About five months ago, after researching and writing for over five years I thought I had finished my first draft for my new book - Victoria Rifles of Canada - 60th Overseas Battalion in WWI. By way of background, both my grandfather Edward Lewis Pyves (Military Medal) and my great uncle Stanley Pyves both served with the 60th in WWI, which was the prime motivation in writing the story of the 60th Battalion.
Writing about events which took place a hundred years ago is challenging, especially when the main participants are all long gone. I wanted to personalize the history of the 60th Battalion by adding stories, letters and pictures of the individual soldiers to bring the saga of the Battalion to life. Then, what now seems so obvious struck me - why not reach out to the living relatives of the 2,811 soldiers for assistance. Over the last four months using Ancestry.ca as a key resource, I have sent out over 2,300 inquiries and as most genealogist's know, family historians are quite responsive and helpful. To-date I have had a response rate approaching 50% and have unearthed many photos as well as stories and letters relating to individual soldiers' experiences with the 60th Battalion during the war years.
Having the advantage of knowing for most of the soldiers their birth dates, place of birth and next of kin - information available from each soldiers attestation papers available at Library & Archive Canada, I was able to use both the Public and Private family Trees posted on Ancestry.ca to complete my research. This research tool has made it possible to add the individual experiences, recollections and letters written some 100 years ago to my manuscript with the permission and co-operation of their direct descendants. Over the next few months I will have completed a new draft of the Victoria Rifles of Canada which will be much richer due to the added content.