

Use the Keepsafe drop down box at the top of the page and select 'Upload to Keepsafe'.

Follow the instructions then set the option to 'view by everyone' or similar wording to that.

Post the title you have assigned to it here. That way anyone who might be able to help can have a look.

FAQ and instructions by GR about the Keepsafe can be found here


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 28 May 2014 15:20

Found the site I was thinking about. It wasn't Roots Web but RootsChat and is free once you've registered.

At the bottom of the Home Page where it says Armed Forces WW1 WW2 & More, click on the World War One blue hyperlink to take you to that board.

Have a read to see what questions people are asking - it looks as if you will be able to upload a photo and ask for suggestions as to his unit (or even date the photo if it isn't WW1!)

If he was in his 40's, he might have been conscripted for the Labour Corp, so don't rule it completely out.


Debra Report 28 May 2014 18:36

That's wonderful THANK YOU I'm going to try to upload the pic this evening xx


Debra Report 28 May 2014 18:42

Woo woo!
I have uploaded the photo - my GGG Grandfather is the gentleman standing, any thoughts on regiment etc?
Thank you all
Debra xxx


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 28 May 2014 20:02

You haven't set it so that everyone can have a look! This is the result from a search

My GGG grandfather (standing) James Madd ...
Click here to request the owner's permission to view

(Madd... is probably a shortened version of Madden, don't worry about it)

Go to 'view my keepsafe'
Hover your mouse over the picture
Click on Edit
On the right, under Privacy, change the option to 'Shared with Everyone'

You can always change it back to 'Private, not shared with anyone' at a later date.

Although I wouldn't be able to identify the uniform, quite often you'll find that someone will have a look at any request, do a bit of research but only post if they have something constructive to add.


Debra Report 28 May 2014 20:13

Oh I'm not sure why it isn't visible as I have set it for 'viewed by everyone'?
Sorry I'm not great at ICT... Maybe I need to re-load it but I can see it in my keepsakes ?


Debra Report 28 May 2014 20:16

I have re-loaded it :) fingers crossed it is now visible?


MarieCeleste Report 28 May 2014 22:07

Yes, it's visible now Debra.

Just to make it easier for people to view, here's a direct link to it


Debra Report 28 May 2014 22:36

Thank you Celeste! That's really kind of you x

I am sure this is WW1 having done some research in google. He was living in Marylebone London when WW1 broke out so I wonder if that had an influence on which regiment he was with?


Potty Report 29 May 2014 12:35

What part of London was he born in?


Debra Report 29 May 2014 17:34


Hello - he was born in Paddington / Marylebone area in London in 1869
Best wishes
Debra x