Have you checked out the U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939? The description tells us about the records.
About This Collection
The U.S. Army Transport Service (ATS) was established in 1899 as part of the Army Quartermaster Department. It was originally created to manage the transport of troops and cargo on Army ships that traveled between U.S. and overseas ports during the Spanish-American War. During World War I, the Quartermaster Corps managed the Army’s deep-water fleet.
The records in this collection consist of passenger lists created between 1910 and 1939. These lists recorded details on all persons arriving at U.S. ports on ATS ships. In addition to troops, passengers could also include nurses and other support personnel, family members, and any other passengers who may have been traveling aboard these ships. In some instances, troops from other countries traveled on U.S. Army ships. Details recorded in these passenger lists typically include the following information.
History of WWI Repatriation of Deceased Soldiers
This database also contains the manifests of the WWI War Dead. After both World Wars, remains were not repatriated, or brought back to the U.S. from overseas until 1920 after WWI and 1947 after WWII. Soldiers were buried near where they fell (if they were recovered) in one of the many temporary cemeteries established in the Theater of War in which they served. Remains discovered after the war ended were often temporarily buried until the government gave the family the option to choose to either repatriate the remains or leave them overseas to be buried in an American Military Cemetery. There were a few other options, but those two were the most common.
Albert Kokoska’s Ship Manifests
My great-granduncle, Albert Kokoska, fought in WWI in France. He can be found on a ship manifest leaving the U.S. and heading to France with B Battery 139th Field Artillery 38th Division. Note the manifest on which he is listed shows the name, serial number, next of kin and address. The unit is at the top of the manifest and then in a skinny column before the next of kin is listed.
His returning ship manifest looks similar.
Michael Kokoska’s Ship Manifests
Albert’s brother Michael Kokoska has a manifest leaving the U.S. that looks similar to Albert’s.
Michael died in June 1918 in France. His remains were temporarily interred in France and did not return to the U.S. until 1921. The manifest for repatriated soldiers looks slightly different from a manifest on which there are living soldiers.
Do you see the difference? There is small print at the top of the manifest which states names will be grouped by sick/wounded/deceased, etc. I’m not sure on which page of the manifest that code exists, because it does not show up on this page. The reference cable code does not appear on the living manifests. This likely refers to the cable telegram sent to the family member notifying them of the return of remains. Michael’s WWI burial file (see below) has these telegrams in the documents. The families were notified of the approximate date a funeral ship would return to the U.S. and that they would be notified when the remains would arrive in their hometown.
Suggestions for Attaching to your Tree
It is always exciting to find new records on Ancestry, but please be aware of what you are looking at before you add it to your family tree without any explanation. It could be the opposite of what it appears to be. When you attach a manifest for a deceased soldier, please add a note in the description field for the fact. State that this is for a deceased WWI soldier. Provide additional details or refer to another fact you created.
More Information on WWI Deaths
The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, has the Burial File, which was created for every soldier who died in WWI. For those researching WWII, this file was renamed the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). The Burial File is important for researchers because it contains information on a soldier’s death, temporary burial, permanent burial, condition of the body, and usually contains handwritten correspondence from the family to the government. You will learn a lot about your soldier’s service and family from this file.
To learn more on researching WWI or WWII service, please visit my website, the World War II Research and Writing Center, read the educational article, and explore the resources.