Skip to content
  • Start free trial

Discover your connection to the Second World War

Largely considered to be the deadliest military conflict in history, almost every family will have some connection to the Second World War. Here at Findmypast, you can uncover these connections, trace your ancestor's struggle and sacrifice, and honour their stories for generations to come.

Uncover your military ancestors today

With just a few details, you could trace their tumultuous journeys through the struggles of war.

A brief overview of World War 2

Elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler led a regime based on racial superiority and nationalism. After he broke rules laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, and following his invasion of Poland in 1939, France and Britain declared war. Concentration camps were established in 1942.

The D-Day landings in 1944 provided a turning point for the Allies. Eventually, in 1945, Hitler committed suicide and the Nazi regime was dismantled.

It is estimated that 70-85 million people died, including 20-28 million deaths from famine, poverty, and war-related disease. Approximately 5 million prisoners of war died in captivity, and a total of 6 million died from direct Nazi persecution.

The effects of the war were felt for years to come, and the generational trauma is still felt to this day. We can honour the tragedies of the Second World War and the sacrifice of our military ancestors by telling these stories.

Remembering D-Day, 80 years on

6 June 2024 marks 80 years since the Normandy Landings, also known as D-Day. Part of Operation Overlord during World War II, D-Day was the largest naval invasion in history.  

Over 35,000 Allied troops invaded the beaches of Normandy (divided into five sections: Omaha, Sword, Juno, Utah and Gold), in a coordinated land, air and sea attack. The Normandy invasion began with naval and aerial bombardment, as 24,000 British, American and Canadian soldiers entered the North-West of France via airborne landing crafts. D-Day resulted in an estimated 10,000 Allied casualties. An estimated 4,000-9,000 German troops were killed, captured or missing in action.  

This critical event during World War II marked the beginning of the liberation of France from Nazi rule. The Normandy Landings laid the groundwork for victory on the Western Front. 

World War 2 soldiers sorting through parcels

The history behind the 1939 Register

The 1939 Register is a crucial resource for discovering your wartime ancestors. Once the British government knew war was on the horizon, they set out to issue National Identity cards to the whole of the nation. The register was used to order conscription, issue ration books, administer labour, and monitor the movement of the population throughout nationwide evacuations.

Findmypast are the official online home of the 1939 Register, so you're in the right place to get started. As well as opening up thousands of new records more regularly than any other family history website, you can search by address, occupation, or even browse historical maps of your local area.

Get started with the 1939 Register

Discover where your ancestors were on the eve of war.

Women helping with the harvest during rationing

Findmypast's Second World War records

You've made the first step towards unearthing your wartime ancestors with the 1939 Register, and now it's time to continue the journey. From World War 2 British Army collections to detailed records of service throughout the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, there's so much to uncover.

You may be able to find your ancestor amongst the thousands of individuals featured in the Army Roll of Honour (1939-1945), or even in the pages of our World War 2 Prisoners of War collection. Whichever route you take, behind every one of these names is a story of torment and triumph, a family legend to be passed down through the ages, and a connection waiting to be discovered.

Three crucial steps to start your World War 2 research

The journey begins with records, but it doesn't end there. Discover an array of source material that will help you build a bold picture of your ancestor's life.

Start a family tree

Once you've given us your initial details, we'll send you helpful hints for military records you may have missed.

Begin building yours

Scour social history

Newspapers provide the vivid social context you need to truly understand your ancestor's journey.

Search our newspaper archive

Browse our Photo Collection

Containing tens of thousands of historical wartime photos from World War 2, who knows what you might uncover?

Search our Photo Collection