FamilySearch Recognizes and Honors the World War I Armistice Day Centennial

October 25, 2018  - by 

Just over one hundred years ago—on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—World War I ended. Thanks to the treaty signed on November 11, 1918, this day is known as “Armistice Day.” Every Armistice Day, also known as Veterans Day, people worldwide remember their family members who were affected by World War I.

 

WWI—The Great War

World War I began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Russia and Germany soon joined the conflict, followed by France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Portugal, and several other nations. In 1917, the United States also declared war on Germany and, consequently, on the other Central Powers (Austria-Hungry, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria).

Over the course of the next 18 months, 65 million troops worldwide were involved in the conflict. By the end of World War I, on the day of the armistice, the violence across Europe had caused an estimated 37 million casualties and more than 16 million deaths, including both civilians and military personnel.

Armistice Day for World War I

The armistice was signed at 5:12 a.m. on the morning of November 11, 1918, in Compiègne, France, and came into effect six hours later at 11 a.m (Paris time). It is estimated that in those last six hours of fighting, a further 2,738 men were killed before the war came to an end.

an infantry of World War 1 soldiers celebrate the armistice.

After the treaty came into effect, emotional celebrations broke out in every nation the war had affected. Whether it was in the frontline trenches, war-torn battlefields, small towns, or large cities, people united to rejoice at the conclusion of the Great War that had taken so great a toll on life and property. The celebrations of the time are reflected in several Daily Mirror press clippings describing the events of previous day:

DAILY MIRROR, 12 NOVEMBER 1918

“Bells burst forth into joyful chimes, maroons were exploded, bands paraded the streets followed by cheering crowds of soldiers and civilians and London generally gave itself up wholeheartedly to rejoicing.”

“Processions of soldiers and munition girls arm in arm were everywhere.”

“Conversation in the Strand was impossible owing to the din of cheers, whistles, hooters and fireworks.”

Remembering the End of World War I

Today, Armistice Day is a national holiday in France and several other countries around the world. Some nations remember World War I soldiers on different days, during memorial holidays such as Veterans Day, Anzac Day, and Remembrance Day. In Germany, a Volkstrauertag, or “people’s day of mourning,” was first held in 1922 to mourn the deaths of German soldiers in World War I.

Whether you commemorate Armistice Day with a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. or remember World War I veterans in other ways, this coming November 11 is a good opportunity to learn more about World War I and discover your own ancestors who might have been affected by the war.

 


Research Your World War I Ancestors

Search out your own World War I ancestors with tips shared in the blog post titled “Discover Your Ancestors in World War I Records.” FamilySearch offers an extensive collection of World War I records for you to use—United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, United Kingdom World War I Service Records and Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Records, and several items for other countries, such as Australia.

Learn more about how to research and honor your World War I ancestors.

Search WW1 genealogy records on FamilySearch and share your ancestors' stories.

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Comments

  1. Be sure to check out the World War I National Museum and Memorial in Kansas City Missouri. They have over 15000 books in their research library. Also check out their website.

  2. How soon we forget. Thank you for your sincere dedication to reflections on those who have sacrificed for God, family, and country.
    Duane Jacobs, US NAVY Veteran, US CITIZEN, and senior curmudgeon

  3. When interviewing my father many years ago, he said one of his earliest memories was Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 when people learned WWl had ended. Horns honked, church bells rang, people were in the streets celebrating the end of war. He was living in Providence RI and was 4 years old.

    On the 100 Year Anniversary. of Armistice Day. I looked online to see if I could find photos of Providence that day and came upon this from the Brown University Library. It made that bit of history alive for me. (I would have loved to be there for the American Expeditionary Forces singing of “Over There”!)

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    “The Armistice that brought an end to the war and victory for the allies, went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on November 11th, 1918. On campus, bells and whistles started the celebration around 3:00 in the morning. A couple of hours later, reveille was blasted under the windows of the Naval barracks. Classes were held until 10:30 a.m., and then cancelled. 900 students and faculty crowded into Sayles Hall. The chapel bell rang for two minutes, followed by speeches. Pandemonium nearly broke out when about 30 members of the American Expeditionary Forces club, who had been “there” got up and sang Over There. The audience would not be silenced until an encore was given.

    Delegations from the various schools on the East Side cut through campus on their way to join the cheering mobs downtown. Automobiles, bedecked with bunting, sped downtown. Brown’s military and naval units, followed by civilian students, marched through the city where a tremendous crush of people gathered. Biology Professor Walters reported that “Providence just naturally boiled over. Westminster was no longer a one-way street. It was an every-which-way street. I dimly remember finding myself with a cowbell in the midst of the downtown mob along with a disgraceful squad of faculty whose names I won’t recall – all insane and all with cowbells more or less.” That evening a large bonfire was lit on Lincoln field and the day ended with songs and cheers. “

  4. As wonderful as that event was, and how much it meant to so many, almost lost to the world is the fact that 11:00am on 11/11/1918 was only the beginning of the war for many. I have a photo of my grandfather, taken on Christmas day, more than a month later, standing in Siberia as part of the Army Expeditionary Forces. He arrived in the fall of 1918. For the following year he lived through horrendous events and witnessed things he recorded once immediately after his return, then put away for many decades, and to my knowledge spoke about only once verbally – to me – in 1983, shortly before his death. Only later did I receive that 24 page typewritten manuscript from my mother, who I believe had not even read it through, because he said he never wanted it published. No one else ever knew it existed for nearly 100 years besides my mother and then me, yet it chronicled things that were nearly lost to history, I’ve since learned. (It now resides with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, for historical research purposes but not publication, thus keeping his wishes for non-publication at least another 38 years under current copyright law.)

    My grandfather did not return to the United States until late in 1919, a full year after the official end of the War, and some of the remaining forces in Siberia did not return even until 1920. The photo (and one more) of my grandfather in Siberia is both a treasure and a sad reminder of what has been done by special people to preserve the freedoms of others, often resulting in the ultimate sacrifice. His manuscript is a true treasure, and by permission of the Hoover Institution is also preserved on FamilySearch in his Memories section, so that those memories (and lessons) will never be forgotten by his posterity.