Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday's Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge" - D is for "Dog Tags"

Well it is the end of the week and as promised here my next post in Friday's Family History through the Alphabet Challenge which is my attempt to complete the Gouldgenealogy ChallengeFamily History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

With the first three letters,"A","B", and "C" ticked off, it is time to tackle "D"Again I wracked my brain for something that I had used to assist in the research of my family tree that started with D.  Then it came to me "Dog Tag" or as it was originally called in Australia "Identification Tag".

"Dog Tags" is the informal name for identification tags that are worn by armed service personnel.  The primary use for the tag through history has been for the identification of the dead and wounded, and advice of essential basic medical information such as blood type and inoculation history and relevant religion.  The term "Dog Tag" is an American term and wasn't used in Australia until around the time of the Vietnam War.*

The first conflict that records the use of "dog tags" or identification tags was the Boer War of (1899-1902).  The Australian and British forces were issued with a strip of tape that was to be carried in the pocket of their tunic to assist with identification if they were wounded or killed during battle. It was found that this tag was not always carried and from 1906 the troops were issued with tin disks that had their details stamped into them.  This practice was continued for the troops in WWI, with soldiers issued with two fibreboard discs, one to remain with the body, the other to go with the soldiers belongings when they were sent home.*

Identification Tags - Malcolm Michael Shepherd WWI
 It was found that the fibre board discs tended to rot in wet conditions so by the time of WWII the discs were made of metal and the cotton tape which hung around the neck was replaced by leather thong, or metal chain that wouldn't disintegrate in the extreme weather conditions of jungle warfare.*

Now, you may ask how do these tags assist you with your family research?  If like me you are lucky enough to inherit or have access to your father, grandfather, uncle, or great uncle's identification tags you can use the information on them to trace all the details of their involvement in the relevant military conflict.

 The tags of my grandfather Malcolm Michael Shepherd, provide me with the following details: his fathers name, religion, the town he came from and his service number and battalion.  From this information I am able to access the complete digital copy of his military record.   This information can be found on the Search Page of the Australian War Memorial Web Page.

Inserting your ancestors service number and name into the search boxes will enable to access to a digital copy of their complete military record which can be downloaded or if you prefer you can for a fee order a copy to be sent to you.

These records hold a mine of information, which can include: height, hair colour, next of kin, your ancestors signature when he signed up, the name of the ship they embarked on, a complete record of where he was stationed during the war, if he was wounded, if they went AWOL, the medals they received, the name of the ship they returned to Australia on and any correspondence that was written to family or from family after the war.

 I have accessed a number of  our family's members military records and have to say, besides being extremely interesting, they have helped me solve a number of family history puzzles.  One of my husbands family members had met and married a lady he met in England at the end of the war.  In his ditigal record I found: was record of the marriage, and a letter from his commander giving him permission to marry. Another record that amused me was for one of my great uncles who was a bit of a larrikin. His report showed he was up on charges for stealing a crate of beer and that he received the penalty of being confined to barracks for a month for this crime.

So if you are lucky enough to have or can access your ancestors identity tags or "dog tags" make use of them and they will allow you to uncover the story of their military involvement and give you a better understanding of some of the hardships they endured.

*  Australian War Memorial Encyclopedia, viewed 12/1/13.


  1. I love that you've taken up "the Challenge" Diane and made the commitment to a weekly post. It was a fabulous experience and, at times, doubted I'd actually make it through. Even now, the Alphabet often pops into my head when deciding on a post. Enjoy!!! Also, thanks for a most interesting post which has great advice for others. Happy blogging for 2013, Catherine.

  2. Thanks. Not sure if I will manage to get a post finished each week, but wil do my best.

  3. Know what you're sayin' Diane :-) ... I got to "H" and wrote a post about "Hump Week" and doubted if I'd ever make it through ...
    Part of what made it easier, for me, was that a whole heap of others were going through it at the same time and giving support. So, just know I'm hanging in there and cheering you on but, of course, no pressure!!! Cheerio for now.

  4. What a special thing to have your relative's dog tags. Put together with their service history, and maybe medals, it really would be amazing. I have to settle for less than a perfect "score".

    Good to see that you are persisting with the A to Z -it was a great challenge and brought forth an astonishing array of ideas.

  5. thanks, hope to have the "E" post out soon