4 Steps to Begin WWI Research For A Country (Liberia)

This post will cover the four initial steps to research the participation of a country (non-U.S.) in WWI. At a recent talk about ancestors in the U.S. military, a very enthusiastic genealogist asked me a question: how could he research his Liberian WWI ancestor? Questions like this make me think, and make me want to learn more.

These first steps help you get oriented by learning more about the topic.


1. Google

Start with Google. Search for terms that combine your country name with “WWI” or “World War One”. You may get lucky and find your ancestor’s name, but more likely you will find context information.

Example results for Liberia were:

(Note: the date for Liberia’s declaration of war in on this page was incorrect)


2. Google Books

Use Google Books to learn about books that will be useful to your research. Some of the books may allow you to download them in entirety; others may provide snippets. For books that are available on Google Books, there are links to locate the book in WorldCat or to buy them. Remember that an unlikely book may contain material that will help you.

Look for information about relevant events. Uncovering dates and places is always helpful. Make a list of what you learned.

Example books for Liberia:


3. FamilySearch Wiki

Check out the materials on the FamilySearch Wiki for the country.

Use the FamilySearch Wiki entry for Liberia to learn as much as you can about Liberia and its records. This page also contains a link to go social. The link for Military Records is currently a space holder, and has no content.


4. Make a Timeline

Now that you have the basic facts, you can rearrange them in chronological order to create a timeline as the backdrop for what you find out about your own ancestor. If the date is unknown for a fact, then place the item where it makes sense, but do not record a date for it.

Some of the information from the Google search and Google Books:

  • In 1912 six black U.S. Army officers came to Liberia to train and command the Liberian Frontier Force
  • Daniel Edward Howard was the President of Liberia from 1912 to 1920
  • ¾ of Liberia’s trade was with Germany in early 1914
  • German trade ended with the war
  • German submarine blockade in WWI reduced to almost nothing all trade between Liberia and Britain, France and the United States
  • Prior to the declaration of war ,Liberia had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany
  • Liberia was pressured by the U.S. to declare war on Germany
  • Liberia declared war against Germany on 4 August 1917
  • Liberia was an Entente Belligerent
  • There were 400 in the active military including militia, volunteers, police
  • When Liberia joined the Allies, the property of German nationals was liquidated and the money used to compensate for the loss of revenue.
  • A German submarine shelled Monrovia in June 1918
  • Liberia sent troops to France during WWI (date unknown)
  • Liberian troops in WWI did not see combat
  • Liberia received war relief funds (Liberty Loan)The U.S. Government advanced funds to the Republic of Liberia during the peace negotiations after WWI.  The amount was $26,000 (in three payments) and $9,610.46 accrued interest ($35,610.46)

Liberia is going to be a tough country to research. It may be worth contacting regional archives, and schools in the area for other research ideas.

NaNoWriMo: A Great Time to Write

Have you been thinking about writing your life story? There is a painless way to get underway and make serious headway on your project.

Every November, writers from all over participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and set a goal to write 50,000 words in a month, which is the length of a novel. Many write non-fiction, but it is not against the rules to write about yourself!

It is free to participate, and it is optional to sign up for an account. The website has some interesting tools, and can help you chart your progress as you count your words. Most popular word-processing programs provide the ability to count your words. If you find the website useful you can make a contribution.



Starting at “How It Works” the process details.

A self-publishing firm has a NaNoWriMo Survival Guide and offers coupons for their services. (NOTE: This is NOT an endorsement for the company. It is merely a free resource.)


Researching Maryland WWII Ancestors

Perhaps you have seen the War Memorial in Baltimore.

Did you know that the War Memorial in Baltimore serves as a repository for approximately 70,000 discharge papers of the Maryland veterans who served during World War II.

Discharge papers are a great starting place for researching your WWII ancestors. These papers give the dates and branch of ancestors’ service, as well as where they fought, and the medals they earned.

Veterans and their families can order the discharge papers. Check out the page with War Memorial Miscellaneous Information for the link to download the order form. The section of the page is shown below.



Researching Maryland WWI Ancestors

In this blog, our books and talks, you may have seen the New York Service Abstracts of WWI Military Service in my examples. Have you looked for what your state has to offer? As I come across more of these resources, I plan to post information about them in this blog. This post describes a useful starting place for those who are researching Maryland WWI service members.

To locate an abstract of your Maryland WWI ancestor, consult the two-volume book set, Maryland in the World War, 1917-1919; Military and Naval Service Records. Vol. I-II. Baltimore, MD, USA: Twentieth Century Press, 1933.


These volumes contain abstracts of the service of Maryland WWI service members, but the beginning of the book contains valuable information about Maryland in WWI and a list of abbreviations.

You can use WorldCat to search for these books at a local library, or you can find a digitized copy of the books and the records on the web.

Ancestry.com has created a database from these volumes, Maryland Military Men, 1917-1919. (The other related data collections may also be useful in your research.)

Use your own Ancestry.com account, or access it from a public library, a Family History Center or at NARA.

If you do not have access to Ancestry, or you have an interest in the additional information in the volumes, you can view them online at Hathi Trust.

Maryland in the world war, 1917-1919, Volume I A-J

Maryland in the world war, 1917-1919, Volume II J-Z

You can scroll through these online document to find pages of interest and download individual pages without logging in.  However, you need to login as a Hathi Trust partner to download the whole document. Look on the left of the browser window for the links to download the page.


There is a possibility that the Maryland’s World War I Centennial Commission will host these books on their website in future. If they do, I will update this post.





Family History Outing: The National World War I Museum and Memorial (Part II)

When you walk into the Museum, you cross over a glass floor to enter the exhibits. Below your feet is a field of poppies; above you the tower through the glass ceiling. You then walk through the chronologically arranged galleries, experiencing trenches and a bomb crater.

The artifacts include weapons, vehicles, flags, personal effects and uniforms. The walls are filled with data that helps put the conflict in perspective.

There are activities for families, including a family visitor guide and interactive activities like creating your own propaganda poster using their images, words and colors.

There are rooms for audio reflection, where you can listen to voices, music, poetry and prose of the Great War.

Below the Museum is the Edward Jones Research Center. Through its windows, you can get another view of the poppy field. While you are there, you can chat with an Archivist. The Archives contain books that may help in your research. Some states, and even counties, have compiled books with abstracts of their WWI soldiers.

Undoubtedly you will be exploring the Museum for a while, so you will be glad to know that there is a place to eat. Among the traditional café fare at the Over There Café, you can enjoy Trench Stew, Army Goulash or Chipped Beef. You might consider a sampler platter. (GF stands for Gluten Free.)


There is also a Museum Store where you can shop tax free.






Family History Outing: The National World War I Museum and Memorial (Part I)

Dedicated in 1921 with five WWI leaders present, the Liberty Memorial Tower, Assyrian Sphinxes, Exhibit and Memorial Halls were completed in 1926.

The newer part of the Museum sits below, and was completed in 2006.

Read the Visitor Guide for the details of the Interior and Exterior. Symbolism is embedded in the architecture of the Museum.

The Liberty Memory tower is 217 feet tall. Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice are the 40-foot Guardian Spirits on the Memorial. Ride the small elevator, and take a few steps for a 360-degree view of Kansas City, MO. Given that this part of the Museum is already on a hill, the view is terrific.

Both Assyrian Sphinxes cover their eyes. The east-facing Sphinx, Memory, faces the battlefields of France, and its eyes are covered from the horror that is war. The west-facing Sphinx, Future, hides from the unknown in what is to come.

Be sure to walk around the Museum on the paths to see more parts of the memorial.

Best bet: Tickets are always issued for two days, and they are half-priced on Wednesday.
Another opportunity: Visit the close by Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which opens a half hour before the WWI Museum. If you take the survey at the end of the exhibits, one of the prizes if a ticket for half-priced tickets at the WWI Museum.
Museum Trivia: Museum personnel shared that the Sunday before the full eclipse was the second busiest day in the museum’s history. Only the opening day surpassed it.