Speaking at RootsTech Connect 2021!

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This year RootsTech is all virtual and free to register! Have you registered?

I hope you will have a chance to check out my lecture: “Write Their Story: From Timeline to Young Readers’ Book” (Lecture Session 471160). 

For RootsTech Connect 2021, each lecture session will be 20 minutes long. My lecture will be split across two 20-minute sessions.  I hope you will join me!

Session ID: 471160
Session Title: Write Their Story: From Timeline to Young Readers’ Book
Session Type: Lecture Session

When more details are shared, I will post them on Facebook, too.

See you at RootsTech Connect!

Travel to Where Your Ancestors Worshipped (Virtually)

The pandemic has affected every part of our lives, including how people are able to attend religious services. Many people are attending virtual religious services on the web. That means that many places of worship are uploading videos of religious services to the web.

This may be a way that you can attend a religious service where your ancestors worshipped! The services might be hosted on a variety of websites for video services. They might be found on YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook.

Use Google, or your other favorite search engine, to locate the place of worship that your ancestors attended. You may know the place, or may find it on marriage or other records of events. If you are still unsure, a Google search around their residence may shed light on possibilities. When you visit the homepage for the place, there should be a link to services, or other information leading to how worship is being shared.

It is worth learning some of the history of this place of worship. You may find that it has been renovated since your ancestors worshipped there. It may also be that parts of building were preserved and have remained unchanged.

Last week, I attended Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, RI. This is where my great-great-grandparents were married, where their children were baptized and where their funeral Masses and that of their oldest child were held. It is also where John F. Kennedy wed Jaqueline Bouvier. Being able to virtual attend a Mass there was a virtual trip to a place that is definitely a future destination. The homepage for St. Mary’s has a link to where you can view “Mass Online at St. Mary’s.”

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.

7 Ways to Research WWI Veterans in Your Community

Seventy First Regiment Leaves for Camp of N.Y. Division.(NARA RG165-WW-288C-067)

Congratulations on taking the first step of wanting to learn more!

Ryan Hegg of the WWI Centennial Commission for New York City asked me if I believed that the WWI Generation was really the Greatest Generation. What a thought provoking question! Ryan makes a great case. WWI was a defining point in our Country’s history as a participant on the world stage. Theirs was a generation who decided to go overseas to fight the Great War for Civilization. They experienced the Great Depression.

Students have a number of resources to find WWI veterans who were  residents in their communities. The ideas below start with those that take least effort to those that require more advanced skills. (For those who do not know if they had ancestors who served in WWI, a future blog post will cover that topic.)

  1. Locate a WWI Memorial in your city or town. There may be a statue in a park or a plaque in a public building. You can contact your city or town office to ask if such a memorial exists. When you locate the memorial, you can take pictures of it and copy the names that you find. If you want to learn more about those individuals try some of the other steps.
  2. Ask at a local cemetery about WWI veterans’ graves. The tombstones for service members who died during the war or later should show the branch of the military, the war, and their military organization. The cemetery office should be able to help you locate the graves of WWI veterans.
  3. Go to your local library and ask to speak to the research librarian. The library may hold special books telling about local men and women who served in WWI. There many also be files of materials donated by local researchers, which may be called vertical files. They may have fold local newspapers or files of newspaper clippings.
  4. Contact the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Each Post is unique and has different polices pertaining to its community service efforts. You can visit VFW’s Find-A-Post feature here to locate a VFW Post and its contact information. Ask to speak with the Commander or Quartermaster.
  5. If there is a local historical society, genealogical society, or historical museum in your area, call or send an email. I have found WWI collections in unlikely locations, such as the Laws Railroad Museum and the Holland Land Office Museum
  6. Research local newspapers of the time. You can check the Library of Congress Chronicling America website to find out what newspapers existed at the time, and see if any of them have been digitized. Many community newspapers printed articles about the men and women who served. Search for WWI and your community name. 
  7. Head back to your library and find out what databases are available. Your local library may have access to Ancestry.com, Fold3.com and ProQuest and other Historical Newspapers. Librarians should be able to help you search for more about a specific WWI Veteran using his or her name.

Beyond these steps, much of the research involves looking for material about a military organization in which the veteran served. There are several posts on this blog about learning more about WWI Veterans.

Good luck!

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

In case you missed it, Part I can be found here.

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.