Post-WWI and Post-WWII Immigration to the United States

This year, 100 years have passed since the U.S. entered World War I, and 75 years have passed since the U.S. entered World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each day, more people begin investigating their family’s role in these wars by researching their American soldier. One area of American military research that has not been discussed often, is the role of Europeans who fought alongside or with the Americans, and later immigrated to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

How many of the Ancestry blog readers have a European family member who fought with the Americans in either war and later immigrated? Recently, someone contacted me about writing a book about a Polish citizen who was shuffled through concentration camps during WWII and ended up being freed by the Americans in late 1944. This citizen was 14 years old at that time and chose to fight with one of our Armored Divisions. Later, he immigrated to the U.S. and created an incredible life for himself. This made me wonder how many others have stories like this that are not being investigated.

As years go by, our World War I veterans are all gone and the veterans and family members who lived during the World War II years die in large numbers and will soon be gone. It is up to us to keep their memories alive and tell their stories.

After both World Wars, many people immigrated to our country to begin new lives, U.S. immigration laws permitting. Have we looked at these immigrants or are we still focused on the early 1900 and earlier immigrants? If we have not, then why? Is it because of privacy restrictions on records or lack of records, like the 1950 U.S. Census which is not yet released?

How can we find information on the service of these men and women who served alongside or with our troops? Use the following checklist to help navigate your research on these family members.

Wartime Checklist

Attempt to locate information on your soldier’s service in Europe with foreign armies or the U.S. Army.

Post-War Immigration Checklist

Locate the following databases on Ancestry.com to learn more about your family member.

There are many resources available to genealogists to trace their family member’s lives and military service. The checklist provided here is not a complete list, but will get you started and encourage further research into other online and offline records.

Have you researched your immigrant family member’s post-war life? What interesting things did you find?