Posted by on September 8, 2010 in Content

In a world-first, Ancestry.com.au has launched the Andrews Newspaper Index Cards 1790-1976, which includes the names of many British World War II soldiers reported as “missing in action” during the 1940s.

The 335,000 original newspaper clippings now online span almost 200 years and are a vital means of finding information not captured in other historical sources about people who died overseas, obituaries written by loved ones and unclaimed wills.

Numerous key events relating to the lives of ordinary British citizens also feature, including more than 40,000 births, 64,000 marriages, and 95,000 deaths.

Included in the collection are records of soldiers who were reported as ‘missing in action’, whose bodies were not recovered and their capture by enemy forces not declared.

These records are especially useful for tracing WWII soldiers as they are one of the few resources chronicling the British military action post-1939 currently open for public inspection under the 30-year rule*.

Missing soldiers’ names frequently appear in poignant newspaper adverts, placed by loved ones and next-of-kin calling on the public to share any information they may have about their disappearance overseas.

One 1944 advert noted ‘information gratefully received’ about Captain John Cairns Dawson, placed by his parents who wanted to know what happened to their lost son. Another was ‘in very proud and loving memory of my darling husband Lt. Eric Vaughan’; a navy man lost at sea, placed by his wife. She went on to write ‘to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.’

Records for soldiers who fought in WWI can also be found in the obituaries section of the collection and recount tales of the brave men who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme. Also included are numerous famous names:

  • Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook – Aitken was known as the ‘Baron of Fleet Street’ after purchasing a number of newspapers including the Daily Express, which he turned into the largest selling newspaper in the world
  • Sir Warwick Oswald Fairfax – Fairfax was a prominent Australian businessman and patron of the arts, who was chairman of Associated Newspapers Ltd. From 1956 to 1977. His second marriage to Hanne Anderson in 1948 appears in the collection
  • Allen Algernon Bathurst, Lord Apsley - Allen Algernon Bathurst was a member of parliament and distinguished army officer who was killed in service during WW2 in Malta

The 335,000 newspaper clippings were taken from a variety of national and regional newspapers, including the London Gazette, and were originally compiled by Chancery agents from the 1880s to the mid-20th century.

The Andrews Newspaper Index Cards 1790-1976 were transcribed as part of the Ancestry World Archives Project, which provides the public with indexing software and training support to enable them to contribute in making even more historical records available and searchable online. To date, thousands of Ancestry members across the globe have contributed their time to this project.


*Under the United Kingdom’s Public Records Act (1958) records are transferred from government departments to The National Archives where they become open to public inspection 30 years after their creation (the so called ’30 year rule’). Certain records may be closed for longer periods: 50 years, 75 years or even 100 years if they are concerned with intelligence or security matters or have high security content. Military personnel records are not transferred to The National Archives until at least 75 years, meaning most records from the Second World War are still not available for public inspection, though only to those who can prove a familial link to the individual in the file.