How to research a veteran

How to research a veteran

Research and adopt a veteran

This resource guides users through the process of researching historical records if an Australian First World War veteran. School communities are encouraged to 'adopt' a local veteran. Part of the Bringing communities together series in response to the NSW Centenary of Anzac.  

Through this process students will examine the significance of:

  • Australia’s involvement in the First World War
  • the lasting consequences of the First World War
  • the impact of the First World War on developing Australian identities then and now.


Existing research guides

A number of Australian institutions offer guides for researching Australian veterans.

The National Archives of Australia presents a searchable digital databases of Australian service records.

The National Archive also provides guides to assist research on a number of specific military subjects including the sinking of HMAS Sydney, Australians in the Boer War, Japanese war crimes in the Pacific and a guide to the records of Cockatoo Island dockyard.

The wartime service and experiences of Australian men and women can also be researched through the website and collections of the Australian War Memorial.

The State Library of NSW has a research page that specifically focuses on the First World War experience of NSW service personnel and their families. The resource features the Library’s extensive collection of First World War diaries.

The Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) provides links to various research resources on its Anzac Portal. The links direct to other government sources including Commemorative and Honour Rolls, Office of Commonwealth War Graves and the Australian War Memorial and to non-government resources including the Australian Dictionary of Biography, family history websites and New Zealand service records.


Anzac Memorial places of enlistment research

For the Centenary Extension of the Anzac Memorial, opened in 2018, the Anzac Memorial and NSW Office of Veterans Affairs worked with the artist Fiona Hall to create an artwork that would recognise the breadth of NSW First World War service. The resulting installation in the Memorial’s Hall of Service identifies the 1,701 places in NSW from which men and women enlisted for the First World War.

The list of 1,701 places was based on the AIF Project database of First World War enlistees. This Australian Defence Force Academy resource, compiled from Embarkation and Nominal Rolls in a 20-year research exercise, is now widely recognised as the most accurate catalogue of Australian First World War service.

The NSW Office of Veterans Affairs, with the assistance of the NSW Geographical Names Board, spent 18 months double-checking every NSW address listed on the AIF Project database to correct for misspellings and anomalies. The result of that research is presented in an interactive map and digital Hall of Service interactive on the Memorial’s website.