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- Welcome to the Sooner State! Oklahoma State Research Guide by Anne Gillespie Mitchell
- Be The Star of Your Own Who Do You Think You Are? Show by Jessica Murray
- Long-Lost Sisters United After 60 Years Apart by Jessica Murrary
- One Million World War I Heroes Forgotten by Descendants
- Six Things to Look for in City Directories by Juliana Smith
- Behind the Scenes: ProGenealogists’ Joseph Shumway by Amy Johnson Crow
As we commemorate the World War I Centenary “1914 – 2014,” remember your forgotten heroes.
- Three in 10 descendants of World War I heroes are unaware of their military heritage
- Many lose opportunity to learn of family link to Great War when relatives pass away
- Ancestry makes all WWI Medal Index Cards records free-to-use to help people find lost heroes
More than a million British soldiers* who served in World War I (“WWI” also known as “The Great War”) have since been forgotten by their descendants, according to a new genealogical study.
Our researchers mapped population growth among veterans of the Great War to quantify how many Brits today have a WWI ancestor. They then compared this figure (26.7 million) with the number of people actually aware of such heroes in their family’s past.
The results show a significant ‘ancestral knowledge gap’, with 7.5 million Britons in the dark about their family connection to the Great War.
According to the report, this equates to more than a million soldiers (1.26m) since forgotten by their descendants.1
The research also suggests why such important family knowledge has been lost. Most of those unaware of having WWI ancestors assume that they would have been told about them, when in fact many veterans never spoke to their children about their role in the conflict, wanting to put the trauma they experienced in the trenches behind them.2
In addition to those completely in the dark, many Brits have heard a rumour of a connection to WWI but don’t know the details, with most of these people reporting that their grandparents died before they could ask them about the details of their WWI war hero ancestor.3
Those ‘in the know’ about their WWI ancestry clearly see the benefit of such knowledge, with half saying they’re more grateful for what they have today and a similar number feeling humbled when they think about their ancestor’s bravery.4
To help people discover and learn more about their veteran ancestors, we are making our British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards (1914-1920) available and completely free to use until the end of 2014.5 An additional 10 million records will also go online to celebrate the WWI centenary.
More than 20 million WWI records are available at Ancestry.co.uk/world-war-1. Also included on the site are the British Army WWI Service and Pension Records, 1914 – 1920, Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-1920, and we have also digitised the Commonwealth War Graves 1914-1921, which list details and images of fallen WWI soldiers’ graves.
- Miriam Silverman, Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager: “Many veterans never spoke about their experiences in the Great War upon returning home, so it’s understandable how so much knowledge could have been lost, especially if people missed the opportunity to speak to their older relatives before they died. The result is a widespread and tragic lack of personal knowledge of our WWI ancestry. We believe all those who served in WWI deserve remembering and want to help bridge this knowledge gap. That’s why we’ve made all of our WWI medal records universally available and completely free to use. We hope that this will allow millions of Britons to reconnect with their past and feel the pride that so many of us have for our war hero ancestors.”
*NB – This study looks at British soldiers (from England, Ireland, Wales & Scotland) serving in the British Army but does not include those serving from the wider Commonwealth nations or Indian Army (that made up approximately three million additional serving troops).
The research was carried out using two methods:
- A population projection model, used to show how many people today are directly related to a British WWI soldier. The model mapped the population from 1918 to today accounting for levels of migration and emigration to show the natural population growth from the native 1918 population. The number of surviving British veterans who got married (4.2m), their offspring and orphans of those KIA or MIA (300,000) were then mapped from 1918 to modern times, growing to a population of 26.7 million today.
- A nationally representative poll of 2,000 Britons to tell us about the levels of modern day knowledge of our WWI hero ancestors. Sample = 2,000 UK residents, carried out online between 4-6th July 2014. This showed that 30% of people know of their British WWI hero heritage, equivalent to 19.2 million people, meaning that 7.5 million of the 26.7 million people with war hero ancestry are unaware of it (approx. 28%).
Full methodology available upon request.
- This is based on applying the 28% (% of all descendants of WWI heroes unaware of their heritage – 7.5m/26.7m – see above) to the 4.2m surviving veterans and the 300,000 veterans who died leaving children. 28% of 4.5m = 1.26m, approximately one million. This is an underestimate (minimum) as the population of people who know of a WWI hero in their lineage could contain overlap (where people share the same WWI ancestor), which would increase the proportion of ‘forgotten heroes’. NB – Our definition of ‘forgotten heroes’ are of those ‘forgotten’ by direct descendants, rather than completely forgotten by all, or extended non-direct descendants.
- Of those who know nothing of any WWI ancestry, when questioned about why, the most common response was that ‘none of my family ever told me’ (56%).
- Among all respondents to the poll, 13% said that they believe they have a WWI ancestor but don’t know any details. When asked why they didn’t know the details the most common answer was that ‘my grandparents died before I could ask them about details’ (60%).
- Of those questioned with knowledge of their WWI ancestors, 51% agreed with the statement ‘Knowing that one of my ancestors fought in WWI makes me more grateful for what I have today’ and 50% agreed with the statement ‘I’m humbled that my direct ancestor put so much at risk for his country’.
- Access to the records in the Medal Index Cards collection will be free until 31 December 2014 23:59 p.m. GMT. To view these records you will need to register for free with Ancestry.co.uk with your name and email address. We will then send you a user name and password to access the records. After the free access period ends, you will only be able to view the records in the featured collections using an Ancestry.co.uk paid membership.
In this presentation, Sir Tony Robinson uses the records available today to get a better understanding of what life and times were like before World War I.
This was filmed during the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in London, UK.
Wars have created genealogy gold mines about our ancestors. Registration records. Service records. Pensions. Photos. And More. There is no end to what you might find about your ancestors.
Not only are there the usual family history facts such as who was related to who, when they were born and died, and where they lived, but you can also learn how their lives were impacted by the wars.
If you are an Ancestry.com subscriber, you can subscribe to Fold3 for half off. That will cost you $39.95 and you can download as many pension records as you like. If you order one pension record the cost can be $75.
This list just begins to scratch the surface:
- Revolutionary War Pension Records. You just never know what you might find. Whoever wrote this probably failed penmanship, but where else are you going to find more definitive information on who Thomas Martin’s children were including the fact that he had two sons named John? (It was not uncommon that if a child died young to give the next child the same name.)
- War of 1812 Pension Records. Eleven percent are complete and uploaded. And more are coming all the time. Your ancestor’s secrets may be uncovered there.
- Mexican War Records. While not yet complete, these records paint the picture of many soldiers who went on to serve critical rolls in the Civil War.
- Civil War Service Records. Not only do you find records of your ancestors in muster rolls, but you will find Unit Information that help you construct what different units did and what life was like.
- World War I Records. Many WWI records have been destroyed. Fold3 has gathered a much of what is left from Navy Cruise Books to Naturalization Index – WWI Soldiers. to Naturalizataion Index for WWI Soldiers.
- World War II Records. Even if your ancestor isn’t in the Missing Air Crew Reports, WWII reading these files will help you create the story of a pilot’s life at its most harrowing time.
- Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This exhibit has every name on the wall and allows you to leave your thoughts and memories for others to see. This rather poignant one for Milo S Homstad touched me.
- Save to Ancestry.com You can now add links to images directly to Ancestry.com. Learn more in this Five Minute Find: Save to Your Ancestry.com Tree from Fold3
- Fold3 Spotlights Check out Fold3 Spotlights which highlight some new fact or person written by the Fold3 staff. Members can also add spotlights to highlight family members or other documents of interest.
- Cousin Bait. You can annotate any page with a comment and when some distant cousin finds it, a connection can be made. I left a comment about my 3rd great grandfather’s murder on this one. That’s bound to get someone’s attention!
So remember, f you are an Ancestry.com subscriber, you can subscribe to Fold3 for 50% off
Who knows what you might be missing!
If you have ties to the Sunflower State, count yourself lucky. We’ve had three Kansas collections go live on Ancestry.com recently: Kansas, Registration Affidavits of Alien Enemies, 1917–1918; Kansas, World War I Veteran Collection, 1917–1919; and Russell County, Kansas, Vitals and Newspaper Records, 1800-1937. Though they’re relatively specific, they contain some interesting records and are well worth a look if you have ancestors who fall into their categories.
Think Patriot Act circa 1917.
When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, President Wilson authorized the registration of aliens living in the United States. This included all non-naturalized German males age 14 and older, who were classified as enemy aliens. The requirement was later extended to Austro-Hungarian nationals and women as well. Questions asked on the affidavits actually differed for men and women.
While you might not appreciate the possible slight on your ancestor’s patriotism, the extensive details—which can include fingerprints and a photograph—may take some of the sting out of that “enemy” business.
Kansas, World War I Veteran Collection, 1917–1919: The Report of My Death Has Been Exaggerated
This database includes newspaper clippings, photos, service records, letters, and other documents related to Kansas veterans of World War I compiled by members of the Kansas State Historical Society. Those vets include Mark Woodford, who was mistakenly declared dead, as he explains below:
This collection is home to one of my absolute favorite finds of 2011. The database is made up of index cards with details extracted from the Russell County Record and other area newspapers. They include references to birth, marriage, and death announcements, as well as general news items, from reports of accidents to notices about who had visitors or was returning from a trip—plus, there is at least one reference to someone being hung in effigy:
How many folks can claim to have one of those in their family tree? And it even comes with a name and a date.
You may not be in Kansas anymore, but if your ancestors were once, you’ll want to give these three collections—Kansas, Registration Affidavits of Alien Enemies, 1917–1918; Kansas, World War I Veteran Collection, 1917–1919; and Russell County, Kansas, Vitals and Newspaper Records, 1800-1937—a good going over.
If you haven’t already seen, we are celebrating 15 years of Ancestry.com with 15 days of free access and daily prizes. With the special access to some great collections, we wanted to pass along a video update with what you might have missed over the past 10 days. Make sure you check out the celebration and head to our Facebook Page, where we are offering daily videos about each collection. You can also leave comments and questions beneath each one, as some of them might get responded to personally by video.
Day 1: Social Security Death Index
Discover vital information like birth and death dates, a home address and additional personal facts that can help you discover more about your family in other collections:
Discover more information on the SSDI and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 2: Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation 1848 – 1864
Find out if your ancestors were among the million-plus individuals who occupied property in Ireland between 1848 and 1864, a time from which no Irish census survived:
Discover more information on the Griffith’s Valuation and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 3: California Marriage Index, 1960 – 1985
Search details from more than 4.8 million marriages performed in California from 1960–1985 to find bride and groom names, the county where they were married and more:
Discover more information on the California Marriage Index and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 4: Bavaria, Germany, WWI Personnel Rosters, 1914 – 1918 (in German)
Explore personnel rosters of soldiers who served in Bavarian Army units during World War I (1914–1918) to discover a soldier’s name, rank, details of service and much more:
Discover more information on the WWI Personnel Rosters and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 5: 1920 U.S. Federal Census
Find out what the census taker wrote down after knocking on your family’s door in 1920. Discover names and addresses, details of family relationships, languages spoken and more:
Discover more information on the 1920 U.S. Federal Census and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 6: Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903 – 1980
Search select Australian electoral rolls compiled during election years 1903–1980 and you could find a voting family member’s name, gender, address, occupation and more:
Discover more information on the Australian Electoral Rolls and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 7: Texas Birth Index, 1903 – 1997
Find a full name, gender, birth date and more details for a family member whose birth was among the 15 million recorded in Texas between 1903 and 1997:
Discover more information on the Texas Birth Index and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 8: Sweden, Births from the Swedish Death Index, 1947 – 2006 (in Swedish)
Search this collection of birth details for more than 5.1 million individuals who died in Sweden between 1947–2006 to find a family member’s full name, birthdate and birthplace:
Discover more information on the Swedish Death Index and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 9: World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918
Learn if your relatives were among the 24 million U.S. men that completed World War I draft registration cards in 1917–1918 and discover their birthplace, nearest relative and more if they were:
Discover more information on the World War I Draft Registration Cards and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Day 10: England & Wales, Birth Index, 1916 – 2005
See what you can discover about family members who were born in England and Wales with helpful details like their full name, mother’s maiden name, districts/counties of birth and more:
Discover more information on the World War I Draft Registration Cards and leave your questions and comments as well by clicking here: http://ancstry.me/pLLZ2G
Passport applications can be great finds, with names, birthplaces, parents, occupations, and other details. Our latest update to the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795–1925, database added almost 250,000 new records to the collection, and they include four different types of U.S. passport applications. I didn’t know there were four types until recently, when the NARA website brought me up to speed.
The majority of applications were simply regular applications made by citizens planning to travel overseas. NARA notes that the earliest applications were typically just handwritten letters, though printed forms became the norm in the mid-19th century. In 1923, at age 65, Lionel Henry Moise applied for a passport to make his first trip abroad with his wife of three years to her homeland of Australia (with stops in Tahiti and New Zealand):
Say you’re publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and after a month or two in Paris, you decide you want to pop down to Spain. What do you do? Apply for an emergency passport. These passports were issued abroad and were good for 6 months. NARA notes that the first emergency passports were issued in 1874, and the practice was discontinued in 1926.
These can include diplomatic and other passports issued under special circumstances. For example, this update includes a collection of Passport Applications of Wives of Members of the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces) in Europe, 1919–1920. Mary Josephine Moore, of Queenstown, Ireland, was applying to follow her husband, U.S. Navy Coxswain William Thomas Moore, back to Evanston, Illinois:
The AEF applications also include Affidavits in Lieu of Passports, like the one submitted by Hildegard Meyer Herzberg, who, after her marriage was in limbo between German and American citizenship:
These were passports issued from territories controlled by the U.S., including Hawaii (1916–1924), Puerto Rico (1915–1922), and the Philippines (1901–1924), where Professor G.O. Ocfenia was returning after his stay in Madison, Wisconsin:
As I’ve mentioned before, my own ancestors didn’t do much globetrotting after they got to America, but I still managed to find one great-grandfather and his son in the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795–1925, collection. Apparently they even crossed paths in Europe. With almost a quarter million new records, who knows who might be waiting there for you.
This week, two databases—and 200 lives—went online as part of a special partnership between Ancestry.com and Library and Archives Canada to support the popular “Lest We Forget” educational initiative. This program helps students explore the lives of Canada’s soldiers and their sacrifices through selections from the service files of 200 veterans of the First or Second World War. Ancestry.com is making those files available online as Canada, Selected Service Records of Soldiers, 1914–1918, and Canada, Selected Service Records of War Dead, 1939–1945, to allow more students to participate in the program—and to let the rest of us remember men like Sergeant L. J. Patrick Lafleur.
In June 1940, 22-year-old Leonard James Patrick Lafleur of Montreal, Canada, worked as a fruit clerk for Steinberg’s, a retail grocery chain.
But he had bigger aspirations. Steinberg’s had promised to rehire him after his enlistment in the R.C.A.F., but Lafleur was hoping to turn his radio hobby into a career with a broadcasting company.
Lafleur stood a little under 5′ 10″, slender, with brown hair and blue eyes, and he had been only an average (71%) high school student. However, he impressed the R.C.A.F. with his “confident approach” and “upright carriage.”
The Air Force didn’t consider Lafleur officer material, but they did think he “would make an excellent Airgunner.”
By 1941, Lafleur appeared to be on his way, posted to a training depot in Toronto in the Royal Canadian Air Force Special Reserve as both an air gunner and a wireless operator. In June the next year, 1942, he made sergeant.
He was serving overseas in September when his plane took off on an anti-submarine sweep on the 12th. The aircraft made radio contact at 9:10 p.m., but afterward failed to return to base. Searchers later found a dinghy with the body of one of the crew and determined that the plane was probably “shot down in the vicinity of Land’s End.”
When I read the letter, I had to wonder if it was Sergeant Lafleur on the radio at 9:10, making his final broadcast.
Because the sacrifice is still worth remembering.