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.)

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Two Days at the NPRC

The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is an imposing facility located in St. Louis, MO.  This summer I spent two days researching the 51st Pioneer Infantry at the NPRC. This post describes the planning and visit to the facility; a subsequent post will discuss the specific records I researched during my visit.

The NPRC the central repository of personnel-related records for both the military and civil services of the U.S. Government. Always remember that their priority is to serve current veterans. Everyone you meet at the facility and in the research room is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

I visited the Archival Research Room to view Morning Reports and Rosters for the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment in WWI.

Planning the trip to the NPRC began more than six weeks before my visit. The research staff recommends planning this far in advance so that they can verify they have the records you seek and so that you can reserve a filmstrip reader.

If you choose to contact the NPRC about your visit by email, they request that you include your postal address and telephone number so that they may contact you in case of additional questions.

When you arrive at the NPRC, you will go through a security checkpoint. Government-issued photo ID is required. Do yourself a favor, and clear out your computer bag or everything you do not need, or use an alternate bag. There are items that you may forget are in your bag, like scissors, that are not allowed into the building.

My NARA researcher card had expired, so I had to view the PowerPoint orientation again. NPRC issues its own researcher cards. NPRC will accept NARA researcher cards, but other NARA facilities will not accept NPRC researcher cards.

Any paper that you wish to take into the research room has to be inspected and stamped by the staff. Bring only a minimal amount of paper. If possible, have the required information on files of the computer that you will bring in with you.

The Archivist walked me through the research room, and the process of getting to the equipment and filmstrips I needed.

The research room also had computers with access to Ancestry.com and Fold3.

If the records you need to view are on a filmstrip, and you want to make a copy, you have two choices. You can use a digital camera, but you have to realize that there will be a reflection on the screen. The other choice is use the printer connected to the filmstrip reader. Each copy that you take costs $0.40, which is collected when you are ready to leave. When you are prepared to depart, you bring all your paper to the research desk and your copies are weighed. You pay the fee at the cashier’s window with cash or credit card. Any papers that you remove from the room are inspected and locked in a document bag. The document bag is unlocked during the final inspection before you leave the building.

 

Archival vs. Federal Records

62 years after a service member separates from the service by discharge, retirement or death in service, the Federal records become Archival records. Archival records are open to the public. Federal records have restricted access (veteran or next-of-kin), but can be requested through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. There may be an opening of records of Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) to the public before this time.

What genealogists need to keep in mind is that while s/he may be the next-of-kin and appears to be entitled to a free copy of the records, once the records pass to archival status fee applies to getting the records. However, these records are free to view at the research room.

Information about Archival holdings can be found here.

 

 

 

5 Things to Tell New Genealogists

Have you ever helped a friend start a family tree? Starting out with a blank tree, and beginning to fill it, is always a joy. I have done this a few times and have come up with some hints to tell people who are completely new to all of it.

 

 

1) Start with yourself and work backwards.

When you work backward, you are sure to construct a solid trail to a family that you can be sure is yours.

 

2) No, really, start with yourself.

Collect and scan all the documents that prove you and your relationships. Think about what you would like to find for your ancestors, and collect that information for yourself. You could even include a brief autobiography.

 

3) Spelling, schmelling.

Do not get hung up on spelling. People in the past were not as hung up as we are on correctly spelling their names. The people who copied down the records often did so phonetically. So, don’t expect the spelling of your ancestor’s names to be the same in each record you find.

 

4) Keep track of your sources.

You will want to know the source of the information. Documenting your facts in your family tree software program is a great idea. It will be helpful when you come across conflicting evidence. It will also remind you where you have already looked, and keep you from ordering the same record multiple times.

 

5) Start a timeline.

When you make a timeline of an ancestor’s life, it makes you focus your search on the correct times and places. The timeline can make you think in terms of the events that were happening concurrently, to give context to your ancestor’s life.

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WWI in the Passenger Lists of the U.S. Army Transport Service (Part II)

To France and Back: All of the 51st Pioneer Infantry

In part 1 of this series, you learned how to locate an individual in the U.S. Army Transport records on Ancestry.com. In these records, you may find family members or foreign personnel that were transported by the Army. These are from the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group 92, held at NARA in College Park. In this post, you will learn how to find records for a specific military organization.

In a previous post , I wrote about Joseph McMahon’s trip to France and back with the 51st Pioneer Infantry. But the whole 51st Pioneer Infantry did not travel together in either direction. From the History of the Regiment, I knew that Company A traveled to France later than the other companies. Using the U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 database at Ancestry.com, I was able to piece together more pieces of the story.

With these records, you can gather details for the backdrop of the story about your ancestor. We will start with a narrative to demonstrate how to include the information in a story, then show how you can do it.

 

Getting to France

On the morning of 26 June 1918, troops began embarkation on the S. S. Kroonland at Pier #5 In Hoboken, N.J. They started at 10:00 A.M. and finished at 1:30 P.M. Most of the 51st Pioneer Infantry were among them. The 3245 troops on board the ship sailed for Brest, France, at 3:30 P.M.

Company A traveled later, on 9 August 1918. The boarding of 537 troops on S. S. Rochambeau began at 6:10 A.M. at Pier No. 57 in New York, NY, and finished at 9:10 A.M. The S.S. Rochambeau was a French Transatlantic ocean liner, sailing regularly between Bordeaux and New York City. The ship sailed at 2:05 P.M. Among the other troops traveling on the Rochambeau that trip was a detachment of cooking instructors from the Quarter Masters Corp.

 

 

Coming Home from France

Part of the 51st Pioneer Infantry sailed from St. Nazaire, France, on the Wilhelmina on 23 July 1919, arriving in Hoboken, N.J. on 3 July 1919. They traveled to Camp Mills for discharge. Headquarter, Headquarters Company, Supply Company, Ordnance and Medical Detachments, and Companies A, B, C, D, E, and F of the 51st Pioneer Infantry traveled on that ship. There were 4595 people on that trip.

Companies G, H, I, K, L, M and the Medical Detachment sailed from Brest, France, on the U.S.S. Mongolia on 25 June 1919 arrived in Boston, MA, on 6 July 1919. They would travel to Camp Devens, MA. Established in 1917, Camp Devens served as a demobilization center, so presumably these companies of the 51st Pioneer Infantry were discharged from there. Note the dazzle camouflage paint scheme.

 

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 105722 USS Mongolia

 

How To Do It

It is your choice to follow the steps that I used to locate the records for the 51st Pioneer Infantry, or jump right in and find  records for your ancestor’s military organization.

The lists of the outgoing and incoming passengers are in the U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939.  From the database page, you can search using a variety of fields, or browse starting with the List Type (Outgoing or Incoming).

 

 

For the return, I set the Arrival Year field: 1919

And the Keyword field: 51st Pioneer Infantry

 

 

The 51st Pioneer Infantry sailed from St. Nazaire. Some sailed on the Wilhelmina on 23 July 1919, arriving in Hoboken, N.J. on 3 July 1919. Others sailed on the Mongolia on 25 June 1919 and arrived in Boston, MA, on 6 July 1919.

 

 

Next, I tried a different search. Rather than using the keyword, I set the Military Unit to: 51st Pioneer Infantry.

 

 

This provided information about the ships carrying members of the 51st Pioneer Infantry.

 

 

This includes people traveling home separate from their military organization, such as this soldier who had special discharge.

 

 

Use the back arrows, or image number field to look near the beginning of the list of passengers for this trip to find the Recapitulation of Passengers form. This lists a summary of the trip and the passengers’ military organizations. It may cover several page, with the first page typically showing the embarkation information.

 

 

From the Kroonland Outgoing Recapitulation of Passengers:

 

From the Mongolia Incoming Recapitulation of Passengers:

 

 

 

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RootsMagic + Ancestry = Great News

So, the time RootsMagic users have been waiting for has finally come!

TreeShare for Ancestry is included in Rootsmagic version 7.5, which is a free update to RootsMagic 7. TreeShare for Ancestry allows you to move data between your RootsMagic and your personal Ancestry online trees. The free version of RootsMagic, RootsMagic Essentials includes TreeShare for Ancestry!

If you use RootsMagic 7 or RootsMagic Essentials 7, you can directly download the update, or you can the “Check for Updates” feature within RootsMagic.

To read more about RootsMagic working with Ancestry, click here.

Thank you, RootsMagic!