Citizen historians recruited for WWI global research project

Military history buffs in Canada invited to help crowd source global history project on 'Geordies' and the First World War

Military history buffs with an interest in the First World War and cultural identity are invited to help crowd source a global history project out of the UK.

The Dominion Geordies in World War One project will research the lives and wartime service of people who were originally from north east England and who served in the land forces of the Dominion armies of Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Canada.

By recruiting a crowd of volunteers to tackle this large-scale research project by collecting information, project organizers hope to better understand why ‘Geordies’ emigrated, how their journeys related to their wartime movements and where they ended up settling after the war.

The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is reaching out to volunteer researchers in Canada and abroad, says Dr. James McConnel, a history lecturer at Northumbria University.

The research will be looking at individual migration histories as well as the way people and communities saw their identities – as ‘Geordies’ (a regional nickname associated with denizens of the north east of England such as Newcastle and Tyndside) and Britons, but also as Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders.

About 70 per cent of the early Canadian Expeditionary Force raised for the First World War was born in the UK.

For example, George Burdon McKean – originally from Willington, County Durham, England, was a student at the University of Alberta when fighting broke out.

He served with Canadian forces, and was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Military Medal, and the Military Cross, a rare feat that made him one of only a handful of people to win all three and survive the war.

The most famous ‘Geordie’ is Aussie John Simpson Kirkpatrick (depicted in the statue at left), who risked his life ferrying wounded comrades by donkey at Galipoli, and is also remembered at home as a native son of South Shields.

Over a span of 12 months, citizen historians will gather information for a database in hopes of using the collected information to produce a short film, and pen a number of research papers profiling the men of the north east who fought in the armies of the Dominions.

“It will be an interesting and challenging project to work on,” McConnel said.

Anyone from first-timers to experienced researchers are invited to get involved by researching lost stories of men and women.

To volunteer or for more information, visit or contact

The project’s full title is Dominion Geordies in World War One: Recovering lost legacies of emigrant North Easterners serving in Dominion forces 1914-1918.

As the project progresses, the database will be made available to the public.


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