NARA II, College Park Visit – Day 1

You have to have a clear idea what you are researching. I went in with the topic of the 51st Pioneer Infantry, and brought my homework with me.

An important number to know before you go is the Record Group. You need to know that the topic numbers do not correspond with the identifying information for the boxes.

A Specialist at the Consultation Room will help you locate the correct binder containing the finding aid for the Record Group.

When you discuss your research interest with the specialist, you may receive suggestions about other record groups of interest. ALWAYS listen.

I went to the Archives in search of RG120. The Specialist recommended that I consider RG165, which is the “Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs”, and showed me the finding aid for that record group.

 

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The Specialist helped me fill out the pull slips. Each pull slip requires the initials of a Specialist before the records can be pulled.

The Specialist also suggested that we go up to the 5th Floor to see if there might be any photographs of the 51st Pioneer Infantry.

While we were waiting for the boxes to come up to the Research Room, we did go up to the 5th floor. That room uses an old fashioned card catalog. We asked for and received help to find the one photo related to the 51st Pioneer Infantry. We filled out a pull slip for that photo.

We looked at the five (5) boxes from RG120. They contained correspondence of the 51st Infantry Regiment. We went through the correspondence and documents. There were some interesting documents, like the price list at YMCA canteens and the rules for soldiers riding trains. The infantry had concerns about equipment and building barns for their horses.

Then it was time to head up to see the photograph. You are given white cotton gloves to wear when you handle a photograph. It was taken on 3/29/19 and was a group of officers who had attended an Arts & Science Course at the University of Edinburgh. One officer, Capt. F. M. Elliott, was from the 51st Pioneer Infantry.

 

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Back at the Research Room on the second floor, we looked at the one box from RG165. The box had some folders with information about the Pioneer Infantry. It also had folders for the 1st Pioneer Infantry, but the last folders in the box were for the 6th Pioneer Infantry. We will need some help to find the box with folders for the 51st Pioneer Infantry.

 

Day 1 at Home

At home, I did a little research. In “Brief Histories of the Divisions, U.S. Army 1917-1918” on page 30, the 26th Division Contained the 51st Infantry Brigade.

 

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The RG120 boxes we had been looking at were of the 51st Infantry Brigade, not the 51st Pioneer Infantry.

So we will need help finding the correct boxes in RG120, too.

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Researching the Merchant Marine

During my talk about military archives at the Howard County Genealogical Society, the question came up about researching Merchant Marines.

Some brief research was educational. I learned that the U.S. Merchant Marine has no official historians and researchers. The Merchant Marine predates the U.S. Navy (13 October 1775), the U.S. Marines (10 November 1775) and the U.S. Coast Guard (formerly the Revenue Cutter Service was founded on (4 August 1790)). On 12 June 1775, a party of Maine mariners in an unarmed lumber schooner captured the HMS Margaretta, which was a fully armed British warship.

The mariners involved in “ocean-going service” during World War II do have Veteran Status. They may be entitled to a gravestone, a flag for their coffin, and burial in a National Cemetery. Merchant Mariners who served during other wars do not have this recognition. For more information, see the information at http://www.usmm.org/contact.html

Remember to make a timeline for your ancestor and gather information about the ships and their history while the ancestor served.

I recommend the resources at the American Merchant Marine at War website. These are the links that would be good starting places:

 

1) American Merchant Marine at War

http://www.usmm.org/

This website is dedicated to those Mariners who died during U.S. wars, and contains many links to valuable research material about the Merchant Marines. This website covers a lot of ground, including history and links to help a researcher dig farther into researching their Merchant Mariner and ships. You can also purchase gift items or make donations to support the website.

 

2) American Merchant Marine at War Records and Contact Information

http://www.usmm.org/contact.html

This page has the contact information for service records for mariners and ships.

However, do check the website for more history and historical documents.

 

3) Frequently Asked Questions about the Merchant Marine

http://www.usmm.org/faq.html

This list of frequently asked questions is a great gathering of information about the Merchant Marine including the background about the people, the history, the wartime casualties, and how to join.

 

4) One page Information Sheet Handout about WWII Merchant Marine

http://www.usmm.org/infomm.pdf

This pdf document is a one page summary of how the U.S. Merchant Marine made victory possible in WWII.

Online Databases Talk: Week of Links #5

One resource not covered in the talk was learning about USMC history. There is a guide about the United States Marine Corps History Division and Archives located in Quantico, Virginia.

Online Databases Talk: Week of Links #4

Billion Graves has an app where you can take pictures of tombstones, and volunteers will transcribe them. You can be one of those volunteers!

Online Databases Talk: Week of Links #3

Have you searched for a cemetery or a burial on Interment.net?

Online Databases Talk: Week of Links #2

You can search for a cemetery or a burial on Find A Grave. Remember that this a volunteer effort, so it is not comprehensive.