Using WWI Morning Reports on Fold3

Using WWI Morning Reports on Fold3

Those who have seen my lectures, read my books or visited my WWI Facebook pages know that Morning Reports have proven to be one of my favorite resources for researching an individual who served in the Army in WWI. The 1,748 reels of 35mm microfilm containing the Morning Reports for 1912-19 have been digitized and are now available on Fold3.

There reports are created by a company or detachment and contain the important details of the daily status of in the life of an Army company: where and how they traveled; names of those who joined or left the company; who was transferred to a hospital or sick in quarters;  names of those wounded or casualties; disciplinary actions; and promotions. Additionally you can the statistical information about the company for each day, including how many horses and mules attached to the company, both serviceable and unserviceable. This data was used to build other summary reports like the company histories that appear regimental histories. The rosters include the individual’s presence in a company. Individuals’ data would appear in their personnel file, but for those whose research soldiers whose files were burned, these are reports can assist in reconstructing those files.

Having these records online is a huge advantage for researchers. A trip to STL to view the reels in person was wonderful, but had to be planned in advance to be sure that the records and the equipment used to view them would be available. Most of our time had been spent in photographing and photocopying the records. Because of the viewing equipment, the photographs were not good representations of the cards, and the cost of photocopies was significant. Because of time limits, we had focused on Company B’s Morning Reports and other companies in the regiment only for September 1918 when members of the regiment participated in the Saint-Mihiel Offensive. Still, the records and the trip had been amazing. Now, from home or a local library, these records can be viewed and images of them can be downloaded without prior planning.

As I examined these records it was clear that a researcher might want to go beyond looking at the records of one company. The records of other companies of a regiment might fill in gaps left by other companies’ records. One example is how the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment ended the war. They traveled home on two different ships, and while the Morning Reports of Company B for July 1919 were not available at NPRC (and so cannot be found on Fold3), Company C’s Morning Reports  described how the other companies of the regiment that sailed on the USS Wilhelmina finished their service:

3 July Debarked from U.S.S. Wilhelmina at Pier 8 Hoboken N.J. About 11 AM. Boarded Ferry at Pier 3 arrived L.I. entrained at L.I. for Camp Mills, N.Y. Arrived Camp Mills about 3 PM.

4 – 5 July Camp Mills, N.Y.

6. July Marched from Camp Mills, N.Y. to Clinton Road Station about 5 A.M. entrained at station for Camp Upton, N.Y. arrived Camp Upton about 10.30 AM Turned in Equipment

Although you can search US World War I records for the term “morning reports” it is easier to access The U.S. Morning Reports Publication Page directly.

U.S, Morning Reports search page

Knowledge of using the index to find the reel numbers would be import if your plan is to browse the records. I did know the reel number for the 51st Pioneer Infantry, so I could browsed Category: Morning Reports, 1912-1939 then selecting Roll 0402. (Other detachments appear on other reels.)

Browse the records

This was cumbersome. Since this Fold3 Publication is 99% Complete at the time this blog post was written, I recommend using the search.

Search Results for 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment

With over 2 thousand results this would be tedious to search. As you can see, each page of the Morning Reports is returned as a result. There will be several pages per month.

51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment Company B Search

There were only 634 Results, but many were not from the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment. They may have referenced the 51st Pioneer Infantry. (Putting the term “Company B” within quotation marks was ignored in the search box.)

51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment Company B Search

Whether searching for the Regiment or Company, click on a record for the organization you want to search to open it.

51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment Company B Results Image

Then click in the box with the navigation bread crumb trail (or just click on the down arrow at the end of the path). This opens the image in an image browser.

Image Viewer Breadcrumb Trail Window

This opens a pane to navigate to any of the Morning Reports for Company A.

Browse the collections

I was interested in Company B’s Morning Reports, so I select Company B, 51st Pioneer Infantry.

Browse to Company B, 51st Pioneer Infantry

This took me to where I could navigate to all the available Company B Morning Reports.

navigate to all the available Company B Morning Reports

I clicked on “Feb 1918” and can now see the images for this month’s Morning Report. There is usually a card inserted at the beginning of the Morning Reports for each Company’s that was used as a visual divider. (See Page 1 below.)

Navigate to Feb 1918 Morning Report

At the beginning of each month is a cover sheet. Pay attention to this, as it lists the company, regiment, month and year of the report. The information on this page tells us that prior to this month, the organization was 10th NY Inf NG (Infantry, National Guard).

Cover sheet for Company's Morning Reports

Some issues I encountered:

Some months were missing (They might be missing from the original reels.)

Some months that were missing were filed with a different year’s records. For example, one company’s Morning Reports for Jan 1918 also contained the Morning Reports for Jan 1919

Suggested strategy:

Navigate to the company of the individual you are researching using the search feature.

Find an image for the regiment, or best for the company and click on it

Use the bread crumb to open the navigation pane to select the company and month of the first Morning Report you want to view

Download the Morning Reports for each month the individual was with the company (I used a separate folder for each month)

Transcribe the entries relating to the individual you are researching, as well as the significant movements and events for the company to put together their story

Searching can be awkward, but by using a combination of searching, using the bread trails and the arrows in the image viewer, you can relive the events of a company (or other organization) during WWI.

For help with Fold3 features, such as downloading records, see the Fold3 Training Center.

Finding WWI U.S. Army Rosters

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Another great resource for researching soldiers in WWI that has come online are the Muster Rolls and Rosters at FamilySearch. Using these records, you can trace your a service member throughout his service in the U.S. Army in WWI.

US WWI Muster Roster Rolls on FamilySearch

These records are not indexed, so using them will take a little work. These are digital images of the filmstrips that you would be using at the National Archives and Records Administration in St. Louis, Missouri.

You will need a free account at FamilySearch to access these records, but if you are not using FamilySearch, you should be.

In order to use these records, you need to know the military organization(s) to which your ancestors belonged. A good start is using the VA Master Index to locating the first organization to which he was assigned. From there, following him in each roster, you might be able to trace his transfers between organizations.

This List of Authorized Abbreviations World War I Service Discharge Cards is a valuable reference for deciphering military abbreviations of the time.

Starting Place: The VA Master Index

I used the VA Master Index for Joseph F. McMahon, which showed his first military organization as Co B 51 Pion Inf. (In real words, this translates to Co B of the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment.) To help, there is a Blog post about using the VA Master Index.

VA Master index card

Next Step: Search for the soldier’s first military organization

Searched the Muster Rolls and Rosters at FamilySearch for the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment, I learned the description was “Pioneer Inf.” Be flexible when searching. I would not have located the regiment searching for “51st” and there were many “51” on the page. Searching for “Pion” was fairly efficient.

51st Pioneer Infantry roster entry

When you see the little camera icon on the right, that means there are digital images of the record to view on the website! Click on the camera to go to the filmstrip.

Viewing the filmstrip on the website can be intimidating, but it is a lot easier than using an actual filmstrip. More than one frame at a time can be seen.

Digital Filmstrip

I can click on the Image with “51st Pioneer Inf Regt” and see that Image 12 is where the muster rolls begin. (You may wish to record that number in case you want to revisit the records.)

The Images marked “SPACER” are between the separate documents for the same organization. The images marked “NEW ORGN BEGINS” will be key to finding where the first muster rolls for Company B are.

New Organization Begins marker

The first group of Muster Rolls are for the Headquarters Company.  You can double-click on an Image to go it. From there you can use the arrows to move forward and backward through the filmstrip images. If you want to go back to seeing the browse multiple images, click on the button in the navigation menu on the left with all the small boxes.

Viewing an image on the filmstrip

Since the records are not indexed, checking the Image where a new organization begins, then browsing the multiple images will help location where Company B begins. Image 249 is where Company B’s records begin. On the Image, we can see that to go backward in time, we would have to look at rolls for the 10th New York Infantry Regiment (which was the predecessor of the 51st Pioneer Infantry Regiment).

I need to know when Joseph F. McMahon Served with the 51st Pioneers to be able to locate him in a roster. He enlisted on 5/28/18, so I check for the new muster rolls after each SPACER to see the dates.

The first page of the organization's rosters

Image 265 is for 30 April to 30 June 1918.

The first roster for the organization

By using the arrows to scan the pages of the Muster Roll, I locate him. This record shows when he joined the organization.  

sample roster entry

At the end of the Muster Roll, soldiers lost are listed. This soldier was lost through transfer. If I were researching him, his date of transfer would be known so I could pick up the search for him in the next organization (Provisional Depot, shortened to Prov Dep).

sample roster lost by transfer entry

Through these records you should be able to track your soldier through the organizations in which he served. Of course, I recommend downloading the records you find, complete with citations. Another thing I recommend is building a timeline for his service, and add the organizations along with dates of his service in them.

The only time I have had a problem following a soldier through the rosters is when the military unit disbanded. In that case, some historical research would be in order to figure out if the soldiers were transferred en masse into another organization.

Did My Ancestor Serve in WWI?

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In the past, I answered that question by recommending searching for information at home, searching through the U.S. Army Transport Records that documented a veteran’s trip overseas, consulting state service abstracts or contacting the National Personnel Records Center.

Now, one of the most helpful sets of records to answer that question has come online. It is the U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index from NARA’s Records of the Veterans Administration [VA] (Record Group 15).

So, gather up the list of possible candidates. Having a residence and a birth date may help you narrow down the search for ancestors with common names.

You will need a free account on FamilySearch to access these records. If you do not already use FamilySearch, you will be glad to find out about what it has to offer. The link to search the collection is United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940.

Family Search search page for U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index

Enter your ancestor’s name.

Searching example

Look through the search results to look for your ancestor. (Pay attention to the residence; the military service location (St. Louis) is related to where the records were stored.)

result for example search

The small document icon is used to “view the record details.”

The small camera icon on the right means that you can view an image of the record.

Search result

Clicking on “view the original document takes you to the image viewer, you can view and download it.

The image viewer screen

From this image, I know the first military organization in which Joseph F. McMahon served. An important piece of information is his military service number, which is helpful when the veteran has a common name.- His birth and death dates, as well as his enlistment and discharge dates.

C is the Claim Number assigned when an application was made for a service connected disability, pension, and education and training.

An “A” number shows that this veteran was eligible for the Adjusted Compensation paid to veterans based on their WWI service.

T Indicates that the veteran had War Risk Insurance during WWI.

CT  Shows the certificate number assigned by service departments with the World War I Bonus.

Learn more about these records at Family Search search page for U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index.

Learn more about the letter codes at NARA’s Key to Codes & Prefixes.

When you find an ancestor who served in WWI, you can begin to research his service. Check out our other WWI blog posts by using the Search Box and entering WWI.

Learn more about our book on this website or at Amazon Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors.

The U.S. Military Records That Never Burned

No, NOT all the WWI and WWII military records for your ancestor were burned!

We often hear the misinformation and read many posts on Facebook claiming that all the military records burned. This post will help shed light on just a few of the records about your ancestor’s service that are still available.

We have already blogged about the Official Military Personnel Files OMPFs beginning here, and hope you had a chance to read about them. From that post you will have learned that Navy and Marine Corps personnel files from WWI and WWII were not burned in the NPRC fire.

It is important to know there were original records that were never in the OMPFs, and so, they were NEVER BURNED. These records were part of the paperwork generated by military organizations, and were kept separately from the individual personnel records. The individual personnel records were actually constructed by using these original records.

This blog post covers some great examples of records that could help you understand your ancestor’s military experience: Rosters/Musters and Morning Reports. For military ancestors who died while in service, there are WWI Death Files and WWII Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF).

Muster Rolls and Rosters

These records contain information about service members who were in an organization, so you can place your ancestor with an organization at a specific time. These are lists of the members of an organization during a specific time period (or at a specified time such as the last day of the month). They shows who was sick in hospital, who was “lost” to the organization by transfer, and to where they were transferred, who was “gained” by the organization through transfer, and who was attached. By piecing these together, a service member can be tracked.

Browsable images of WWI muster rolls and rosters are available online at the FamilySearch website. You need to know the military organization for the service member because these are not searchable. United States, World War I, military muster rolls and rosters, 1916-1939 (The filmstrips are available at the National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.)

Morning Reports

These reports cover the day-by-day details of an Army organization, giving a brief summary of the status of the men and animals in the organization.

The front of the morning reports contain columns that record the counts of officers, enlisted men and animals. On the back, brief notations were made naming the soldiers who transferred in, transferred out, transferred to a hospital or were sick. Notes were made of soldiers who were loaned out to other organizations, who were promoted, where and how far they traveled, courts martial, and disciplinary actions.

Like any other diary, this will give context to your military ancestor’s service even when his name is not mentioned.

These records are available at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The U.S. Navy has Ship’s Logs, which rarely mention individuals. Learn more about Ship’s Logs here.

WWI Death Files / WWII Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF)

For service members who died while in service, a death file will exist. In WWI, these are Death Files; in WWII they were called Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF). These files are truly individual, as the contents will vary for each case. Each should contain the circumstances of the service member’s death. If the ancestor died in combat, there will generally be a description of how he died, compiled from available witnesses.

For an ancestor who went overseas, the file will contain correspondence with the next-of-kin to establish whether to ship the service member’s remains back to the United States, or bury him in an overseas military cemetery. In the file for a WWI service member who was buried overseas, there may be information about a Gold Star trip sponsored by the government to allow mothers and wives to visit the grave of their fallen soldier in Europe. If the service member was originally classified as missing in action, the file may contain information about how the remains were identified.

Although these files exist for those who died during service stateside, typically these files contain less information that for those who died in combat.

These records can be requested from the NPRC, however, NARA is prioritizing the digitization of WWI files and making them online. Record Group 92, Series: Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications, and Other Papers Relating to Burials of Service Personnel, 1/1/1915 – 12/31/1939 are searchable here.

Burial Cards

For service members who died while in service, a burial card will exist. The burial card contains information about where the service member was interred, and where the remains had been relocated. (To learn more, read the blog post Researching Soldiers Who Died During World War I.)

The family of the soldier below chose to have his remains stay in Europe, in the American Battle Monuments Commission Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. NARA Archivists have reported not yet finding where the photographs are stored that are referenced on the cards.

Record Group 92, Series: Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, 1917 – 1922. The 104 sets of digitized cards can be browsed from here.

Know that only the personnel records for Army and Air Force service members were involved in the fire, and that even those ancestors still live in the unburned pages of the military records.

Researching Alabama WWI Ancestors

WWI service summaries are incredibly useful when researching our military ancestors. For Alabama, we have two choices to access these online: The Alabama Department of Archives and History and FamilySearch.

For the centennial of WWI, the Alabama Department of Archives and History conducted a crowdsourcing effort to transcribe the records of Alabamians who served in the military during WWI. These records can be browsed by county here.

Click on a county to view the list of WWI service cards in alphabetical order.

From the page for the county results, you can enter a name in the Search box, and click on the Search button, to see that name in all the counties in Alabama. (Also note the checkbox for Alabama Active Military Service Reports if you are searching for more recent military ancestors.)

Below is a list of all the Smith results for all counties.

There is a separate series for members of the 167th Infantry Regiment. Enter the name in the Search box and click on the Search Button.

This is a summary of service transcribed from the original personnel records that may have been burned at the NPRC. Remember, even though the files may have burned, the data compiled in them still exists. Read our blog post Where Do I Find Out About My Ancestor’s Military Service? The OMPF!.

As promised, there is one other resource for the Alabama service summaries. FamilySearch has them online and indexed. It was a little easier to search on this website, but you do have to sign up for a free account to use it.

Search the Alabama, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919 here. The birth date might be helpful to enter.

Searching for Frank B Williams brought me to these search results. When you see the camera icon on its own that means you can view an image on the FamilySearch website.

The first result was the WWI soldier who I was researching.

Thank you to John Milam for bringing the research question to me that resulted in this post.

Researching Washington WWI Ancestors

As you may know from my lectures and book, it is important to find your WWI ancestor’s military organization to unlock learning about his military service. An online way to find out about your Washington WWI Ancestors is to search the Washington State Archives – Digital Archives website.

If you have Washington ancestors, check out all the online collections. In the Search by Name box, look at the dropdown menu for Collections dropdown menu on the left.

You can certainly search from the homepage, but I wanted to narrow down my search to military records. To narrow in on military records, I clicked on Search in the menubar across the top of the webpage.

From the dropdown menus on the left side of the webpage:
Record Series: select Military Records
County: To search all counties in the whole state leave set to “–Select a County—”
Title: Select “Veterans Affairs, Department of World War I”

In the search box, enter your ancestor’s name. Note that the first box is for last name (surname). You can certainly enter the whole name of your ancestor, but you might consider entering just a last name in the search boxes to find all the family members. One of the neat features is that you can select a checkbox for Soundex so that the search will return names that sound like the name you entered in the search box. This helps you locate records if the last name has been misspelled or misindexed.

The good news is that an image exists for this record, so we click the result and inspect it and see if it is for the correct person.

You are given the option to download a pdf of the record. Although it is doubtful you would ever need a certified copy of this record, you can order one for $6.

The pdf file contains the Service Statement (Summary) Card.

A list of the Authorized Abbreviations for these cards is found here.

I decided to do another search, this time I made a broader search. The only thing I selected from the dropdown menus on the left was Military Records.

From the dropdown menus on the left side of the webpage:
Record Series: select Military Records
County: To search all counties in the whole state leave set to “–Select a County—”
Title: To search all military records, select “—Select a Title—”

The search returned additional records, but they were not for this soldier.

Another idea for researching your Washington ancestors is through the keywords. From the homepage, take a look at the dropdown menu for collections in the Search by Keyword box.

Good luck searching for your Washington WWI ancestors!