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.


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Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Another link to consider is the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri:

They were able to help me track down unit-specific information. Plus it is a terrific museum.

Polly F. Kimmitt said...

Ack! Yvonne beat me to it, I have also awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award! Details on how to perpetuate the fun are at Pollyblog: Congratulations, Mark!!

J. Mark Lowe
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