6 Records to Trace Ancestors Who Served in World War I

The United States declared war on Germany 100 years ago this month, on April 6, 1917, joining the side of the Allies in the Great War. . More than 650,000 from Canada and Newfoundland and about 4 million from the United States served in the military. These are two of the US Expeditionary Force soldiers in my family: On the left is Joe Seeger, who enlisted September 1917; and on the right is his brother Norbert (with their father), who enlisted July 1918. When you go to research your WWI ancestors' military service, you'll make a sad discovery: More than 80 percent of US Army service records for those discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960 (which includes WWI soldiers) were at the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. (.) But there are other ways to document your ancestor's WWI service, including:More than 24 million men (including immigrants who hadn't naturalized) registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918, although not all of them served. These are widely available on genealogy websites like and .Most states issued a roster of soldiers in World War I. Both Joe and Norbert are listed in , on Ancestry.com as Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918.  Fold3 just published . Norbert was listed with Supply Co. 336, leaving New York City Oct 27, 1918, and arriving in Liverpool Nov. 8. I had to scroll through the records to find a page with a date and ports. He was on another ship Nov. 11, but I can't find a page noting where it took him. His last transport took him home: The departed Brest, France, July 29, 1919, and arrived at Newport News, Va., Aug. 6. Most discharged service members registered with their local courthouses on return to their communities. I can't find my WWI servicemen among the veteran discharges in , so here's the record for another man:Many communities asked local veterans to complete surveys about their service in the World War. My cousin three times removed Louis E. Thoss filled out this one for the Kentucky Council of Defense (it's now part of the ). The US Army Military History Institute also has a completed in the late 1970s, along with photos, letters, memoirs and other materials.When Joe died in 1941, his sister applied for a military headstone based on his WWI service. These are on National Archives microfilm, and digitized on Ancestry.com. You'll find more ways to research your World War I ancestors in these articles:

6 Records to Trace Ancestors Who Served in World War I

The United States declared war on Germany 100 years ago this month, on April 6, 1917, joining the side of the Allies in the Great War. . More than 650,000 from Canada and Newfoundland and about 4 million from the United States served in the military. These are two of the US Expeditionary Force soldiers in my family: On the left is Joe Seeger, who enlisted September 1917; and on the right is his brother Norbert (with their father), who enlisted July 1918. When you go to research your WWI ancestors' military service, you'll make a sad discovery: More than 80 percent of US Army service records for those discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960 (which includes WWI soldiers) were at the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. (.) But there are other ways to document your ancestor's WWI service, including:More than 24 million men (including immigrants who hadn't naturalized) registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918, although not all of them served. These are widely available on genealogy websites like and .Most states issued a roster of soldiers in World War I. Both Joe and Norbert are listed in , on Ancestry.com as Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918.  Fold3 just published . Norbert was listed with Supply Co. 336, leaving New York City Oct 27, 1918, and arriving in Liverpool Nov. 8. I had to scroll through the records to find a page with a date and ports. He was on another ship Nov. 11, but I can't find a page noting where it took him. His last transport took him home: The departed Brest, France, July 29, 1919, and arrived at Newport News, Va., Aug. 6. Most discharged service members registered with their local courthouses on return to their communities. I can't find my WWI servicemen among the veteran discharges in , so here's the record for another man:Many communities asked local veterans to complete surveys about their service in the World War. My cousin three times removed Louis E. Thoss filled out this one for the Kentucky Council of Defense (it's now part of the ). The US Army Military History Institute also has a completed in the late 1970s, along with photos, letters, memoirs and other materials.When Joe died in 1941, his sister applied for a military headstone based on his WWI service. These are on National Archives microfilm, and digitized on Ancestry.com. You'll find more ways to research your World War I ancestors in these articles:

9 Timesaving Hacks for Ancestry, FamilySearch & Other Top Genealogy Websites

These quick tricks for some of the genealogy websites you use most often will help you get to the records you want faster. You'll find even more genealogy website hacks in the March/April 2017 Family Tree Magazine, our special genealogy websites issue.



Map your family tree locations in MyHeritage.
In the menu on the left side of your MyHeritage home page, select PedigreeMap, and the site generates an interactive world map of events in your online tree. Read more about PedigreeMap in this blog post.




Search GenealogyBank for all newspapers in a city.
S earching the entire site when you really want hits only from one place can flood you with useless results. To search all the newspapers from a single city, click on the state (on the map or text link) on the GenealogyBank home page. You’ll see a page with a map and list of links by city. Select a city, and the next page lets you search all the applicable titles.

 


See what’s new at your favorite genealogy websites.
It’s good to repeat searches to find recently added records, but annoying to slog through the same matches you’ve already seen. Here's how to check out the latest additions on several sites:


Find free records on Findmypast.
By registering for a guest membership at Findmypast, you can access 850 million free records, including US censuses, US and Canadian public records, family trees and Irish Catholic parish records—withou
t paying a cent. You’ll find the Findmypast freebies listed here.




Get a quick preview of search results.

Once you’ve got some search hits on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch, you can save time by not clicking through to review every possible result:
  • On your Ancestry.com results list, hover your pointer over the blue, underlined collection title (such as “1940 United States Federal Census”). A window pops up showing key data from that record, so you can decide whether to investigate further.

  • On your FamilySearch results list, click in the area below the person's name and database name.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Attaching Correct Information to Your World War II Veterans

Last month I wrote an article called Combining World War II Research on Fold3 with Your Ancestry Family Tree. This month we will look at Ancestry family trees in another way. Ancestry family trees offer researchers a way to organize their research and share it with the world. We can search for a multitude of… Read more

Combining World War II Research on Fold3 with Your Ancestry Family Tree

Ancestry family trees provide researchers with a wealth of resources to help locate names, dates, and places within records, that can help us build a story about an individual and his or her family. Genealogical research should be more than a collection of names, dates, and places. Luckily, Ancestry family trees help us move beyond collecting… Read more

Preserving the War of 1812 Pensions: An Update

The Preserve the Pensions project is raising funds to digitize and preserve the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files. These files had never even been microfilmed. Each time someone requested a file from the National Archives, it required handling the paper file. All of that processing over the years has been hard… Read more

Cousin-Finding Features on Genealogy Websites

Genealogy subscription site added a new feature this month called Search Connect, which lets you find other MyHeritage members who searched the site for people with the same names you're searching for. Basically, Search Connect turns every search into a record that you can then search for. You can see the search criteria used and get in contact with the other member to exchange more information. You don't have to do anything different to use Search Connect: Results are automatically included when you use the site's search engine (called ). But you also can use a . . This made me wonder how other genealogy data sites help you get in touch with potential cousins:

How Bad Photos Can Make Good Genealogy

by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator

Sometimes you don’t have a choice when it comes to finding your ancestor in old photographs. You are happy to take anything, even if it’s a tiny face in a crowd of college grads or a stern-faced soldier in the back row of long panorama. Group photos present unique challenges for the genealogist.

Snapshots are often poorly composed and people may be blurred or hidden behind others’ shoulders or heads. Amateur photographers may have had difficulty including everyone in the frame, leaving some folks cut off at the edges. Photos can also suffer from basic problems like back lighting, glare, or poor composition.

I found this 1964 snapshot in one of my grandparents’ old albums. The book had fallen apart and the some of the flip-style plastic photo pages were water damaged over the years. As I removed this picture from the album, I was intrigued by the handwritten caption along the border:

PHOTO: 314 Reunion; Denise Levenick Photo

June 1964, 314 Supply Train — Co. E 89 Div. Reunion, Hastings, Neb.

The poorly-framed color snapshot shows a group of eleven men standing in front of a leafy background. It’s a great shot of the trees. The men are cut off mid-thigh, but it doesn’t matter to me. There’s my grandfather Walter G. May, standing fourth from the left with his WWI buddies. But who are the other men? Handwritten captions in the photo album gave me a clue that Walter was stationed at Camp Funston for basic training.

Gathering Background Information

Using Google.com I searched for “314 supply train co. e 89 div” and found a list of likely candidates for the 1964 Reunion photo in a regimental history archived at the Missouri Digital Heritage website, “The Three hundred and fourteenth motor supply train in the world war: an account of the operations of the supply train of the 89th division from its organization until its demobilization, including maps and complete rosters and appendices.”

The public-domain book was available for download, and included the company roster for 89th Division Company “E.” There was my grandfather’s name, listed under Chauffeurs.

Crowdsourcing the Caption

You may have heard the advice to search your ancestor’s “F-A-Ns,” or Friends, Associates and Neighbors, an acronym coined by professional genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, and it’s a good plan for advancing this identification project. I am guessing that my grandfather’s closest friends might have been have also been assigned as Chauffeurs, so I plan to search online trees on Ancesstry to find others researching those names and share my scanned reunion photo.

To clearly capture the detail in each face it’s a good idea to use a higher scan resolution of 1200-2400. This makes it possible to enlarge the individual faces without losing clarity. I also like to add an identification key directly on the photo using my computer or tablet photo editing program. This makes it easy for people to respond with names and more information.

I know that I’m more likely to get feedback to my photo if I make it easy to tag faces and contact me with information. My overall plan includes:

  1. Scanning at high resolution to get the best quality image, and saving as a JPG to same file size.
  2. Adding a meaningful filename, for example: 314supply-train-reunion_1964.jpg. I also like to embed my name and email address in the metadata.
  3. Adding a caption area that includes an identification key with numbers for each person. I might do this in a Word document or in a photo editing program.
  4. Including everything I know about the photo and the people pictured.
  5. Sharing the photo as “bait” to find others researching the men of the 89th Division, Company E.

You can see examples and a step-by-step tutorial for adding the captions and an Identification Key at The Family Curator, Hey Soldier, What’s Your Name?

Finding Photos of Grandpa’s War

While I wait for someone to see my photo and recognize an unidentified face, I searched for more information on Ancestry and partners Fold3 and Newspapers.com.

To learn more about the 314th Supply Train, I searched Fold3 for documents and photos.

fold3-browse

 

Using the Browse function, I selected WWI and scrolled down to select > WWI Panoramic Unit Photos (FREE). Searching through the alphabetical list, I located a wonderful panoramic image of Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas.

camp fustom

Browsing the image sets on Fold3 gave me a new appreciation for my grandfather’s wartime experience and some of the sights he may have witnessed. Although Walter’s Company is not included in Fold3’s images, you may find your WWI ancestor pictured with his own regiment. The large collection of company photographs reminded me to add a Fold3 Watch notice to be notified if photos of Company E are added in the future.

Grandpa in the News

Next, I turned to Newspapers.com and found several articles and an interesting map of World War I training camps that included Camp Funston in Kansas. News clippings list details about troop activities and movement.

A brief article in The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) on Tuesday, 9 October 1917 hints at the popular mood of the time: “To Cheer the Boys On the Way.” Walter G. May is one of seventeen Polk County men named to receive a share in the $170 gift from county residents and businesses.

Farewell Gift, Newspapers.com

Farewell Gift, Newspapers.com

 

In only a short time I had a better idea of Walter’s war service and many clues for future research about the regiment. The public domain images will be interesting illustrations in the photo book I’m creating as a gift for my dad. Captions, charts, maps, and a short narrative will help tell the story of Walter’s wartime experiences.

The Waiting Game

Anyone who has publicly shared a family tree as “cousin bait” knows that it may be months or even years before someone stumbles on your photo and responds with new information. I’m hoping that if I “nudge the line” occasionally with new blog posts or sharing, with a little luck and patience, I might yet identify the men of Company E who met again one June day in 1964.


 

About the author: Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally and publisher of http://www.theFamilyCurator.com website.

Fold3: Search Revolutionary War Collection FREE to Celebrate the Fourth!

Military records site (which also has some nonmilitary records from its previous incarnation as Footnote) is joining the ranks of genealogy subscription sites offering free access in commemoration of the July Fourth holiday in the United States. You can . That includes (but isn't limited to): When you click to view a record image, you'll be prompted to start a free basic membership (or log in if you already have one). . , as well as an example of how you can research an ancestor in the site's records. Our has help navigating the site, step-by-step search strategies, tips, quick links and more. You can get it as a $4.99 download and start using it today.

Free WWII Records on Fold3 Through May 15

Historical records subscription site Fold3 is making its WWII content free  through Friday, May 15, in observance of the 70th anniversary of , May 8, 1945. Free records include: ... and others. . . You'll be prompted to sign up for a free basic account before you can view a record. (I did run into a free trial signup a couple of times after modifying a search; if that happens, just return to the and run your search from there.) Here's . If you have problems accessing the records, .

Free Civil War Genealogy Records on Fold3 Through April 30

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War on April 9, through April 30. Run a search in the collection, and when you click to view a record, you'll be prompted to set up a free basic Fold3 membership (or to sign in to your current account). The Civil War Collection has 47 databases, including:. Need step-by-step guidance? You can have it immediately with .

Fold3 Makes Its Black History Collection Free in February

To commemorate , genealogy website is opening up its for free access during the month of February. That includes collections from the slavery era, Civil War, Reconstruction, World Wars and Civil Rights Movement. Here's just a small sampling of records you can search for free: You'll need to sign up for a free Fold3 account (or log in if you already have an account) to access the records for free. .

Ask Ancestry Anne: How Do You Get Kids Involved in Genealogy?

Looking for new ways to get the children in your life involved in genealogy?  Are you a Civil War buff?  Or better yet, both?  If so, you might want to check out the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) program.

Over 600,000 thousand soldiers died during the Civil War and this inventive program is planting a tree for each and every one of them by working with schools and students.

jthg1Each tree in the this program will be geo-tagged, which will allow visitors to check the website and mobile app to learn exactly where a soldier’s tree is and learn about the soldier it commemorates. The website and mobile app links to the soldier’s memorial page on Fold3. These memorial pages have basic facts about the soldier and users can upload additional information, documents, and photographs.

You can find Fold3 Memorial Pages such as this one for William Nanney who died August 2, 1862 in Petersburg, Virginia. You can also look up the location of his tree on the Living Legacy Map.jthg2

JTHG, Ancestry, and Fold3 are working with teachers to help them incorporate researching the lives of the Civil War fallen into their curriculum. For more information about this program, visit the Journey Through Hallowed Ground website.  If you are interested in learning more about a grant for Ancestry and Fold3 in your favorite child’s classroom, visit our Ancestry K12 site.