Ancestry family trees provide researchers with a wealth of resources to help locate names, dates, and places within records, that can help us build a story about an individual and his or her family. Genealogical research should be more than a collection of names, dates, and places. Luckily, Ancestry family trees help us move beyond collecting dry facts, to writing a story using historical context.
Historical context places relevant events and details around a person based on the time and place in which he or she lived. We can apply this to our World War II research when we learn about the training of a soldier, sailor, or Marine. We have access to unit level histories and analyses of battles fought. All of these pieces add to our soldier’s story.
Fold3.com is a good resource for finding those pieces that add context. Primarily a military records site, Fold3.com provides access to documents and images from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. There are additional Commonwealth records, a few non-military record sets, and newspapers, as well.
With it’s focus mainly on military records, Fold3 dives deeper into contextual records. Some of the background information you may find may be on collections that may not specifically name of your soldier, unless he was an officer.
Record collections for World War II on Fold3 include:
- Unit level histories.
- Monographs written after the war which analyze major battles or units.
- Donated records from military associations.
- Naval War Diaries.
- USMC Mission Reports.
Important Research Note! Fold3 does not have the Official Military Personnel Files for a soldier. You still have to get these records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Searching Fold3.com Collections
There is an art to finding the best contextual information on your soldier’s service. To do so, researchers must move beyond the searching by name only and searching within record collections. How do we do this?
Searching within a record set means you browse the Fold3 Collections to a specific publication. Then, use the search box at the top of the form to search for a unit, soldier’s name, battle, or some other relevant piece of information.
Let’s use 1st Lt. Robert E. Bishop as an example for what we can find in Fold3 records. Robert E. Bishop was a Marine Corps aviator and member of the VMSB-341, MAG-21, 2nd MAW, lost at sea near New Britain on 17 January 1944. Serial Number O-21059.
Three matches appear when you search only Bishop’s name and focus on WWII War Diaries. They are:
- WWII War Diaries – MMAR AIR GR 21 – War History – Page 11
- WWII War Diaries – CCOMAIR SOLOMONS – Mission Reps for 1/1/44 to 5/31/44 – Page 14
- WWII War Diaries – VVMSB-341 – War Diary, 1/1-31/44 – Page 10
Important Research Note! The Marines during World War II were under the authority of the U.S. Navy. Therefore, many of their records and aviation mission reports will be contained within WWII Naval War Diaries.
Documenting Facts in Ancestry Trees from Fold3 Records
When you locate records which name your soldier, Fold3 allows you to attach records to a tree on Ancestry. Be careful when you do this as you are often only providing one page of what could a lengthier packet of documents. Attaching only one page could cause context to be lost. People who browse trees on Ancestry may not understand what the record really means in the big picture.
Research Tip! Put a description of the full document in the fact description area on your Ancestry tree and note the number of pages so researchers can reference the full report.
Focusing on the Documents in Fold3
Once we link the three WWII War Diaries cited above to a tree for Robert E. Bishop, we have one small piece of the puzzle documented in the Ancestry tree. We can move the research further by reading the reports and writing our analysis of what Bishop experienced as part of VMSB-341 or MAG-21. When you cite the sources from the reports in your writing and upload a document to your tree on Ancestry, you are providing greater context for other researchers who browse your tree.
Adding Facts and Writing the Context Helps Everyone
There are thousands of people around the world who are just beginning their research on Ancestry and have little to no experience in military research or writing. When you write up an analysis of records you find on Fold3 and attach those notes to your tree with source citations, it serves as a guide to those who are unsure how to start or what to do. Your write-up will help them better understand this part of the research process. And of course, as you add these contextual pieces to your tree, you are also slowly building the story that helps bring that individual and his family to life.
Are you ready to start exploring other records and build your Ancestry family tree?