07 June 2022

Finding Fallen Soldiers in Your Family Tree

With more than 43,000 people in my family tree, I'm bound to have lots of loose ends. A lack of vital records is usually to blame.

Today I decided to find my Italian relatives who died in World War I. If you have Italians in your family tree, you can search for their name or hometown. Start at https://www.cadutigrandeguerra.it/CercaNome.aspx.

Before you click away, this article covers more than Italy!

I began with my grandfather's hometown of Colle Sannita since I've been doing a ton of research there. The town lost 96 of their men in World War I. The second man on the list is a perfect example of a loose end.

I knew that a man named Agostino Basile had married Orsola Marino in 1908 because her birth record says so. But I didn't know anything about him. This website led me to a page showing the details of Agostino's military service. It included his birth date, so my first step was to find that record and see who his parents were. His birth record also mentions his 1908 marriage to Orsola Marino.

The website tells me Agostino was in the 47th infantry. He died of his wounds in combat in an area called Carso. When I looked into that, I found it's a region on the border of Italy and today's Slovenia. Italy lost thousands of men in this general area during the war.

When vital records don't tell you the end of the story, military records may have the answer.
When vital records don't tell you the end of the story, military records may have the answer.

Agostino is no longer a loose end. Now I know he died 8 years after marrying Orsola, who is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. Her birth record also says she married another man in 1923—seven years after her 1st husband died. I wonder if it was a long time before Orsola knew Agostino was dead.

There's also a website to help you find Italian soldiers who died in World War II. Scroll way down the page at https://dimenticatidistato.com/elenco-nazionale-caduti-per-comune-di-nascita to find a list of provinces. Click yours to open a PDF that's divided by town.

To find casualty lists from other parts of the world, go to the FamilySearch wiki and type "world war i casualty" into the search box. The search results include:

  • The United States
  • Hungary
  • Bavaria
  • Germany
  • Czechia
  • Poland
  • East Prussia
  • and a ton more, including individual counties in the U.S.

Follow the links on each page to see what types of documents and information are available.

One resource gives you access to tons of international military records.
One resource gives you access to tons of international military records.

Whichever resources are the best fit for your family tree, bookmark them right away. I have another 94 men to look into from the Colle Sannita casualty list alone. And I've got a bunch of ancestral hometowns I want to explore next.


  1. That your cousin remaried in 1923 seems in sinc with the way the French finally went about recording the death of many that were killed during WWI, but that were missing in action or whose remains couldn't be readily identified. After the legal process went on for the years between 1918 et 1921, the government finally had enough evidence to declare them dead. In the Paris registers, for example, I have found many recorded death certificates in 1921 for WWI soldiers. I imagine the Italian government probably used a similar process to handle the missing soldiers and the unindentifiable remains. Annick H.