Posted by Ancestry Team on November 7, 2016 in In The Community

This week there is a lot going on in our country as we elect a new President on Tuesday, November 8th. Did you also know that Friday, November 11th, is Veterans Day? I wonder if people will be so wrapped up in the election that they forget to honor those who helped give us the freedoms we enjoy today. While I usually write a World War II research based article, this month I’d like to share some thoughts on how you can preserve military history for any war.

Using Ancestry Member Trees, families can create histories of their veteran’s service history. How can you do this?

  • Go into your Ancestry family tree and add a new FACT. It could be ‘MILITARY.’
  • Add a date and a place to the fact.
  • Add a description of the fact or tell a story about the soldier’s service.

With each FACT you add, you are creating a timeline of service. If you need more of an explanation of why this is important, please see my article, Building a WWII Timeline of Service.

Now that you know how to easily add a FACT, what kinds of facts should you add? The following is a short list to help you think about things you have discovered in your research that could be added to your veteran’s timeline. Please note: All these facts can be added to the stories of service members who were Killed In Action or are still Missing In Action.

  • Military: Daily or monthly list of locations in which a soldier, sailor, or Marine trained, was stationed, or fought.
  • Military: Specific types of training received. Include dates, scores, equipment or vehicles trained on and location of training.
  • Military: Dates and places with the names of major battles or campaigns in which a service member participated. You can also list any awards or decorations received.
  • Military: Ships on which a service member served. Include the dates and a photograph if you have one. Check for WWII Naval War Diaries to see what other information you can add to your tree.
  • Medical: Dates your soldier was sick or wounded while in service. These dates are documented in their Official Military Personnel File, medical records, morning reports, muster rolls, and death files.
  • Residence: Was the soldier stationed somewhere in the U.S. rather than overseas? Keeping track of addresses is important in tracing movement of families. Look on old letters, postcards, V-Mail, and the back of photographs for addresses. These details are also in military records.
  • Death and Burial: These are two facts every researcher enters at some point for a family member. Consider including photographs and a description of the funeral if it is military burial.


James P. Timeline


Within the Facts, you can also upload media that can expand on the service member’s story and be shared with others.

Supporting Our Veterans

Many communities across the country are having Veteran’s Day services in VFWs, town halls, and near local memorials. Are you attending any of these with a veteran in your family? If you are, here are some things to consider.

  • Take photos of the ceremonies that you attend with your family’s veteran. Add those to your family tree and expand your history.
  • Write a short story about the ceremony and attach it to your family tree with the photos.
  • Interview your family’s veteran. Preserve the stories before they are gone. This is especially important for our World War II veterans who are dying by the 100s daily. Need some interview question ideas? The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project has several files you can download to help you interview and gather items for your family’s history. If you follow their guidelines you can also submit an oral history for inclusion in the program.

What ways are you preserving the stories of your family’s veterans? Please share with us in the comments.


  1. Denise

    Great article Jennifer! Everyone in America should thank all veterans for their service especially on Veterans Day. It is a holiday that I and every citizen should never forget. I’m very proud of my families veterans from World War I to Iraq. Each year my family makes a donation to a veterans group. I have traced all the veterans in my family including the service records in Ancestry and Yes, I’m also proud to vote for our new President and I hope that everyone will do the same.

  2. sara k danison

    Several Years ago I began a Military Notebook because I began to discover many “cousins” of my Patriot were also Patriots.This is now in chapters by war and/or conflict, which in turn is sectioned by surname and date.Each person has a section in which information pertinent to that person is added,with a sub-section of major events,little-known facts,maps,references,additional areas to search, bibliography, etc.,including my written memories. This has grown such that it now several large notebooks and has become a search source of its own.Example: People of several surnames intersected in the the battle and /or area, which I might not have learned through the usual searching. This has also become an interesting read. I am 81.

  3. Micheál Ó Meallaigh

    My father, born John Melly but registered in the US army as John Malley was in Pattons Army during WW11 and served in Northern Africa, moved north up through Italy to Rome and was later dropped in Southern France as part of the second DDay and later into Germany. He retired to Donegal and died there 30 March 1990.

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