Among the many heroes of World War II were the journalists who risked their lives to cover the war and allow the “folks back home” to understand what was happening from an overall view as well as from the up close and personal view of the boys on the front line. Ernie Pyle was a war correspondent who was embedded (as we now say) with Marines. He lost his life during the Battle of Okinawa on 18 April 1945. In the blog post “Spotlight: Remembering Ernie Pyle” the staff of the National Archives highlight some of the photographic and video recordings that include this wonderful writer.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Afro-American Historical Society’s 2018 Black History Month Genealogy Conference in Laurel, Maryland. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with Alice F. Harris and Bernice Bennett, and to meet Marvin T. Jones, Erwin Polk, and others. All lecture handouts are available on the conference website. Much of my handout, Military Records for African-American Genealogy: Suggestions for Researchers, is applicable to all researchers regardless of color. I hope you’ll find it useful.
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Most researchers have heard of the 1973 fire at the National Military Personnel Records Center in Saint Louis, Missouri, that destroyed 80% of certain Army personnel records for persons discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, and 75% of certain Air Force personnel records for persons discharged from September 25, 1947, to January 1,1964 (names alphabetically after Hubbard).
Records that were entirely consumed by fire are gone, but there is new hope for surviving highly burned or damaged records. There is amazing work being done by NARA’s Conservation Staff in Saint Louis to recover and make available records that were previously too fragile to handle. Preservation Specialist Ashley Cox shows and explains what’s being done in the 33 minute video, “A is for Archives, B is for Burn File” from the 2017 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair.
If you haven’t tried a surname search in the National Archives Catalog in awhile, it’s time to try it again. Additional information about records, as well as actual digital images of records, are added frequently.
A search for the surname “Twigg” provides good examples of what’s been added thus far. In no particular order, there are references to persons named Twigg for which there are–
- Alien Case Files
- Personnel Files
- Cherokee Indian Records
- Compiled Military Service Records–Civil War (Union)
- Compiled Military Service Records–Civil War (Confederate)
- Correspondence (Letters Sent or Received)
- Seaman’s Protection Certificates
- Draft Registration (World War II)
- Compiled Military Service Records (Spanish-American War)
- Official Military Personnel Files
- Mentions in a roster of hospital matrons at U.S. Army posts
- Mentions in summaries of World War II casualties
- Mentions in applications for inclusion of properties on the National Register of Historic Places
- Mentions in various other records
Certainly, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Obviously, when the surname is included in the file or item description, it’s easier to determine potential relevance, than when it’s necessary to ferret out the name by searching a PDF or other multipage items. Nonetheless, it is a free resource available to anyone with an internet connection. It will continue to grow in usefulness in the years to come.
Give it a try. What might you find?
The National Archives and Records Administration will have its 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair online on Oct. 25, 2017. If you miss any part of it, don’t worry, it will be posted online at a later date.
If you missed the 2013 to 2016 Virtual Genealogy Fairs, you’re still in luck – all the videos, PowerPoints, and other handouts are still online. Just follow these links:
My colleague, Kaitlyn Enriquez, from NARA’s Still Pictures Branch, has provided an excellent informational guide in How to Research: Photographs Relating to World War II Navy Ships. Previous blogs provided information about researching WWII Army photographs and WWII Air Force (Army Air Corps) photographs.
Everyone knows the famous photo, shown here. But have you seen the video, or know the story behind it?
When the National Archives investigated the true identity of the flag raisers in Bill Genaust’s footage of the first and second Flag Raisings on Iwo Jima and the iconic photograph by Joe Rosenthal, staffers discovered that the agency never received the original film shot on February 23, 1945. Supervisory Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Chriss Kovac provides information about Bill Genaust and how the film was shot, developed, assembled, and used during the World War II and throughout history in this YouTube Video, “The Winding Journey of Bill Genaust’s Flag Raising Footage”