3 Great WWI Research Resources

Since the beginning of the centennial of U.S. involvement in World War I, I have been on the lookout for more material about the Great War. Not only is it a part of the world’s history, it is part of our family’s history. Learning about the conflict deepens our understanding of the ancestors who lived through these events.

1. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has a great webpage that combines resources for both World War I & World War II U.S. Veteran Research.




2. The Delaware Public Archives has A Guide to World War I Records. This is great resource because of the depth of the material it offers. The tabs on the page lead you to resources for topics such as: Service Records and Pension Records; Genealogical Sources; and Social History and Context. You can start at World War I: Service Records and Pension Records.



Click the other tabs to check out more material.



3. The third resource is Chronicling America. Rather than search by newspaper or location, this time you will search Topics by Subject. Start on the Topics by Subject page to see the topics that have an associated webpage.



Scroll down to find the War Topics. In that section, you will find WWI topics:



On each topic page there is basic information about the topic, links to sample articles and suggested research strategies.The topic page for Planes in WWI (1908-1917) is shown below.



Enjoy using these resources to learn more about the life and times of your WWI ancestors!









RootsTech 2017 Videos and Syllabi

Rootstech 2017 has come and gone, but we can all still enjoy it!

Have you wanted to watch the videos and download the syllabi from RootsTech 2017? Whether or not you attended this year’s RootsTech, watching the videos is educational and the syllabi can be a great resource.

To watch the videos for each day of RootsTech, go to:





You can also switch between the days by using the menu in the upper right corner of the webpage.

(2016 videos can be found at: https://www.rootstech.org/videos.)

The syllabi are not posted on the RootsTech website; you will need to use an app to access them. The good news is that will stay available indefinitely on that app. The better news is that you can view the app on a webpage: http://app.core-apps.com/rootstech2017/



Click on Conference Schedule. From there, you can browse by Day or by Track.



After you select the way you want to view the sessions, you will see the lists of sessions.

Look at the star next to the title of the class. If there is a PDF icon to the right of the star, then the speaker did provide a syllabus for the class.



Click on the arrow to the right to view the information for the session and scroll to the bottom. At the bottom is a Resources section, you will see the “Handouts”. Click on the arrow next to Handouts to view the titles of the handouts.



Click on the title and the PDF opens up. You can read, print or save the handout (syllabus).



If there is more than one handout, use the browser’s back arrow to repeat the process, clicking on the second handout.



When I wrote to the folks at RootTech tech support, they responded that the handouts (syllabi) will be posted online soon. But you do not have to wait until they are!



National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

Are you looking for an easy way to learn about using the National Archives? Would you like to know more about researching your genealogy at NARA?

The 2016 National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair has come and gone, but the videos have been posted on YouTube, and the handouts are still available. You can learn directly from NARA personnel in the videos and have the handouts for reference.

Check out the 2016 National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair webpage for the topics and links to the videos and handouts. You can follow the links on that page to watch presentations from both days on YouTube.



You can also download the handouts.

But wait…there’s more! You can access the videos and handouts for the 2015 Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair.

From that webpage you can follow the links to view the Sessions Videos and Handouts. This page also contains links to information about the 2013 and 2014 Virtual Genealogy Fairs.

So, check out the presentations and attend sessions from a NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair right in your own home!



Get Your Irish Civil Records Online!

If you have Irish ancestors, you need to be using the Civil Records at IrishGenealogy.ie This website will be a major boon to your research. Using this website, I was able to look up and download records that would have cost quite a bit to order from overseas.

The Civil Records that are online are:

  • Births: 1864 to 1915
  • Marriages: 1882 to 1940
  • Deaths: 1891 to 1965

A good place to start is the page about the Civil Records:





To search, go to https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/civil-search.jsp




Give the simple search form a try. In fact, I found this form to be the most useful.

The first thing I did was to download the images for my Grandfather’s and his siblings birth records. I knew the Civil Registration District/Office, and their dates of birth. The children were born between 1882 and 1902.

When you begin to type into that field a drop down menu appears. You can always leave that field blank to search all the counties.




After pressing the Search button, I had to check a box to prove that I was not a robot.

Then I had to give my name to search the archives.




When I used 1894 with no end to the range, the results ranged from 1894 through to the last year of the database.




The records before 1900 did not have the Mother’s Birth Surname indexed. From 1900 on, the search results show the Mother’s Birth Surname.

You can select “More search options” to use additional search options.

The additional search options restrict the search.




I clicked on the result that was my Grandfather’s.




I clicked on the image button to see the whole page of the register.




My Grandfather was listed as entry number 59. The section on the right was used for comments in other entries.




For one of his siblings there was an image of the record, and the certified record.

Then I downloaded his Mother’s birth record.

Next came his parent’s marriage record. For the end of the session, I downloaded the death record for his Father and Sister.


A Broader Search

For some ancestors, their county of birth is not yet known. I left the District/Registration field blank. I can now search each record to see if I could find the ancestor.




I knew the ancestor’s mother’s name from her death certificate, so I searched a timeframe around her birth year. There were two birth records that matched the mother’s name. One of those two had a father’s name that matched the name of one of her sons. However, he son’s father had the same name, so it is not firm evidence.




There is more work to be done, but this is a good lead. I am going to review my atDNA test results to see if any clues are hiding in the matches.

An interesting article by John Grenham can be found here: https://www.johngrenham.com/blog/2016/10/03/roadmap-of-the-promised-land/

Give this a try, and let me know how you do!




Finding Melville S. Bulmer in the 51st Pioneer Infantry and Beyond

Recently, I won auctions on ebay for a letter and some postcards written by a member of the 51st Pioneer Infantry. The letter was a pleasant, newsy conversation with the folks back home. The author mentioned the loss of his own Brother, his enjoyment of a pass to visit Coblenz on his birthday, and his goal of pastoral studies. At night he taught soldiers how to read and write. He mentioned his thoughts turning to his home “in the thick of the fight”.




I decided to do some investigation into the author of the letter. Since he was not in my family, I decided that constructing a skeleton of his timeline would be sufficient. Had he been a family member, the search would have been taken farther, using more and varied sources. The sources and techniques I used are suitable for beginners, and demonstrate how much you can learn about an ancestor’s life.

The first sources I used were:

  1. New York State service summaries at Ancestry.com (New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919)
  2. Census records
  3. Newspapers
  4. Google search


New York State Service summaries

At first I had a little trouble reading his handwriting. I have done enough transcription to know that you have to get to know the way letter are formed to decipher handwriting.




In this case, I knew that there would be a New York State Service Summary card for this veteran. These are most easily found on Ancestry.com, but they can be ordered from the New York State Archives. As an added check, I could compare the serial number he wrote on the letter with the one on the Service card. Cairo, NY, also matched the destination of the letter. I was able to use wildcards in my searches and came up with:




Some timeline dates extracted from this record are:

  • 22 Jan 1894  – born
  • 27 May 1918 – inducted
  • 10 July 1919 – honorably discharged


The Census Records

Since I have a subscription on Ancestry.com, I was able to view the U.S. census records from 1900-1940, and the N.Y. Census records for 1905, 1915. I could not find him in the 1925 N.Y. Census, so I needed to find his location in that year to determine if he might be out of state.

The censuses are a wonderful backbone for a timeline.

  • 1905 – living in Brooklyn, Kings, NY with his parents and siblings (May W, James W, Clarence H)
  • 1910 – living in Cairo, Greene, NY with his parents and siblings (May W, James W, Clarence H)
  • 1915 – living in Cairo, Greene, NY with his parents and two brothers (Wesley, Clarence)
  • 1920 – living in Brooklyn, Kings, NY with his parents and one brother (James W), industry is export house
  • 1930 – living in Ridgefield, Fairfield, CT with his wife, daughter and mother, occupation is clergman [sic], industry is methodist pic. [sic]
  • 1940 – living in Stratford, Fairfield, CT with his wife and daughter, industry is clergy

From the 1930 U.S. Census, his marriage was estimated to be 1923.

  • 1923 – marriage

Ancestry.com also had an index entry for his birth, which agreed with the date on his service summary.

  • 22 Jan 1894 – born in Brooklyn




Several newspaper results showed up on Ancestry.com. I was conducting a search for vital information, so I selected a marriage announcement and a death notice. Since he was the pastor of a church, his name showed up as the officiant in some marriage stories.




So I can add to the timeline:

  • 7 Dec 1960 – The Reverend Melville Stevens Bulmer died


And several other items without dates:

Served pastorates in: Kirkville, NY, Cold Spring Harbor, Westhampton L.I., Ridgefield

Graduate of: Syracuse University, Drew Theological Seminary, New York University

Studied in: Grenoble University, France



This website contains U.S. and Canadian newspapers, including Brooklyn Eagle.



  • 15 Oct 1918 – his brother Clarence Bulmer died

An online family tree suggested that he died of influenza.


Ancestry.com Yearbook Collection

1919 – The school yearbook of Syracuse University, The Onondagen, lists him as a Junior. It had a picture of him.



1920 – He is listed in the Syracuse University Service List.




Other Vital Records

Indexes to New York vital records can be found at: http://italiangen.org

I was able to search for Melville Bulmer in the Grooms Index, and cross referenced it to the Brides record.

  • 4 May 1923 – marriage to Bertha Margaret Whiting



Through a few Google searches, I learned more about Melville Bulmer. He was a:

  • Pastor in Westhampton, NY
  • Pastor in CT

He was mentioned in a page about the 300th anniversary of Stratford, Connecticut. There was a picture of him on the page, but it was a small one of him sitting on a stage at a presentation.

One result included a short biography which mentioned his and a chapel named for him. He and his wife both died in 1960. The Stratford United Methodist Church named the Bulmer Memorial Chapel for him.

  • 1935 – 1960 Rev. Melville Bulmer, Senior Pastor, Stratford United Methodist Church

So we can add to the timeline:

  • 1923-27 Pastor at Westhampton United Methodist Church in Westhampton, NY
  • 1935 – 1960 Rev. Melville Bulmer, Senior Pastor, Stratford United Methodist Church
  • 1960 – he and his wife passed away

He graduated Syracuse University cum laude.

After graduation, he worked in the financial department of the American Trading Co

He graduated from Drew Seminary

1953 he was ordained

He received a Master’s Degree in Social Psychology from New York University.

He preached in Methodist Churches in:

Northampton, NY, Ridgefield, CT, and Stratford, CT



Going Deeper

If he were my ancestor, I would search deeper by examining more sources:

  • Birth, marriage and death records in the appropriate archives
  • City Directories
  • School yearbooks
  • Back to NARA for additional information in RG165
  • Contacting the Churches where he served as Pastor
  • Connecting with other descendants through online family trees
  • Finding the newspaper and article he mentioned in his letter




USAHEC Visit – Day 1

We entered USAHEC, and asked the Information Desk to direct us to the Archives. We reported to the Reference Desk. We were issued a key for a locker, and our Research Cards were created.



The Specialist had to take my list and translate it into the locations of the material. Then we took the list to the Circulation Desk.

The materials were brought out to us after a very short wait.




This box held SGT Mansfield’s diary. I scanned it for the events and dates that were included, and to see if Joseph McMahon was mentioned by name. (He was not.) The events described in the diary had been outlined in the 51st Pioneer Infantry history that was found at NARA.




This was the folder.




The staff was incredibly helpful with helping us set up to photograph items in the folder. They have camera stands and lights available. We got to work photographing the diary for future research.





Diary in the WWI Veterans Survey Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center

Transcribing that diary will be on my to-do list.




Using the document setting on my digital camera, and hand holding the camera, I photographed the 51st Pioneer newspaper, published during the occupation of Germany, in Cochem. These newspapers will eventually be digitized.



Newspaper in the Periodical Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center


There were few columns about Company B, but none of them mentioned Joseph F. McMahon.



Newspaper in the Periodical Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center


The Moses Thisted Collection had only one folder for 51st Pioneer Infantry.





In it was only one picture.



Photo in the Moses Thisted Photograph Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center



Photo in the Moses Thisted Photograph Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center


When you are done for the day, you will clear out the locker, return the key, and sign out. If you are done with the materials, you wheel your cart back to the Circulation Desk for refiling. If you are coming back, the Specialists will ask you to fill in a hold slip that includes the date that you are returning. Your materials can be kept for you for a maximum of ten calendar days.