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Weekly Planner: Research Military Units

military medal.jpgMost of us can identify at least one family member who served in the military in our family tree. Have you researched his or her military service? Where were they stationed? Did they see active duty and if so, what engagements did the unit participate in? Look for their military unit history online and investigate the holdings of the archives of their service branch. Learning more about our ancestors military service is a great way to honor the veterans in our family this Veterans’ Day.

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Using Ancestry: Loving the Old Man’s Draft

by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
If you’re like me, there are certain sets of records that get you more excited than others. It mostly depends on your own roots, I suppose. And maybe that’s why I love the so-called “old man’s draft” of 1942. It happens to be a handy resource for my family, and depending on the specifics of yours, you might have cause to add it to your favorites as well.

The Basics
The notes on the U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 collection include more details than you’ll probably need, so I’ll just cover the fundamentals. This registration was conducted on 27 April 1942. All men who were born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897 (men who were between forty-five and sixty-four years of age at the time) were required to register, provided they weren’t already in the military. Continue reading

More Lessons From the “Greenbrier Ghost”

by Juliana Smith

Thanks to everyone who has sent in what they found on the missing son of Elva Zona Heaster, “the Greenbrier Ghost.” For those of you who missed last week’s column, we took a look at an old ghost story about a woman who purportedly visited her mother after her death as a ghost to let her know she’d been murdered by her husband. Based on the ghost’s appearance and the details she gave her mother, the local prosecutor was persuaded to exhume the body and reopen the case. Her husband was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Prior to her marriage, in November 1895, Elva had given birth to an illegitimate son and because he is not listed with her family in any subsequent censuses, I issued a challenge to anyone who could determine what became of her son. (See last week’s article for more details on the case.

I got a great response with quite a number of leads. As I browsed through the e-mails and did a little more research on the case myself, I found quite a few lessons that we can apply to our own research.

So You Searched It All?
Perhaps my biggest frustration with my initial searches was that I couldn’t locate the Heaster family in the 1900 census. Several readers bested me when they located the family, who had been indexed as “Hastie,” right there in Meadow Bluff. I had tried a number of variations and even browsed the entire Meadow Bluff district and still missed them.

My excuses? The handwriting was very faint. There were markings over the name, completely obliterating the head of household. The name was misspelled and indexed incorrectly. I was rushing to get the article into the newsletter so I could meet my deadline. The dog ate my laptop. . . . Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Set Up an “Unknowns” Folder

from George G. Morgan

We all have names and documents concerning people we can’t yet link to our own family lines. Don’t throw these pages away! These “unknowns” may eventually fit into the genealogy puzzle. Take the time to set up an “unknowns” folder for every surname you are researching. Periodically, go back through these folders and reevaluate the possibility that they are part of your family tree. You may be surprised to find links, even after several years.

Your Quick Tips, 06 November 2006

Keeping Up With the In-Laws
In tracing the family tree of family members of collateral lines, (i.e., the descendants of your aunts and uncles of various degrees), usually one can run through the standard list of indexes, books, records, and databases for a person’s name to find the usual birth, marriage, and death information one needs, but if you are researching a relation who is suspected or known to have been married and the couple moves away from their home county or out-of-state, you may lose all trace of your research subjects using local records, with perhaps one exception, the in-laws, who may have remained “at home.”

While not a part of every person’s family tree research, it does prove useful to keep track of the parents of every person who marries into a family tree. Look for the same set of records for them, at least vital records such as birth certificates, marriage records, death certificates, funeral home records, and obituaries, as you would for any other member of the family.

Oftentimes, the death certificates will give the name and address of the informant, usually a relative, and maybe the one you lost track of and are looking for. Funeral home records and obituaries usually list all the survivors of an individual, where they lived, etc., and so, in this way you may be able to follow the movements of younger generations by locating the death records and obituaries of older generations.

And, so, in keeping up with the in-laws, you may be able to discover just where your aunts, uncles, and cousins disappeared to.

Philip A. Naff
Indianapolis, Indiana Continue reading

The Year Was 1853

The year was 1853 and in the U.S., Franklin Pierce took the oath of office, succeeding Millard Fillmore. The inauguration was a sad one for President Pierce and his wife Jane though. A couple months before the family was in a train wreck in Massachusetts and their eleven-year-old son Ben was killed.

Another train wreck that year was considered the first major railroad disaster, when a New Haven train plunged through an open drawbridge into the Norwalk River. Forty-six passengers were killed and many more injured.

Railroads were connecting the country and making it easier to move westward.  Southerners hoped for a transcontinental railroad that would take a southern route and at the end of 1853, the Gadsden Purchase was signed defining the U.S./Mexican border west of El Paso, Texas. While the transcontinental railroad took a more northerly route, the purchase did add more than 29,000 square miles in what is now southern New Mexico and Arizona for the sum of $10 million dollars. Continue reading

Photo Corner

James Corlett Simkins (1896-1969)Contributed by Kathie Kloss Marynik, Granite Bay, CA
Attached is a photograph of my great-uncle, James Corlett Simkins (1896-1969), who was a veteran of World War I.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Leo Donohue, 14th AAFContributed by Kevin Riley
My grandfather, Leo Donohue, was a lieutenant in the Signal Corps and served with the 14th AAF as a radio operator. He obviously had a flair for the dramatic as this photo from China demonstrates.

“Digital Genealogist” Now Available Electronically

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a new publication from former Genealogical Computing editor, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CG, CGL, in one of my columns. That publication, the Digital Genealogist, is now available and the first issue can be viewed free online at The first edition of this electronic publication is free. Future editions will require a $20 subscription.

Former GC subscribers will recognize many of the authors from that publication in the Digital Genealogist and columns in this issue cover a wide range of topics–from Wiping Your Hard Drive to Family Reunion Flyers to Essential Technologies for Genealogists. There are also a number of reviews and a more in-depth article In Search of Genealogical Software.