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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds LAURA JAMES: These rolls will tell you an individual’s name, rank, service number, military unit and Battalion, age, occupation, whether they were married or single, their address, the address of their next of kin, their religion, date of enlistment, and their rate of pay. Embarkation rolls also tell us what ship an individual left Australia on, what port they left from, and their date of departure. These lists can provide researchers with bits of information not found anywhere else, and can be a useful tool when piecing together the particulars of an individual’s war service. But it’s important to remember that some of these details will change over time. Servicemen and women often changed their military unit, their rank, their rate of pay.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds And sometimes a death in the family or a wartime marriage meant that they changed their next of kin, too. You can search the embarkation roll in two main ways– by doing a name search or by searching the military unit. The unit search is generally not the easiest way to search for an individual, but can be helpful if you’re investigating a troopship or a particular Battalion. The First World War embarkation roll name search asks for an individual’s name, service number, and the roll title if known. The more information you can provide here, the more accurate your search will be. Today I’m searching for more information on Alexander McKinnon, an Indigenous soldier from the Northern Territory.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds I have Alexander’s name and his service number. So hopefully those two pieces of information can find the right Alexander McKinnon for me. Here we go. By selecting the individual’s name, the search engine will bring up a brief summary on some of the information listed under that person’s name on the embarkation roll. This screen tells me that when he enlisted, Alexander was a Private. And he left for war on HMAT Ballarat on the 12th of August, 1916 from Adelaide. By selecting the link to view the digitised record, further information can be reached. The writing on these rolls is often quite small, so use the zoom tool to magnify the text if needed.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 seconds Alexander’s name– at the very bottom of the roll– tells me that he was a 27-year-old single man, working as a station hand at Leigh’s Creek in South Australia before he enlisted for war. His Indigenous mother, Alice, living in Charlotte Waters, is named as his next of kin. Like all other privates aboard the ship, Alexander was receiving 5 shillings per day. These rolls are a great resource to consult when piecing together a biography of a First World War Australian service personnel. And there are even more exciting databases that you can explore on the Australian War Memorial’s website.

How to access Embarkation Rolls

Watch Laura James guide you through the process of accessing Embarkation Rolls on the Australian War Memorial website.

Note: Websites referred to in this presentation were accessed in early 2015 and there may have been minor modifications to some of the sites since then.

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World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

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