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!

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NARA Records for the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Soldiers (RG15)

Have you been watching the recordings of the NARA Virtual Conferences on YouTube?

The Best National Archives Records Genealogists Aren’t Using presentation discussed Record Group (RG) 15, which is the records of the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Soldiers.

From the presentation, I learned that the files for the permanent residents have been retained, and are available from one specific branch of NARA. Some sample folders for temporary residents had also been retained.

Albert H. Tingue had been a temporary resident at the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Soldiers Home in Bath, NY, but he was not a permanent resident. I decided to contact NARA and check what records about him might be available in RG 15.

Here is the timeline of the request and the interactions for those considering contacting NARA about these records.

 

Preliminary

The first step was to go to the webpage for the Conference Session Schedule with Videos and Handouts.

Veterans Home Case Files were discussed on Day 1 in Session 2. The contact information for the NARA branch that holds the case files for your ancestor’s Veterans Home can be found in Handout 3 of 3.

From the handout, I learned that the National Archives at New York City holds the records for the Bath Home.

 

2/11/2017

I sent the first message with my request.

Dear Archivist,

The 2016 Virtual Genealogy Fair had a presentation about the records in RG 15 for the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Soldiers.

Do you have a case file from the Bath branch of the U.S.National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for:
Albert H Tingue

Please see the attached for his Bath registry entry from Ancestry.com.

Is there an online finding aid with an index for these files? I looked for access to a searchable index, but did not find one at:

Sample Case Files of Members, 1878–1933
Veterans Administration. National Homes Service. Bath Branch (Bath,New York). https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5821998

Sample Case Files of Veterans Temporarily at the Branch,1880–1912
Veterans Administration. National Homes Service. Bath Branch (Bath,New York). https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5822001

Thank you,
M. M. McMahon

The Bath registry entry from Ancestry.com was attached to the e-mail request.

 

2/11/2017

I received an automated response from the National Archives in New York City acknowledging my request.

2/17/2017

The Archivist sent an e-mail acknowledging my request.

NARA does have an index for the Sample Case Files of Members, but there was no entry for Tingue.

They do not have an index for the Sample Case Files of Veterans Temporarily at the Branch. The files are a single box, stored offsite, so the Archivist requested that the box be delivered to the New York office. She informed me that when the box arrived, she would search it for a file about Albert Tingue.

2/17/2017

I sent the Archivist an e-mail thanking her.

3 / 8 / 2017

The Archivist sent an e-mail with the results of her search of the box of Sample Case Files of Veterans Temporarily at the Branch. Unfortunately, it is a very small sample that contains a few files with names beginning with “A” or “B”. There was no file for Albert Tingue.

3 / 8 / 2017

I sent an e-mail thanking The Archivist for her efforts.

 

Less than a month after my initial request, an Archivist had searched an index for this ancestor, then had ordered and examined a box held offsite. If she had located a file, she would have informed me of the copying fees. Although NARA did not have retain any records for Albert H. Tingue in RG 15, it proved an interesting effort to learn more about this Record Group.

You can read more about the homes in the NARA Prolog article “Genealogy Notes: The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.”

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Family History Outing: Laws Railroad Museum

The Laws Railroad Museum is located outside of Bishop, CA. Certainly, the museum is of great genealogical interest to researchers who had family in the railroads in the early 1900s, and for those who had family in the area. There is much to learn for those who had family in the gold industry.

 

 

But the displays in the Pioneer Building are unexpected in a railroad museum. One of the displays held a well preserved, well displayed, interesting set of military uniforms, equipment and memorabilia.

 

 

There was a selection of uniforms, equipment and memorabilia from multiple wars.

 

 

There was a display of memorabilia from the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

 

 

The WWI artifacts were from the 7th Regiment Michigan Calvary.

 

 

The WWI Soldier’s equipment was also included in the display.

 

 

The exhibit included a bag annotated with battle information and a victory medal.

 

 

Remember when you visit any regional museum to look for exhibits about the military.

 

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Family History Outing: U.S.S. Midway

If you have a U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps ancestor, the chances are he or she may have spent some time on an aircraft carrier. They might have been stationed on, landed on, refueled, resupplied or protected a carrier.

 

 

Touring the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, CA, brought some of our family’s history to life.
Our family has some carrier history. In addition to having an uncle and cousin who served on carriers, my husband landed on one.

 

 

My husband was a Naval Aviator in the USMC, flying A-4s. His service included qualifying to land on carriers. My son had seen videos, pictures and models of the A-4. Seeing a real one on the deck of the Midway was much more real. It was a chance for my husband to show him around the plane and put context to the stories of getting into the airplane without a ladder.

 

 

The experience included standing on a flight deck and climbing up to stand on vulture’s row, and sitting in the chairs occupied by the air boss and commanding officer.

 

 

The launch officer signals when to fire the catapult to send an accelerating aircraft from the deck.

 

 

The hangar deck was full of airplanes; airplane cockpits and ejection seats to sit in; and exhibits to explore.

The carrier is a city at sea. In addition to the sleeping accommodations from the lowest ranked seaman to the captain, the walking tour takes you through the chapel, medical offices, laundry, galley, eating messes and gedunk (ship store).

My cousin died on July 29, 1967 in the fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal (CV-59). He was one of the fifty men who died in the berthing space immediately below the flight deck. They had participated in night operations and had been given permission to sleep in. He was assigned to VF-11. He died in the berthing spaces, while he slept. You can view a Virtual Wall: A Memorial to the men who died in the Forrestal fire .
As part of my systems engineer certificate training, the video of the fire on the carrier’s deck was required viewing.

 

 

This berthing can be contrasted with where the Captain sleeps.

 

 

 

Strategy to make the most of your trip:

  • Research your U.S. Navy ancestors
  • Know their ranks
  • Learn their jobs on the carrier
  • Visit all the locations, but be sure to identify and photograph typical berthing, where they ate and worked
  • Share what you learned with your family in pictures, a pdf document or web page

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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”.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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

 

Newspapers

Ancestry.com

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.

 

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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

 

Fultonhistory.org

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

bulmer-5

 

  • 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.

bulmer-6

 

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

 

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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

 

Google

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

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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This was the folder.

 

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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.

 

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

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Newspaper in the Periodical Collection, Army Heritage and Education Center

 

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

 

 

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In it was only one picture.

 

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

 

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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.

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