Family History Outing: U.S. Army Transportation Museum, Fort Eustis, VA

The U.S. Army Transportation Museum tells the story of the Army’s Transportation Corps, whose unofficial motto is “Nothing Happens Until Something Moves”. The Museum focuses on fielded and experimental equipment in: Aircraft, Rail, Vehicle, Watercraft Equipment.

Camp Eustis was established in 1918 as a training center for railway coast artillery. It became a Fort in 1923.

The Museum has a main building, a railroad pavilion, a vehicle pavilion, a marine park and an aviation pavilion.

Although the U.S. Transportation began in 1942 during WWII, the Army has needed to move troops, weapons and supplies since its beginning in the Revolutionary War. In the main building of the Museum, there is an exhibit gallery for every phase of the Army’s history. The exhibits have been put together carefully, paying attention to providing the details of an accurate representation.

Of course, I spent a lot of time in the WWI gallery. The Mexican Expeditions are also included in this gallery. There were vehicles from WWI, a mule with a pack and a model showing how the U.S. Army Transport Service berthed soldiers and transported supplies.















Army Transport Service (Sea)

In the 1950s, fueled by the Cold War, the Army saw a time of incredibly creativity in the invention of novel technology. So much about these novel technologies inspired science fiction movies. The Army’s Aerocycle single person helicopter is a novel alternative to a jet pack; the soldier stands above the rotor blades. Among the prototypes in the Aviation Pavilion are a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft that was tested in 1958; the Cybernetic Walking Machine; the Air Car; and the Airgeep. The Airgeep could travel at speeds up to 70 m.p.h. and fly up to several thousands of feet in the air. The Air Car flew 10-12” off the ground, and was capable of speeds up to 38 m.p.h. It looks like the inspiration for Lady Penelope’s car in the “Thunderbirds” Supermarionation series. The Cybernetic Walker was an ancestor of the ATATs in “Star Wars”.

The Air Car

The full-sized artifacts in the pavilions show you so much more than the pictures in the museum ever could.

Although I found no mention of the Pioneer Infantry Regiments in the Museum, I did find one at the Mariner’s Museum.

This would be an interesting place to get children interested in their ancestors who served in the U.S. Army. They would be able to walk through a gallery filled with the vehicles, uniforms and other sights that their ancestors would have seen during their time in service. It could foster an interest in technology of the different eras and supplement what students learn in U.S. history classes. While the Museum is certainly filled with terrific life-sized artifacts, but it is not as interactive as the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

I always recommend checking out a museum on a military installation. No matter how small, the artifacts give an insight into the history of the installation and the community around it.

The Museum asks for a $4 donation from each adult visiting.

Information about the Museum can be found here.

Family History Outing: The Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, VA

In the history of the U.S. Navy, at the heart of its modern heritage is the U.S.S. Monitor. The “Duel of the Ironclads” was fought in Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862. The C.S.S. Virginia, built from the burned remains of the U.S.S. Merrimac, faced the U.S.S. Monitor. The result was a draw.

The U.S.S. Monitor Center at the Mariner’s Museum holds stories of the battle, the sinking of the Monitor, locating the Monitor in modern times, its exploration and preservation. These stories are all presented in engaging detail.

On New Year’s Eve of 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor sunk at an unknown location as a result of the forces of nature. It was located until 1973 off the Outer Banks, NC. In 1977, a dive brought up the red light that was the last thing seen by the U.S.S. Rhode Island who had rescued most of the crew of the Iron Clad.

Between 1998 and 2002 there were dives to explore the U.S.S. Monitor, culminating in raising of artifacts including the rotating turret. 

The Museum has a recreation of the turret as it was found, upside down. There is also a replica of the turret showing how its Dahlgren guns were positioned. You can even touch a (treated) part of the iron plating of Monitor, and see some of the other artifacts that were raised and have been conserved.

The full-size replica of the U.S.S. Monitor allows you to walk on its deck and view its outside.

You can learn how the C.S.S. Virginia was built from the Merrimac and walk through a recreation of the upper deck. The Museum includes history of the building of the Monitor, including a model of the cross section of its armor belt that encircled it.

The Museum also tells the story of the men who were part of both Iron Clads. One surprising reminder for this former professor of the U.S. Naval Academy was that the first Captain of the C.S.S. Virginia had been the first Superintendent.

My tour was made much more enjoyable with an Iron Clad enthusiast whose studies of this topic began in 1st grade when he read Patrick O’Brien’s excellent book, “Duel of the Iron Clads”.

There are exhibits with artifacts from historical ships, ship models, the America’s Cup and a small craft center.

The biggest surprise was the terrific WWI exhibit. “Answering America’s Call: Newport News in WWI” fills one gallery of the Museum. I learned that four camps supported the port at Newport News: Camp Stuart, Camp Morrison, Camp Alexander and Camp Hill. I learned more about what life was like for the Doughboys as they prepared to go overseas. Although my Grandfather departed from Hoboken, NJ, the process of boarding would have been the same.

As I scanned the display cabinets filled with pictures, uniforms, letters and ephemera, I kept an eye out for anything about my special area of interest, the Pioneer Infantry Regiments. Imagine my surprise and delight to find the Pioneer Infantry Regiments represented in this maritime museum! SGT Weldon Shaw was from Newport News and served in the 63rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment at Camp Dix, NJ.

As I scanned the display cabinets filled with pictures, uniforms, letters and ephemera, I kept an eye out for anything about my special area of interest, the Pioneer Infantry Regiments. Imagine my surprise and delight to find the Pioneer Infantry Regiments represented in this maritime museum! SGT Weldon Shaw was from Newport News and served in the 63rd Pioneer Infantry Regiment at Camp Dix, NJ.





We also recommend the Mariner’s Park Café. The hot sandwiches are made to order, reasonably priced and served promptly in the Ward Room setting.

With a $1 admission fee, this Museum is a bargain. You can optionally purchase a ticket for a 3D movie.

Learn more about the Mariner’s Museum.

The conservation webcams can be found here.

You can read about their WWI artifacts in their blog

You can learn more about Newport News in World War I here.

Book review: “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City”

I had a chance to review “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” by Carl Baehr.

In family history, context is incredibly important. “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” gives the reader that context of the Irish experience of settling in Milwaukee, along with the concurrent history of Ireland. If your family includes the initial settlers of Milwaukee or the famous or infamous, you may find details of their lives among the pages. Even if your family members are not named, you will still find be able to understand the more about their lives and times while living in the “Cream City.”

From the “Note of Street Names” that begins the book, you know that you can expect a well-researched work. The author has produced a well-written narrative, sharing citations for the material he used. The book takes the reader on a trip from the beginning of Milwaukee to the present day, focusing on the Irish in the city’s Third Ward. You learn how Milwaukee recruited immigrants and how they traveled, settled and lived. There are the stories of neighborhoods, schools, work and politics.

Mr. Baehr is a great storyteller. As you read through the chapters of the book, the history unfolds decade by decade. It is as if he is sitting with you, setting the stage for the events that will unfold, then immersing you in the stories of the people involved. He finishes their tales, telling what became of them after their notoriety.

The Irish-born population faced significant challenges in the city. Even their eligibility for citizenship was questioned by those who forgot that immigrants may have spent time living closer to ports before their arrival in Milwaukee.

The book describes the events that shaped the Irish community, such as the impact of the loss of life to the Third Ward in the tragic sinking of the Lady Elgin and the Leahey Riot. The experiences of Milwaukee’s Irish soldiers in the Civil War is detailed.

The Appendices contain useful reference material for students of the Irish in Milwaukee. The author shares his research into the miscalculation of Irish born Milwaukeeans in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses; a list of the victims and survivors of the Lady Elgin; and the victims of the Newhall House Hotel Fire.

Mr. Baehr tells compelling stories about the Irish in Milwaukee and of the city itself. Students of Milwaukee’s history and those interested in the history of the Irish in America will also enjoy this book.

You can learn more about the book here.

New Tools from Ancestry and MyHeritage

RootsTech has become the time and place for new genealogical announcements and RootsTech 2019 did not disappoint! This blog post focuses on new some new tools available from Ancestry and MyHeritage that you need to check out.

While there is plenty of buzz about these tools, I recommend that you check in with the experts, then try them yourself. The value of the tools is based on personal preference, so you want to form your own opinion.

At the end of the post there is homework to do, but not to turn in!

From Ancestry:

MyTreeTags™: You can add their tags or create custom tags for people’s profiles in your Ancestry tree. There are several categories of tags: Relationships, Research, Reference, DNA and Custom. You can use tags in the search box on the tree itself to find tagged individuals. In the video in the homework section, Crista Cowan has some suggested tags. One is “Never Married” for someone who died young, to remind yourself to not expend effort in a search for descendants. Other tags can be used so that you have reminders about where you are in your research.

New & Improved DNA Matches: You can now use color coding and custom labeling on your DNA matches. For example, you can choose colors to designate groups of matches based on the common ancestor. This is a convenient way to be able to recognize and filter (sort) the matches.

ThruLines™: You can view your the matches and potential links. This tool goes beyond the DNA matches to check user-submitted family trees to generate potential ancestors. I found this a very useful tool to visualize how a group of DNA matches are connected to me and each other. Since this tool can show user-submitted family tree data, remember to use these lines as hints and verify the connections that are shown before adding them to your tree.

From MyHeritage:

MyHeritage came out with new DNA tools to help users leverage and visualize their DNA data.

Auto Cluster, which is reached from the DNA menu -> Tools, then choose AutoClusters. This tool groups matches together visually, using different colors. Since this may take a long time, click on the “Generate” button and you will be emailed a zip file containing the AutoCluster Report when it is completed. Inside the zip file is a Read Me file, an Excel spreadsheet, and an html document that will display the clusters. The Read Me document is personalized, showing the range of cMs included in the clustering, and which matches were excluded (and why).

Theory of Family Relativity, which is found in DNA menu -> DNA Matches
This is a tool to bridge the gap between DNA and paper records. The theories of relativity are built using trees in MyHeritage trees, Geni and Family Search and combining them with records. If you have any theories, a banner appears at the top of your matches.

Here’s another feature while looking at your DNA matches. Under estimated relationships where you see something like “3 -5 cousin” click on the question mark (?) to open an Estimated Relationship Details chart where the shared boxes where showing which are the potential relationships.

If you do not have a subscription, you can pay a one-time fee of $29 per kit to unlock all advanced DNA features offered by MyHeritage, including Theory of Family Relativity™. According to MyHeritage: “Users without a subscription will still see all theories that we found for them, but when they click to see the full theory details, some of the information will be hidden.”
Note: I was able to access AutoCluster tool, but that may be during a trial period. I did not have any theories.

If you do not have a subscription, you can pay a one-time fee of $29 per kit to unlock all advanced DNA features offered by MyHeritage, including Theory of Family Relativity™. According to MyHeritage: “Users without a subscription will still see all theories that we found for them, but when they click to see the full theory details, some of the information will be hidden.”
Note: I was able to access AutoCluster tool, but that may be during a trial period. I did not have any theories.

Here’s the homework.

For each company, I have posted links to a description in of the new tools at the company’s blog, and a video describing the tool. I recommend you try these things after reading them. After you have some familiarity with the tools, you can look at the plethora of how-to’s and discussions of the key features.

  • Watch the video
  • Read the blog post
  • Try it yourself!
  • Look for more information and how-to articles on the web (optional)

Read about ThruLines™ and MyTreeTags in the Ancestry blog here.

To learn about Ancestry’s MyTreeTags and New & Improved DNA Matching watch Crista Cowan’s video “What You Don’t Know about Ancestry” here.

Crista Cowan explains ThruLines in “Introducing ThruLines™ | Ancestry”.

The video can also be found here.  

To learn about MyHeritage’s new DNA tools, read their blog post about Theory of Family Relativity here.

Blaine Bettinger’s video “New MyHeritage Tools – AutoCluster and Theory of Family Relativity”

The video can also be found here.

Check out these new tools and let me know how you do!

RootsTech 2019 Videos and Handouts

Rootstech 2019 is over and if you did not make it, you can still be inspired by viewing some of the videos and all of the handouts at the link below. It is great that Rootstech lets us all be a part of it.


Videos for some sessions can be viewed here.


The handouts (syllabi) for the sessions can be viewed and downloaded here.