By Kathryn Stocks and Robin Shonfield

Last year in the November issue I wrote about a trip my husband Robin and I took to France and Belgium in 2019 to find the graves of my Scottish grandmother’s brother and her husband who fought and died in the First World War. In the process of researching them, we also discovered that my grandfather fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was digging tunnels at Vimy Ridge leading up to the defining battle there from April 9-12, 1917.

That trip was a poignant one for us as we visited their graves, found the spots where they died under enemy fire, and saw the tunnels at Vimy that had been restored and the one that was left as it was after the war.

For those interested in researching their long-gone relatives who fought in that war, Robin compiled this list of websites to help you find their war records, battles and final resting places.

  • For relatives who didn’t come back, the first place to look is on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Try several different initial or name combinations. For example, I couldn’t find James Riddell Ogilivie or James Olgilvie, but eventually got a match with J R Olgilvie.
  • The War Graves Commission should provide the serviceman’s date of death, regiment they served with and the cemetery where they’re buried. Once you have the military regiment your relative served with and the date of death, you’ll want to look at the British War Diaries for that regiment for that time range. If your relative came back from the war and you know his regiment and the dates served, you can start with the War Diaries:
  • These diaries will describe the movements and battles fought by the company. Significant battles will be described in Wikipedia. Individual military service records can be obtained for most individuals through but a subscription will be necessary for this. In many cases, the War Diaries will reference original First World War trench maps. The images of these maps can be looked up as well:
  • WWI trench maps use a unique set of coordinates that were developed specifically for that war. In order to find places on these maps, the WWI coordinates can be converted to standard GPS coordinates used by Google Maps. For that purpose, use a site like

We hope this helps you find your family’s war history. It’s a journey that can bring an unexpected