If you missed the military webinar on Tuesday evening, the cached version of it is now available here. Brian Peterson, Chris Lydiksen, and I had so much to cover that we did not have much time to answer the questions that came in during the webinar. Since many of those questions are on topics that I think many of you might be interested in, I will answer several of them here, so that everyone can see the answers. I regret that I will not be able to answer all of them.
Patricia S. asked “When can we expect more Naval records–specifically for WWII?” Right now, we have several significant collections of naval records online. Information about many sailors who served eary in the 19th century can be found in this database. An index to the pension records of those who served in the Navy during the Civil War is available here. Specific to World War II, we have images of the muster rolls for the men who served on aircraft carriers. Over time, we will add muster rolls for sailors who served on other naval vessels during World War II and we will be digitizing at the Naval Library in Washington, DC the cruise books (similar to yearbooks) that were often published at the conclusions of long voyages, containing pictures of the men on the ship and information about them.
Ron F. asked “How can you find out about medals … earned during the wars?” As we talked about during the webinar, soldiers and sailors who served in the various wars have service files and those service files should be the first place you go to in order to find out what medals were earned. Before World War I, service file records are stored at the National Archives in Washington, DC. For later wars, the service files are at the National Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. If you need a replacement for a medal that was earned, but later lost, you can find helpful information here.
YolyB. wrote about an uncle that is believed to have been an aide-de-camp to General Patton during World War II and asked whether her uncle’s service record would be helpful in providing information about this. The National Archives has just published a helpful guide to finding information about what particular soldiers did during World War II. In addition to the records mentioned in this guide, the National Archives has published an extensive 119-page guide to its holdings of military records that can be obtained for free from the National Archives by calling 866-272-6272 and asking for Reference Information Paper 109, which is titled Military Service Records at the National Archives. Operational records from the various World War II military units and leaders are at the National Archives’ facility at College Park, Maryland. Since those records are voluminous, it would be best to start with record sources such as the uncle’s service file and use what is found in that file to help narrow down when and where the uncle would have served as an aide-de-camp. Then you could consult with an archivist in College Park for help in determining what operational records might add further details to the relationship between the uncle and the general.
Sharon W. asked “Can we get maps of the battles that our Dads fought and maybe brief descriptions for the battles?” The National Archives has extensive collections of battlefield maps from World War II. Call the National Archives at 866-272-6272 and ask for a free copy of Reference Information Paper 79, titled World War II Records in the Cartographic and Architectural Branch of the National Archives. If you know which specific battles you are interested in learning more about, articles about the battle likely were published in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Ancestry has digitized copies of the Pacific and European editions of that newspaper published during World War II and the period of Japan occupation that followed, and we also have digitized issues published during World War I. In addition, we may have images of the battles of interest in our collection of images of war and conflict, which covers all wars in which the United States fought. Finally, we have digitized the complete set of newsreels produced by the United States government during World War II — footage from many battles is available this way.
Suzette A. asked “Why did they cut off the ends of World War I [draft registration] cards for African Americans?” The reason for this lies in the fact that during World War I (and World War II), troops were segregated by race. Cutting a corner off of the draft registration cards made it possible to find African American cards quickly so that the draft boards could quickly determine how many African American men had registered for the draft.
Marilyn W. asked, “Is there anything dealing with the frontier wars and people who fought in them?” The short answer is “YES!” The long answer is that what exactly can be found for any particular person depends on whether that person was an officer or an enlisted man, and on whether that person served during peacetime or during a time of war. Usually, people who served on the western frontier were enlistment men in the Regular Army, meaning the army that existed continuously, even during peacetime. During times of war, the Regularly Army was often augmented by volunteer troops raised by states and so during the Civil War there were some volunteer forces who served in the “Wild West” — including some loyal forces from Southern states who were sent to serve in the West. We have digitized and indexed enlistment registers for the Regular Army for the period 1798-1914. Many of those men served, at least for a time, in the West. Also, we just added images of Returns from the United States Army’s military posts for the years 1800-1916. If you know where an ancestor of interest served, you can likely find information about him in these records, including information about the battles in which he fought. These returns are now being indexed by our Ancestry World Archives Project volunteers. For more information about how you can help in keying these records, click here.