Tuesday 4 June 2019

Ancestry's new D-Day collection: free to IE & UK users

As the nation prepares to commemorate and reflect upon the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Ancestry UK has released a new D-Day collection free to family historians based in Ireland and the UK.

British Troops landing on Jig Green beach, 6.6.1944
The move is designed to help researchers uncover the role their family played in this extraordinary maritime invasion, and responds to a survey of 2,000 adults which found that a quarter of the nearly 62,000 British and Irish solders who participated in the landings never spoke to family about their experiences. Indeed, only one-in-ten veterans discussed the events in any detail with their family.

As a result of veterans bottling up what they went through and witnessed, 74% of family members today say they do not have a good understanding of what their ancestor experienced in one of the most historic events of World War II.

The new D-Day collection (officially called the UK, D-Day War Diaries and Photographs, 1944 collection) aims to fill in some of the blanks. It includes more than 100 records, including war diaries and photographs from the day, sourced from 42 regiments around the UK.

The collection provides a fascinating and sometimes harrowing insight into the operation and aims to help tell the story where traditional records are not yet available, as well as offering researchers the chance to discover the part played by their ancestor in D-Day.

Highlights include:
  • War diary from HMS Belfast, including images of the ships log on D-Day
  • Multiple war diaries of soldiers operating at a number of levels and across different regiments during D-Day (including anti-aircraft regiments, infantry brigade, parachute regiment and anti-tank regiment)
  • Photographs which cover the entirety of Operation Overlord, including close-ups of British soldiers, the storming of Normandy beaches, German POWs, and images taken from allied aircraft and allied naval vessels
  • Written letters from allied soldiers to loved ones back home
  • Diaries from those left back in the UK, including Doris Bealing (aged 11) who lived in Portsmouth as the D-Day landings were undertaken.
  • Typed copies of news reports from the BBC
Russell James, Ancestry, commented, 'D-Day veterans were of a different generation, where not showing emotion, not wanting to be seen as a hero or feeling the need to keep a stiff upper-lip prevented people from talking through events that must have been profoundly difficult and tragic. Equally, in the decades after the war, people wanted to simply move on. However, it’s a shame that so many personal stories were not told, and records were lost or simply thrown away. Our newly launched D-Day collection is available for free and allows those with family links to the landings the chance to uncover more details about the role their family members played.”