Paisley Library - Paisley Museum

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DNA detectives in hunt for WW1 heroes

DNA detectives, searching for First World War heroes amongst their family tree, are being invited to investigate a wealth of original documents held by Renfrewshire Council’s Heritage Service at Paisley Central Library.

Councillor Jim Harte, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Sport, Leisure and Culture Policy Board, said, “People want to know about their roots, their family history, who they are and where they come from. And the council’s Heritage Service is always happy to help with these requests.


“Shortly before his death, Bee Gee’s star, Robin Gibb, came to Paisley to find out about his family for the BBC documentary, Who Do You Think You Are? During the course of the programme he discovered that his great grandfather had been a decorated soldier.

“The centenary commemorations for the First World War have created a huge amount of interest in a conflict that touched virtually every family in Britain.

“The documents we have are a vital resource for anyone who is trying to track down their relatives but they also offer a fascinating glimpse of a lost world. Casualty lists highlight the human cost of the war but newspapers of the time also emphasise both the pace of change over the last century and, paradoxically, how much has stayed the same.

“Stories of bombing raids by Zeppelins sit side-by-side with reports of baking competitions and the intriguing tale of a man, ‘who was taken to the infirmary after bruising his head in a fall from the pavement’!

“The materials we have available allow us to build a picture of some of those killed in action. It’s possible to identify where their family lived at the time, their occupation, the regiment they served with and where they were killed.”

The council is currently holding talks with the Renfrewshire Family History Society on compiling a definitive list of local people killed during the First World War.

The invitation is part of the Renfrewshire Reflects initiative which includes a series of events to commemorate the start of the First World War. The commemorations will span a four-year period from 2014 to 2018. They will focus on the impact of the war and on marking the significant events of the conflict.

A service is being held in St Mirin’s Cathedral at 10.15pm on 4 August to mark the first key date. At 11pm on 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany, after it failed to withdraw its forces from Belgium. The service ends at 11pm. The service is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator icon=”star”][vc_column_text]Courtesy of Renfrewshire Council.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator icon=”star”][vc_column_text]The materials available include:
*       Paisley Daily Express, 1914 – 1918 bound newspapers
*       Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette, 1914 – 1918, bound newspapers (weekly)
*       Official History of the Scottish Filling Factory (no.4 National), Georgetown, Renfrewshire, published 1919, includes colour plans, photographs of personnel and the site. Information on 20-plus explosions, accidents and output statistics
*       Poor Law records for Paisley and ex Abbey Parish, Renfrewshire including applications made during WW1 with some with documents attached
*       Photographs, some with local connections
*       Trades directories (early version of Yellow Pages), include a list of heads of household and their addresses. This is also available electronically
*       A donation of First World War diaries for Renfrewshire with index, details of actions and “mentioned in dispatches” (includes some duplication) This is also available online at a cost per extract
*       WW1 items in the Paisley Museum collection such as medals, trench art.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator icon=”star”][/vc_column][/vc_row]