Most of us have heard that two heads are better than one. This is especially true with World War II research. Just as with any genealogical research, one person does not know everything. One database or record repository does not have all the records or the entire story. Working together, collaborating, through different avenues, we can expand our World War II soldier stories.
Collaboration seems to be an important word and concept in the genealogical community in 2016. I’m seeing this word appear in numerous places as people gather to start new projects. Collaboration can also be seen in the World War II communities, although it is more on a unit or division level, rather than a professional level. However, there are a few of us working together to expand World War II education and access to research and expertise, especially in Europe. You can learn more about this collaboration on my website under Collaboration.
One researcher I have worked extensively with is Eric Bijtelaar in the Netherlands. His focus is the 99th Infantry Division. Eric and I have worked together to share information on 99th Division soldiers to help clients and those who ask questions in different forums. The collaboration works well because I have access to records in the U.S., and he has access to records in Europe, in addition to knowledge of the battlefields where the soldiers fought and died.
Where else can we find collaboration for World War II research? Ancestry offers several avenues to accomplish collaboration.
Ancestry Family Trees
Family trees are one source of information for World War II research. Researchers have the ability to connect information from records on Ancestry and Fold3, and they can upload their own photos, maps, and documents. When these uploaded items are properly sourced, they offer a tremendous resource to researchers seeking information. Then, when researchers contact the tree owner to see if there is additional information, or to share what they have, even more knowledge can be gained. A greater story written.
Ancestry Message Boards
Ancestry also offers Message Boards to researchers. These boards can be searched by topic, surname, or keywords. Do a search for WWII and see what appears. Try advanced searching to locate WWII plus your surname or a location or battle in which your relative fought.
Don’t rule out older posts. Attempt to make contact through comments with the original posters or commenters. You never know when someone will have information. When I began researching in 1996, I posted on the Flying Tiger Association Message Boards about my cousin Robert Brouk. He was killed in a plane crash three weeks after marrying in November 1942 after the American Volunteer Group (AVG) disbanded in July 1942. Nine years later, in 2005, Robert’s widow’s grandson saw my post and she contacted me. The family had no idea what happened to her after Robert’s death. You just never know when someone will see your post or comment and come forward with information.
Ancestry Support Community
Ancestry also offers a Support Community, which includes a link to the Message Boards. Use this to also locate information and connect with others researching the same unit, battle, or location. (Note: Ancestry’s Online Support Community is undergoing some upgrades so full features may not be available.)
Blogs (Ancestry and Fold3)
Blogs have been around for years and most of us have probably written our own, sharing information about our families. Ancestry and Fold3 offer blog posts on specific research and educational topics. Both allow for comments.
In January, I responded to some comments on a Fold3 post about the Battle of the Bulge. I explained how people could receive information on their soldiers, and that not all the records burned. I also explained where they could locate information, through my website and other researchers. This led to the Ninth Infantry Division contacting me to give a talk at their annual reunion this summer in Florida. I will be talking about WWII research and meeting veterans and family members.
Read not only the blog posts but the comments, although I know on some of the posts, the comments become lengthy. Pick and choose. You may find someone researching your soldier or connect with a historian or group that has records you can use. Or you may learn about a reunion which you could attend to meet others who may have known your soldier and obtain record copies to further your research.
Facebook is another source for collaboration, primarily through Groups and Pages. Ancestry has a U.S. page (as well as UK, Sweden, Australia, Canada and Germany) and there are many groups for genealogical and military research. How do you find a Page or Group that fits your needs? Let’s use my 99th Infantry Division from earlier as an example. Search keywords could be:
- 99th Infantry Division or 99th Division
- 394th Infantry Regiment (A part of the overall division.)
- Battle of the Bulge (A battle they fought)
- Battle Babies (the division nickname)
- Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge
There are many groups and pages dedicated to this research. Join the discussion and share your knowledge. Ask specific questions you would like answers to and see what results you receive.
Finally, consider LinkedIn, if you are a member, as another way to share and learn about your soldier’s service. You may say, LinkedIn is a professional networking website. Yes, however, if you are a member there, the avenues to share and learn about research are numerous.
- Share blog posts about your research in a status update.
- Write a post discussing some of your research.
- Join a group on genealogy or military research.
- Connect with other genealogical and military historians to grow your network. Attempt to connect with Branch or Unit Historians for the military branch or unit you are researching.
These are only a few avenues through which you can collaborate and share information with other researchers to further your World War II research. Have you had any good experiences with any of the avenues mentioned here? Can you recommend other avenues of which Ancestry blog readers should be aware? Thanks for sharing with us. When you do, we all benefit.