2    Nov 20100 comments

Tracking the troops: GI Jane, GI Joe

Do you have ancestors or relatives who served in the military?     

As we peer into our past, we often find family members who served on land or sea in many countries and in many capacities. Some were on-the-ground forces, while others filled support roles such as tailors, doctors, nurses, cooks or musicians.   

London's Imperial War Museum has organized a Family History Day on Saturday, November 6, sponsored by MyHeritage.com. The event will assist participants - from beginners to experienced family historians - to learn how the Blitz affected families, the roles relatives played to help win the war, the aftermath of this history in today's families, and what records are accessible for more information. 

The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern conflict told through the stories of those who were there. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance. You can view the Museum’s main website here.    

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

 Women as well as men have served in diverse capacities in all US military branches - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. For information on women veterans from Colonial to contemporary times, view stories here (scroll down to see other relevant pages on that site), and a time line here. For a collection of photos and artifacts documenting women's service, click here.    

One Civil War surgeon - Dr Mary Edwards Walker (photo left) - was the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.     

Accessible records include regiment lists, files for widows' pensions, death and burial records, medals, hospital lists for the wounded, transport lists and many other records, each supplying another piece of the family history puzzle.     

Where can you find more information on those who served?

MyHeritage.com's database search engine includes many military and related databases from around the world.  The databases cover sources for the UK, US, Australia, monuments, directories, Ireland, Belgium, Holocaust, Slovakia, Venezuela, Israel, France and more.  Find the databases here: Go to MyHeritage.com, click on the Genealogy tab, then click the Research tab. To look for specific databases or countries, click on "advanced search."   

Another excellent source for US military records is the for-fee subscription site Footnote.com, which offers documents from Colonial times, including the Revolutionary War, through to more contemporary conflicts. In the US, the site is often available for free access in public libraries.     

For example, Civil War records include, according to the website, each soldier's name, rank, unit, and card numbers; information from muster rolls, regimental returns, descriptive books, and other records copied onto cards. Each name appearance was noted on a separate card numbered on the back and indexed on the soldier's file folder.  The information on the cards was carefully compared to assure accuracy.     

A typical card provided entry abstracts from original records and documents.  Researchers might find enlistment papers, substitute certificates, casualty sheets, death reports, prisoner-of-war memorandums and correspondence. In the case of the United States Colored Troops (read more about these records here), there are unique deeds of manumission, oaths of allegiance, proof of ownership, certificates of monetary award and bills of sale. Notations on folders and cards also indicated cross-references to other individual or unit records.     

Another collection, Civil War Widows' Pensions, are extremely detailed. Some files may have 100 or more pages covering the spouse's enlistment records through to death, and records pertaining to the widow and through to her death, even including doctor and funeral bills. It is well worth a look to see the type of information one might find.     

As an example, click here for the file on William J. Deane and his widow, Susan Deane Dumbar, with 103 images of various documents.     

Types of documents in the Deanne-Dumbar file

 Were your relatives at Pearl Harbor? Here's the partial muster roll for the Pelias submarine tender on January 1, 1946:  

Partial crew list, Pelias submarine tender

The Family History Day at London's Imperial War Museum will host  museum experts and outside organizations providing information on  family history research, along with lectures on how to trace those who served, how war memorials can help in research and more.  Attendees are encouraged to bring documents, photographs, medals or other 20th century family items  to learn more from the experts.  

For more information on the special event in London, see this post on the MyHeritage Blog.

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