Seventy-one years have passed since the end of World War II. The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945, but the war in the Pacific raged on until 14 August 1945, also known as V-J Day. The official, formal surrender of the Japanese took place on 2 September 1945.
In America after the war, soldiers returned home to begin their lives again. Families grieved for all those lost during the war. A few stories were told, but for the most part, our veterans returned with the stories bottled up inside. As the years passed, more veterans began opening up about their service and families began to wonder what information could be located.
Europeans began rebuilding their lives, often from scratch because of all the destruction. Individuals and families across the continent also began honoring our fallen soldiers buried in temporary American Military Cemeteries, particularly at Margraten in Holland. (During the war, military reports referred to the country as Holland, which we know as the Netherlands.) The cemetery at Margraten was the first to create an official grave adoption program, which is still in place today. In fact, all of the graves and names on the Wall of the Missing have been adopted. After the war ended, the grave adoption families tried to contact the American families and learn about the soldier whose grave they adopted. Many could not due to all the red tape involved. It could take decades before some of the grave adopters located a family member for their soldier.
This wish for connection continues today as grave adopters still seek information and photographs of their soldier. To help provide information, the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves strives to put a face with every name and collect information on our soldiers in these cemeteries. To take their research database to the next level and locate photos for every soldier, they need help from American genealogists.
On the other side of this coin, there are many Americans who wish to learn more about their soldier, sailor, or Marine. Researchers and foundations in Europe have amassed large amounts of information, which they make available to Americans. The problem is, most Americans do not know these resources exist.
Over the last several years as I researched and wrote books and programs on how to research our World War II soldiers, sailors, and Marines, I connected with many individuals and groups in Europe. In speaking with them, some use resources like Ancestry, Fold3, FindAGrave, and Newspapers.com, but often with little success in locating information. Why? Because they are not as familiar with genealogy as we are. There is also a language barrier as many do not speak English. And until my books were released in American and Europe, no one taught them how to research every service branch for World War II because those resources did not exist.
To help American genealogists connect with European researchers who want to know more about our soldiers, and to help Europeans learn how to use the resources mentioned above, I am launching a program called Honoring World War II Service Together, on 29 August 2016.
- To provide researchers with education and resources for World War II soldiers and civilians.
- To help people discover, write, and preserve the stories of Americans involved in World War II.
- To help American researchers work with European researchers and foundations to preserve the history of our soldiers and civilians.
- To help foundations and researchers in Europe work with American researchers, museums, and organizations to preserve the history of servicemen and women who liberated their countries.
- To help organizations develop memorial programs and projects to preserve the history and stories of Americans who took part in the war effort.
To help Americans connect and assist European researchers, and to help Europeans learn how to better use the resources American genealogists use, I will be providing articles and other resources on my website and my Ancestry guest blog posts. These articles can be used in tandem to learn new ways to use resources.
Would you like to learn more?
I am giving two World War II research talks (2 and 3 September) at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference this week in Springfield, Illinois. I will be at AncestorStuff’s table with a limited number of research books for sale, and answering research questions at the conference.
Please stop by, say hello, ask questions, and let me know what kinds of articles you would like to see me write for World War II on the Ancestry blog. I would love to hear what Ancestry, Fold3, and Newspapers.com questions you have or your stories on locating information in those resources.
I will be at AncestorStuff’s table on:
- Thursday 10:00 – noon and 2:00-5:00
- Friday 9:00 – 11:30
- Saturday 9:00 – 11:30
The full press release for this program and articles can be found on the World War II Research and Writing Center website.