Sunday 8 February 2015

Casualties on-line

** Updated 1st December, 2023 - Trollip.

There are two sources on-line for British Empire casualties; Ancestry and The Register which is the one I have been compiling for about ten years now.

The Ancestry data comes from Naval & Military a well known publisher of military history books, maps and other source material.

In helping a family history researcher on I was made aware that the casualty data on Ancestry compiled by Naval & Military has been edited to remove facts such as the severity of a wound (slight, severe, dangerous), cause of death and most importantly dates of death. This last piece of information really important and knowing the severity of a wound adds colour to the story of a man's military service.

I have found a number of examples where the wound data is abbreviated to just "Wounded":

Pte 29832 WH Grantham IY - "Dangsly wounded Accidentally"
Pte 32616 J Renton  IY - "Sev wounded Self Inflicted"
Pte 26744 JH Wilson IY -"Slightly wounded"

Dates of death published in the casualty roll are missing from Ancestry, here are two examples:

Pte 482 AL Tilley SAC - "Wounded 9-11-1901 Died 13-11-1901" - the wounding is shown but the date of death is omitted, and the same for Pte 31776 LR Stewart Scottish Horse

The details for Pte 52 BG Trollip Eastern Province Horse have been mangled to create an incorrect record:

The entry in the SAFF roll cleary shows he was POW 16th May, 1900 at Senekal and Died at Bethlehem 10th July, 1900.



The Register shows the details correctly with a reference to FamilySearch where you can find two registrations for his death. Unfortunately a cause is not given. And The Register gives more information such as the medal roll page and a reference to a newspaper detailing the capture of Trollip and his comrades and how some managed to escape. Trollip got separated from the group.

Some men died of unusual causes which are not noted in Ancestry, but simply recorded as "Died" or "Killed":

Pte B Smith, Nesbitt's Horse - bee stings
Trpr TC Fenton, BSAP - killed by a lioness
Trpr S Smart Steinaecker's Horse - killed by a lion
Pte W Cunningham 2nd Dragoons - gored by a bull

The internet has been hugely positive in making research material more easily available. But, where the data has been pulled from original material it is clear some companies are more concerned with profit and show little respect for the historical record or the people they expect to pay to view the data.

There are also errors in the Ancestry casualty records, the non-existent 12th Hussars make an appearance: Pte 3098 W Muirhead was in the 13th Hussars. Such errors are in every single source I have consulted to build The Register which is the only casualty roll that is corrected and enhanced. When errors are found in The Register, they are fixed immediately - no other online resource does this.

And when looking at casualties The Register offers unique gazetteer data to help you locate the place a casualty occurred.

The Register's casualty database won a Gold medal at the Order and Medals Research Society Convention in 2017. You can read more about that display here.

Since writing this blog in 2015 it appears another source for ABW casualties online has appeared, ForcesWarRecords (FWR). Unfortunately they have come to notice for publishing a gross error that has caught at least two medal collectors out. Some weeks back I was asked by a client of The Register to validate a FWR record that Pte 4640 A Farmer 1st Dragoon Guards was severely wounded 22-11-1901. Pte Farmer is not listed on The Register and I could not find anything anywhere to support FWR's data. The medal subsequently appeared in the hands of another collector who raised the question on the BritishMedalForum. Not surprisingly no one on the Forum could validate FWR's data.

It appears this record is completely false, which is bad enough. To make matters worse FWR do not provide a source for their data, did they then make this up?

The moral of the story is - "know who you give money to in return for information" Are they experts in the field, do they have a good reputation, where do they get their information from? And beware, searching Ancestry's Fold3 gives you a link to this spurious data in FWR. You really do need to keep your wits about you.

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