Not all service records from WWI survive. Of those that do survive, some are available for free. For example, those for Canada are currently being digitised and placed online by Library and Archives Canada. Fire destroyed some of the service records for the United Kingdom; those that remain are available through subscription websites such as Ancestry and findmypast. Fire was also responsible for the loss of many service records in the United States.
Fortunately, many towns, counties, schools, and companies created biographical directories to honour those who served in WWI. Local libraries often hold some of these in their collections. Some of these have been digitised and are available online at Archive.org.
While many of these rolls of honour contain only basic information such as name and service number, others give biographies that contain useful genealogical information such as date and place of birth and names and addresses of parents or next of kin. Photos are sometimes included.
There are too many resources to list individually, but I will list a few here to provide examples of the sort of information that can be found.
Example: United Kingdom
The City of Croydon created a roll of honour for its constituents. Information was drawn from a variety of sources, and the amount of information included for each soldier therefore varies. The title of the work is Croydon and the Great War: the official history of the war work of the borough and its citizens from 1914 to 1919. Below is the entry for Charles Howard, a soldier in the Border Regiment.
McGill Honour Roll, 1914-1918 is a university-based collection of biographies of people who served in WWI. This is the entry for James Mawdsley, showing his date of enlistment, the company with which he served, and wounds received.
Example: United States
Bureau County, Illinois issued an honour roll for its citizens, entitled The Honor Roll: an appreciation of the gallant men of Bureau County, Illinois, who served the nation in its hour of need, 1917-1918-1919. The information included can be some or all of the following: date of birth, names of parents, when the soldier signed on, where they served, and whether they were discharged or died in service.
The entry for Siegfried Phillippe is shown above; the photo included in the book in shown below.
How to find more Rolls of Honour and Soldier Biographies
Archive.org has created a World War I Documents page where it has gathered together a number of resources related to the First World War, all of which are available to read on its website. The page includes not only rolls of honour, but regimental histories, descriptions of battles, and much more.
- Library and Archives Canada. Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-1918. http://goo.gl/tm3WKH : accessed 27 March 2016.
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. FamilySearch Research Wiki: United States World War I Service Records. https://goo.gl/aPsB0S : accessed 27 March 2016.
- Herber, Mark. (2005) Ancestral Trails. 2nd edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. p. 401.
- Internet Archive. https://archive.org/ : accessed 27 March 2016.
- Moore, H. Keatley and Sayers, W.C. Berwick, eds. (1920) Croydon and the great war: the official history of the war work of the bureau and its citizens from 1914 to 1919. Croydon: Corporation of Croydon. https://goo.gl/bSr8SJ : accessed 27 March 2016.
- McGill University. (c1926) McGill roll of honour, 1914-1918. Montreal?: McGill University. https://goo.gl/LJn1kO : accessed 27 March 2016.
- Trimble, Clifford R., comp. (1920) The honor roll: an appreciation for the gallant men of Bureau County, Illinois, who served the nation in its hour of need 1917-1918-1919. Princeton, Illinois: Clifford R. Trimble. https://goo.gl/pfwVhz : accessed 27 March 2016.
- Internet Archive. World War One Documents. https://goo.gl/qXCjLW : accessed 27 March 2016.