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.”

Genealogy and the 2020 U.S. Census

You have probably received, or are about to receive, your invitation to complete the 2020 U.S. Census online.

One thing I always recommend at census time is saving a paper (and electronic!) copy of the census after you fill it out. Since the censuses are closed for 72 years, how great would be researchers to have copies of our censuses for those years?

I’ve seen a lot of comments about how disappointing it is that you cannot print out all the responses when you are done completing the online forms.

With that in mind, here are two solutions:

1) Take screenshots as you fill out the forms on your computer. You can save them as images, or just cut-and-paste them into a word processing document.

– OR –

2) A better choice is probably to download and print a pdf file of the 2020 Census. Then you can fill it in and have all the answers together in one place. Of course, feel free to scan it and have it both on paper and electronically!

The 2020 Census Form can be downloaded here.

If you missed saving you previous census forms, you can find blank forms and instructions to enumerators here.

You can select the census year to locate links to blank forms. For 2000, you might want to reconstruct the long version of the form.  

The US Census Bureau website hosts a wealth of information and data, so explore it if have a chance. Educational material about the 2020 Census can be found here.

RootsTech London 2019 Videos and Handouts

Rootstech London 2019 is over, but we can still enjoy it.
You can download the syllabi from the presentation list here. Click on the arrow next to the name of the presentation to see the description and a link to the syllabus (if there is one).

There are links for RootsTech London 2019 Keynotes & General Sessions and some selected Sessions here. More videos from past RootsTech presentations can also be found on that page.

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair 2019

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 2019 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. This year’s topics are the History Hub, Preserving Personal Collections, Immigration Records, WWI Navy and Marine Corps Records, Indian Affairs School Records and The Homestead Act.

Check out the 2019 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 the day on YouTube.

If you want to head straight to the presentations on YouTube, you can use this link.

Consider taking the time to fill out the Event Evaluation Form to let NARA know how much you appreciate this Virtual Genealogy Fair.

While you are there, follow the links to check out the presentations and handouts for the previous years, too. There are links for the genealogy fairs going back to 2010.

Where Do I Find Out About My Ancestor’s Military Service? The OMPF!

(This is Part 1 of the blog post. Part 2 appears on the Twisted Twigs for Genealogy Blog.)

So many people ask me in person, or post in Facebook groups: “Where do I go to find more about my ancestor’s military service?”. The short answer is that the records you need are at branches of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), but how you get access to them can make a difference.

Undoubtedly you have seen the military records offered on Ancestry or Fold3. These may be rosters, muster rolls or ship’s manifests that show where and when an ancestor was associated with a military organization. You might find summaries of a ancestor’s service, which reveal a few more details, like the various ranks he held and when he served overseas. In a few cases, you might find other reports if your ancestor was a downed airmen or was one of the engineers in WWI who wrote an officer experience reports.

As much as we treasure these bits of information, these records are little more than tick marks to put on a timeline of your ancestor’s military life; they really are only the tip of the iceberg. Rather than being a destination, any record we find in online databases we should consider merely our ticket to learning  so much more.

For each WWI, WWII or Korean War service member, there is an Official Military Records File (OMPF). The OMPF contains not just the context but the details of all aspects of an ancestor’s time in the service. It includes the schools, commendations, hospitalization, transfers, transportation and all the details of a military life. Every part of an active duty military life is copied over and incorporated into one file.

The OMPF contains an actual book summarizing your ancestor’s time in the military, a Service Record. The Service Record contains 24 to 28 pages full of information such as immunizations he received, what schools he attended, awards and commendations he received, enlistment information, beneficiary information, records of courts martial (if applicable) , comments about his character and efficiency rating.

In the OMPF, there is also a Report of Separation which is a summary of the whole time an ancestor was in service. There are reports of physical exams prior to discharge (or retirement), medical and dental records including when he visited the dispensary (doctor’s office). The Report of Medical History includes health history about his family. Other highlights of the OMPF are Commissioning documents (for officers), special orders for transfers or promotions, and records of leave that was taken, and the address where he went. If the service member had been a military cadet, there would be an application, birth certificate, school transcripts, letters of recommendation.

There may be a complication in finding these files, but the records that were used to build them still exist!

Were all the OMPFs burned in the 1973 fire in St. Louis?

NO!

No Navy or Marine Corps OMPFs were burned.

Of the 80% of the Army and Air Force OMPFs that were burned, some files are being restored. It is always worth checking with NARA in case your ancestor’s file is one of those.

If the OMPF is truly unavailable, then a researcher has to consult the original records that were used to build the OMPF. These are the records that are held in a variety of NARA record groups that include information about all the service members of an organization. The researcher then needs to pull out information that either names the ancestor or applies to the ancestor’s service.  In future posts, we will cover the record sets at NARA locations that are most useful to researchers learning about their ancestor’s military service history.

Researcher gather the material

Please head over to the Twisted Twigs Blog for the second part of this post. It contains information about your options to get an OMPF, or a reconstructed OMPF.

7th Generation Detroit Family Historian and NARA Records Retrieval Expert, Deidre Erin Denton of Twisted Twigs Genealogy and Margaret McMahon, author of “Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors, have teamed up for a series of blog posts to show you the path to researching the military records for WWI, WWII and the Korean War at NARA. Because of your connection to your ancestor, you are the best teller of his story, and with these records you can write and share a very personal military history.

RootsTech 2019 Videos and Handouts

Rootstech 2019 is over and if you did not make it, you can still be inspired by viewing some of the videos and all of the handouts at the link below. It is great that Rootstech lets us all be a part of it.


Videos for some sessions can be viewed here.


The handouts (syllabi) for the sessions can be viewed and downloaded here.