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

In my lectures, I recommend searching for Ancestry.com’s military records from the Military Records Landing Page.

 

 

When you search from the regular search page, the results are from the most popular 10% of all their databases. Searching from the Military Landing Page, I came across records from: U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. The record in this database give you the name of the person traveling on U.S. Army Transport plus the military organization, the military serial number and whom to notify in case of emergency and his/her relationship to the passenger. The people who would be notified were wives, mothers, father, grandmothers, cousins and friends and their addresses were listed in the record.

This is another possible path to find the military organization and service number of your WWI ancestor! When your ancestor has a common name, you can use the contact information and address to verify you have the correct person in the record.

In the 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.

 

Searching the Database

It is always a good idea to read the information about the specific database to learn if there is a reason you cannot locate an individual. When you search an individual database on Ancestry.com, that information is available on its search page. Reading all that is the hardest thing to do when the empty search boxes beckon you, but at least you know where to find the information if you need it.

From the database page, you can search using a variety of fields, or browse starting with the List Type (Outgoing or Incoming).

 

 

From this page for one individual database page, you can search or browse through the collection. You can narrow down your search to one database, and alter your search terms to find your ancestor’s record.

In addition to a name and dates, there are useful fields to search this database.

 

 

Searching for my specific soldier’s name yielded multiple results, but using his military service number tuned right in to his record. This documented his return from France on the S. S. Wilhemina. I checked the box for “Exact” and only one record was returned.

 

 

The actual record is below.

 

 

Finding his way over to France proved a little more challenging. I had to uncheck the exact box for his service number.

One thing to try  is to use a space after a name beginning with “Mc” (or O’, Mac or Van), but that did not help. It was clear his name had been misrecorded or misindexed.

Since I knew it, I added the ship’s name, and added his military organization in the Keyword field: “51st Pioneer Infantry”.

 

 

This proved successful.

 

 

His name was indexed correctly; it was misspelled in the original record.

 

 

Always remember to select and copy the source citation information.

 

 

Reading through these records is interesting. There are notations about soldiers who were transferred between units, hospitalilzed, and those who were A.W.O.L. (Absent With Out Leave) before boarding the ship to Europe. The experience of training, then going off to war had to be overwhelming. For some immigrants, like my Grandfather, it must have seemed surreal to head back to the continent they had left behind a few, or many, years ago.

These records are a great resource for building a timeline of your WWI ancestor’s service. They are invaluable for connecting that ancestor to a family member and a place.

The next post will cover finding information about a specific military organization traveling in this set of  records.

 

 

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Take a Tour: NARA WWI Page

For the centennial of the U.S. entering WWI, NARA launched a new portal page for WWI Research.

 

 

The Genealogy Resources takes you to a page where you can start Researching Individuals in WWI Records. (Keep that in mind, and return to it after your tour of this page.)

Keep scrolling to find a section where you can choose from several World War I Topics.

 

 

Scroll even farther down for a World War I Timeline, and More Resources.

Explore the page and resources.

When you are ready to start your own research, a good place to start is NARA’s webpage Researching Individuals in WWI Records. A good resource is an article from NARA’s Prolog publication: An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service.

 

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5 Ancestry.com Databases for WWI Research

Among Ancestry.com’s databases, are some really interesting ones that will help you to research your WWI ancestors. This post covers five of the United States databases.

 

1. Whether or not your ancestor fought in World War I, this is a go-to database for finding men between 18 and 45 years old. The information includes a man’s birth date and place, occupation, address, physical description, and the name and address of the next of kin. The information on these cards will not tell you if the ancestor served, but can help you to verify if the military records you find are for the same man.

This database was updated on 4/6/2017. I know it is hard not to just jump in and search, but make some time to read the helpful hints in the database description.

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

 

2. If your ancestor served, there may be an application for a military headstone. These applications include information about the military unit in which your ancestor served, which is key to continuing research into his military life.

U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963

 

3. Over ten percent of the soldiers who served in WWI were from New York State, making this is an important database for many researchers. New York state created these abstracts from the military records that were ultimately destroyed in the National Personnel Records Center fire in 1973. They contain information about service organization(s) with assignment dates and transfers, ranks and promotion, dates of oversea service and injuries These cards typically had a front and a back, so be sure to select the next page to see the back of the card (if it is included). You can even find female ancestors in this database.

New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919

 

4. This database contains records for officers in the New York National Guard. It contains cards for the officers, and it contains more than WWI records. According to the database description, there may be cards for some Non-Commissioned Officers and Enlisted personnel, but I have yet to find any.

New York, Military Service Cards, 1816-1979

 

5. If you had a Jewish soldier, The American Jewish Committee (AJC) Office of Jewish War Records sent out surveys to soldiers that were assumed to be Jewish to the service of Jews in the American armed forces. Be sure to look at the pages after the questionnaire in case supporting documents were included.

U.S., WWI Jewish Servicemen Questionnaires, 1918-1921

 

Searching the Card Catalog for keywords “WWI” will bring up more databases, including British and U.K. records. Searching for “World War I” brought up records for both WWI and WWII.

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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