Are you uncertain how to find records about your ancestors who served during the First World War? Deborah Dudek shared five tips for researching WWI Veterans in the world war one time period there Deborah what can we do.”
Many people think World War I genealogy is really complicated and they may be put off by a fire that happened at the National Personnel Records Center back in 1973.
However, there are resources available, you just need to know where to look.
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Tip 1: Begin Researching Your WWI Veteran in Your Home
Search your own family collection. Many people say ‘I looked through my family collection’ or ‘My relatives don’t have anything so I really don’t know where to start.’
Start in your family and in your home. Look for ribbons, insignia, photos, letters, or newspaper clippings in the home.
All stories, no matter how small, are invaluable. may have heard a simple story that grandpa served in WWI as an ambulance driver in France. That’s a great clue!
Tip 2: Look for Clues on the 1930 US Census
Then look at the 1930 census in columns 30 and 31. You’ll find if a man is a veteran. (Women were not asked this question, which is unfortunate.)
Column 30 and 31 on the 1930 US Census
Then, the men will answer which ware they served in. This may include World War One, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, or the Philippine Insurrection.
Having that clue can really help you when researching your WWI Veteran.
Tip 3: Look for State Resources When Researching WWI Veterans
Most people look for federal records for World War I military records. However, when researching WWI Veterans, you need to explore state records. Individual states amassed the men and prepared them in the National Guard before they went into Federal Service.
The State Adjunct General’s Office ensured the men and women registered for the draft and filled the paperwork. Thus, the states kept records at the state level! These collections are not as comprehensive as many of the federal military records.
However, you may find a summary recorded on the military cards telling you the enlistment date, the discharge date, or the dates of any the major engagements somebody might have been.
The beauty of these records is that these state service cards are not separated by gender. You will discover women who participated directly in the war effort in these collections.
As such, be careful assuming gender based on the given names of the service person. Pearl is typically a woman’s first name, but there were many men and women named Pearl from that time period.
Many of these state WWI military cards have survived. Many are being digitized and made accessible online. If they’re not available online, visit the state archives or state libraries.
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Tip 4: Search for Female WWI Veterans
Remember that women are serving in the military during World War I. They are not just serving as nurses, but also chauffeurs, typists, or essential office duties. Therefore, women’s military records mirror men's records.
If you have a female ancestor who served in the Army perhaps in the Adjunct General’s Office, she will have a state service card. That card will have survived the record loss of 1973 even though her federal record did not.
If you have a female ancestor who served in the Navy or in the Marines, they are still received a full military record. Those records survived intact just like the Navy and Marine records for gentlemen. You’ll access these records from the National Archives.
Tip 5: Use the Army Transport Passenger Lists
When things get really difficult, then explore the “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939.” This collection is separate from Ancestry’s World War I section and will not pop up in search. The reason is these lists happen before and after the wars.
The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 337
In short, these lists look like passenger lists but they record each person’s military service number. It denotes the what unit they’re in, the ship name, and where they’re going to or coming from. You see tremendous information for when they leave the United States and go to France or Russia, and then when they return.
Bonus Tip: If you have an ancestor who died in World War One and the family chose to have them reinterred in the United States, then their bodies and their names will be on a ship manifest.
Putting These Tips in Action
In the video below, shares more details about these tips but then concludes with an example of how she combined these tips to find out some fantastic information about her great-great-uncle who served in the 86th Aero Squadron at the age of 16!
You’ll watch to watch the video because this uncle didn’t have a draft record due to his age!
If you have more questions about researching for you WWI Veterans leave a comment or connect with Debra Dudek through her website https://www.debradudek.com. You can also order her book with more tips on researching your ancestors during World War I.