Monday, February 28, 2011

World War One Veterans Are Gone, But Where Are Their Records?

J. Mark Lowe

Sadly, I read this morning that Frank W. Buckles died yesterday on his farm in West Virginia. Washington Post Article Mr. Buckles was the last living U.S. Veteran of World War I (WW1). It seemed like only a few days ago, that I interviewed several living WW1 Veterans from Tennessee and Kentucky. As I checked my file, the interviews were done in 1998 and 1999, with the 90th Anniversary of the War.
The first-hand accounts of the battles from the perspective of these heroes had often never been discussed with their families. One soldier had his son locate an old box. The man said he hadn't opened this box in years, but wanted to share what was inside. Inside were photographs taken by this soldier. A few of the photographs were of young men excited to be going overseas, but the tone turned dim as they moved to the front. The pictures were somber and dark. They included dead soldiers lying in trenches, other bodies piled in mud and water, and a lifeless landscape.
This man said to me, "I spent all of my life trying to forget those months."
If you have family members from this time period, consider the records that might have been created.
Although Woodrow Wilson had declared his intention to keep America neutral in this conflict, the nation declared war on April 17, 1917. Before the war ended, more than four million “doughboys” had served in the U.S. Army with American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), U.S. Navy, or Marines.
Under the Selective Service laws enacted in Congress in 1917, all men (U.S. citizens and aliens) born between September 1873 and September 1900 were required to register with the local draft board. The Draft Registration cards provide information not only about the soldiers who served, but about men in the community who registered for the draft. These records are available at many state libraries and Archives, and the National Archives in Washington, DC. The original draft registration cards are located in the National Archives-Southeast Region in Morrow, Georgia.
There were three dates of WWI draft registration: 5 June 1917 for those age 21-31; June and August 1919, for those age 21 since first registration; and 2 Sept 1918, for those age 18-21 and age 31-45.
Comer Apple was born at Carthage, Tennessee in 1895. He was the son of Tom and Effie Apple. The family moved to Robertson County, Tennessee after 1910. His siblings were Bailey, Tommie, Della, Jones, S.T. , Olcie, and Woodard. Comer registered for the draft in Springfield. He was inducted on 21 September 1917 and joined the Company A Engineers. He was overseas from 1 May 1918 until 2 April 1919. He was honorable discharged on 16 April 1919.
After the great war, Comer married and settled into the Coopertown community of Robertson Co. Tenn. He and Sallie raised their children, Comer L., Virginia, and Buford. In addition to the direct official records created, there are many other records of the events surrounding the World war. Remember the first step of genealogy, which also applies here - Start with yourself and your home. Be sure to look for World War I era certificates or medals. Don’t forget to check the newspapers of larger towns, which was the collection point for companies. There are daily accounts of soldiers’ enlistments and company movements. In addition, there are regular accounts of the events in Europe and even larger accounts of the Armistice and Victory continuing into 1919. Don't forget there were women involved with the Red Cross and other organizations. We will discuss some other records later.

Start by reviewing these websites:

Experiencing War: World War I; Veterans History Project, Library of Congress

Cyndi's List; WW1

National Archives; International Researchers 'jazzed' over WW1 Draft Cards

World War I Draft Registration Card Request Form; Friends of the National Archives, Southeast Region

Ancestry; Link to World War I Draft Registration (requires subscription)

Be sure to record this information in your family files, and also share with repositories where others can locate. Remember to keep the story alive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

WDYTYAs Kim Cattrall Finds Trail of Missing Grandfather

Kim Cattrall is the featured celebrity on this week's episode of NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? She had learned from her Mother and Aunts that their father 'abandoned' them and they never heard from him again. George Baugh was described by his family as "very, very clever."
Kudos to the producers for tackling this difficult family story of division. Many families experience the loss of family members for a myriad of reasons. The story of these individuals are often left out of the family picture and story.
Kim was an active participant in the discovery of her Grandfather George, but I kept asking more questions than she. When we learned George left his family, and his own siblings described him as being in trouble, I said let's look at those criminal court records or juvenile police records - What kind of trouble did he really stir?
These records might have shed more light on why he ran away or left the town when he did. Where there other connections with his wife's family that would have prevented his escape?
I felt very sympathetic with the family members as they discovered more of the trail of this George. We have all learned tough information about a family member that discouraged or disappointed us. Kim kept a very positive attitude about everything, but George.
There was a shortage of records in the beginning of the show, but later records included City Directories, Telephone Books, Birth and Marriage Registers and Family Photographs. This show will certainly get you thinking about discovering the invisible characters in your family.
To find these folks and include them in your story, consider the following tips.
1. Always be willing to ask the difficult questions.
2. Try to think from the opposite point-of-view.
3. Keep an open mind when using oral history.
4. Don't give up until you find the whole picture.
WDYTYA is giving all researchers the opportunity to see some successful research projects presented in a linear format. The stories keep to come together easily, but they still show remarkable characters in the settings of time and place.
I'm already looking forward to the next episode with Lionel Richie. Join me in keeping the story alive.

Actively Participating in #wdytya or Who Do TV

I've thoroughly enjoyed this season of NBC's television program - Who Do You Think You Are? Although I must admit that I am a history or genealogy TV fan. When my great niece (Morgan) and nephew (Mason) visit and want to watch a video - they know that my stash ranges from The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James to George Washington's First War so they usually bring their own video.
However, even these two youngsters are enjoying WDYTYA. They understand that records tell the story of individuals and families. Recently, Morgan and Mason spent the day with me. I needed to visit a nearby county Archives, and knew I could safely visit with these two. Once we arrived, I handed Morgan a genealogical magazine with a small picture of Elvis Presley on the cover. I have to admit that I saw that picture and knew Morgan would be captivated, since she is definitely a Elvis fan.
Her excitement led her to read the article, where she found a copy of his birth certificate and a few other documents. She proceeded to extract the data from the documents in the article, and I saw her look at the front of the magazine several times as she wrote.
"What are you finding in the front of the magazine?" I asked.
"I need the Volume and Number for my citation!" she answered as though I should have known.
I asked her why she had recorded all these details. She looked at me with determined eyes and replied
"Why, Uncle Mark, if I don't record these details, how will I ever find these documents again?"
Her citations aren't complete, but at least she understands one of the major purposes - to locate the documents again.
As I watch each episode of WDYTYA, I see celebrities, librarians, archivists and researchers handle the documents that tell very specific stories. Will they ever want to see that document again? I can assure you that the wonderful folks at WDYTYA will see that the celebrities will get a well-documented copy of that record.
As the show airs, I follow all of the tweets about the show and often ask questions or make comments myself. I use Tweetdeck to follow the posts of others. Add a column - search #wdytya - and you will see all posts that use the 'hashtag' #wdytya. Try it this week or next week. You will be surprised.
Then join Geneabloggers Radio after the show for a discussion of the episode and other topics. Become a part of this genealogical community.
Help us all by keeping the story alive and participating in the genealogical community.
Disclosure: I provided some research for WDYTYA episodes, and have wonderfully brilliant great nieces and nephews.
J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
Springfield, Tennessee Speakers
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