Family History Outing: WWI at the Holland Land Office Museum

In addition to the displays of Holland Land Office material, discussed in the Family History Outing: The Holland Land Office Museum blog post, there was another exhibit of interest to me. The HLOM has an exhibit “Over There to Over Here: 100 Years Later, Genesee County in the Great War,” which is featured on their website.

The Museum is home to artifacts from the Great War. Soldiers’ equipment, uniforms and other WWI memorabilia are on display. There are artistically decorated helmets, and sheet music. Every item is clearly labeled, and the exhibit has been put together with great care and thought. In the displays, WWI history moves beyond the descriptions and illustrations in books to real objects. For me, seeing a soldier’s pick, that had been over than back over here, brought to mind equipment used by the Pioneer Infantry Regiment.

The exhibit includes a book where the names of Genessee County residents who served in WWI have been collected. Some were residents before the war, while other veterans settled in Genessee County after the Great War.

 

It is always important to check the holdings of all the museums and archives in your ancestor’s local area. For example, Executive Director Duffy told a story about one visitor who was surprised to find several items, including a dogtag and discharge papers, for a relative he did not even know was a soldier in WWI.

The Museum also display items from the military service of Genesee County residents in other wars. Even though we did not have Genesse County ancestors, we enjoyed this part of our visit to the Holland Land Office Museum. So, if you find yourself near Batavia, NY, think about stopping in.

To learn more, visit the Holland Land Office Museum website.

 

Researching Your Wisconsin WWI Ancestors

When you are researching Wisconsin WWI soldiers, you can use the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s World War I Database at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum website.

 

 

You can search by Name, City, County, Unit, or Branch, or any combination. Wildcard characters do not appear to be supported, but entering parts of the last name did return some results. For example, entering “Back” in the last name field returned last names like “Backes”, but also names like “Alaback” that have the “back” somewhere in the last name. Be sure to  remember to try alternate spellings of the names.

Usually I search for members of the 51st Pioneer Infantry, using the terms: 51st Pioneer. The database returned two members.

 

 

Click on the Request Info link to request or share information about the veteran with the Museum.

 

This database has enough flexibility to help research whole families, and whole cities or towns.

Researching Missouri WWI Ancestors

As you may know from my lectures and book, it is important to find your WWI ancestor’s military organization. An online way to find out about your Missouri WWI Ancestors is to search the Missouri Digital Heritage website.

 

When you are ready to search, Click on “Search the Soldier’s Records Database”, Scroll down to the search boxes or click here.

There are records from many conflicts, from the War of 1812 to WWI. You can leave the selection at All.

Be sure to enter the name as: Last Name, First Name

PVT Acie Sparkman was from Missouri, he was with Ambulance Company 40 at Camp Wadsworth, SC, then served with the 51st Pioneer Infantry Co. L. He died overseas. I entered:

Sparkman, Acie

And selected “All Service Records”

There was only one record returned.

Click on “View Details”.

Researching Indiana WWI Ancestors

As you may know from my lectures and book, it is important to find your WWI ancestor’s military organization. An online way to find out about your Indiana WWI Ancestors is to check the Indiana United States Veterans of the Great War I.

It is worth reading the home page about Indiana in the Great War. (Beware of the links on the right side of the page; they take you to other websites.) The links on the left are to WWI topics, which include information gathered from oral interviews conducted with Indiana WWI veterans.

In addition to searching for the veteran’s service summary as described below, remember to search the website for your ancestor. There is a search box on the left menu, but I had better luck using Google. I searched for the ancestor name and used the site specifier, for example:

“Ernest Franklin Hess” site:www.wwvets.com

When you are ready to search for your Indiana WWI veteran, click on the search button on the home page, or go here.

You will need to use both a Last Name and a First Name for a search. I was not able to use a wildcard for the first name.

Searching for John Smith returned surnames that are Smith and begin with Smith

Clicking on the first result gave me a service summary.

I searched for a different name in the database:  McMahon, James. All three of the detailed results showed: “Listed in the Indiana War Memorials records having served in WWI”, which does not provide much help to a researcher.

The sources used to compile the database can be found here.

 

 

Researching Soldiers who died during World War I

By all means, search the ABMC Burials and Memorials to see if the soldier rests in Europe. But, you may not find his name is in the database, and there may be more to the story.

Individual Combat units were responsible for burying the deceased soldiers and marking the grave. Then the Graves Registration Unit was responsible for moving the deceased to U.S. cemetery graves. The 51st Pioneer Infantry History tells of GRU work.

But, even if the deceased soldier was buried overseas, his remains may have been returned to the U.S. in 1920 or 1921. The decision whether to leave a soldier at an overseas cemetery or bring him home was made by the next of kin. In October of 1919, the War Department contacted the next-of-kin of every deceased soldiers, and each was given the option to bury them in American military cemeteries in Europe, or have them shipped home for burial in a military or private cemetery. 46,000 of the soldiers’ remains were returned to the United States. It took over $30 million and two years to return the remains of 46,000 soldiers. 30,000 soldiers were buried in the cemeteries in Europe. The government also paid the travel expenses pilgrimages for Gold Star mothers, and widows, to visit these graves.

The Burial Files and Graves Registration records are part of the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). You can find the Individual Burial Files at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. These are also called the “Cemeterial Files” or “293 Files” and contain: Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications, and Other Papers Relating to Burials of Service Personnel. Check out The Sick and the Dead, Veterans Administration Claim Files and World War I Burial Files by Archivist Daria Labinsky.

There were many similarities between the Americans and the Australian soldiers, who fought so far from their homeland. Australia would not pay for mothers to visit the graves of their sons, as it was a dangerous and expensive proposition.

Let’s see what we can do to locate the final resting place of these fallen soldiers:

Search the American Battle Monuments Commision (ABMC) for an overseas grave.

If the soldier is not in the ABMC database, then it is worth searching in the United States for the soldier’s grave.

Searching the U.S. Army Transport Service records on Ancestry.com would confirm that the soldier’s body was returned to the U.S. These records contain the soldier’s serial number and the soldier’s military organization. If you do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, remember that you may be able to  access Ancestry.com in may be available in your local library, or at a nearby Family History Center.

Even if you do not have access to Ancestry.com, you can still try to locate the grave.

First, search in National Gravesite Locator to see if the soldier was buried in a military cemetery.

If the soldier cannot be found in a military cemetery, try Findagrave.

Many of the fallen soldiers are documented in the three volumes of the Soldiers of the Great War:

Vol 1 Alabama – Maryland

Vol 2 Massachusetts – Ohio

Vol 3 Oklahoma – Wyoming  Volume 3 also contains an index by volume, by state and by first letter of the last name. The index to Vol 1 Begins on page 499, and the index to Vol 2 Begins on page 501.

The photos in the book are not in alphabetic order, and not every soldier has a picture.

Researching Connecticut WWI Ancestors

Researching Connecticut WWI Ancestors

Connecticut is a special place, filled with beautiful scenery and gorgeous fall colors. My years in Connecticut were spent studying and researching for my PhD. So, when I learned of some great resources for WWI research in Connecticut, I had to post them.

The Connecticut State Library has an introductory page describing their holdings in the state archives.

 

As you probably know, finding a summary for your WWI Veteran’s service is the key to unlocking more records about his service.

The Internet Archive offers three volumes of Service records: Connecticut men and women in the armed forces of the United States during World War, 1917-1920 These books are downloadable in a variety of electronic formats. There is an index in Volume 3.

The Homepage for the Questionnaires filled out by WWI veterans or their families is here.

These records are also available, indexed on Ancestry.com  Connecticut, Military Questionnaires, 1919-1920. To use this database, Connecticut residents can sign up for a free account at Ancestry.com, using the link.

The Internet Archive also has a downloadable History of Hamden men in the World War.

Connecticut in WWI can be found here. You can add your WWI story to their website, and subscribe to their newsletter.

Connecticut history in WWI can be found here. This website contains links to books, places, documents and websites.

Good luck researching your WWI Ancestors in Connecticut, and let me know how you do.