Posted by Jennifer Holik on June 26, 2018 in Guest Bloggers

Searching for information on Army military service from World War I can be a bit difficult for some researchers due to the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). We tend to think we have to only look for World War I Army service information at the NPRC and if the records burned, then we are out of luck. What if there are other lesser known resources, available to help you discover more about your World War I soldier? Let’s explore a few and what you can learn about your soldier’s service.

For this example, we will use a man named Eugene C. Bacon from New York. Entering this search let’s say we knew he had some World War I service. What can we discover using Fold3 and Ancestry military records to learn more? As we explore the different record search results, what we discover about his military service may surprise you.

New York 74th Regimental Service Cards on Fold3.com

These are enlistment cards for men who served in the 74th Infantry of the New York National Guard in World War I. The source for these cards is the New York State Military Museum. If you have family from New York, explore their website for numerous resources on New York’s military service including educational events.

Let’s look at both sides of the card for Eugene Bacon. What information can we discover to put his timeline of service together?

Name: Eugene C. Bacon

Born: 23 May 1890 in Medina, New York

Enlistment: 2 years from 26 November 1917 to 19 August 1918. He received an honorable discharge.

Unit: F Company 74th Infantry Regiment

Promotions: 1st Sgt on 18 December 1917 based on Special Order #21 HQs 74th Regiment

We also learn about his physical description, including tattoos or other marks on the body. This was important and documented in service records in case a soldier was killed and did not have any identification on him.

Where Can We Go Next?

If we search for Eugene on Ancestry, we can discover more about his service in the collection of New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1918.

Unit: F Company 3rd Infantry New York National Guard with a notation to see Mexican Border Service.

Grades (Ranks): Private to 1st Sergeant (Sgt)

No wounds in action and no overseas service. This means he did not go to France during the war. His Honorable Discharge was for dependent relatives.

Mexican Border Campaign Service

Searching within Military Records on Ancestry, we also discover this record set which contains more service information. New York, Mexican Punitive Campaign Muster Rolls for National Guard, 1916-1917.

Eugene served in F Company 3rd Infantry New York National Guard from 27 September 1914 to 5 October 1916, while the company was at Camp Whitman, New York. Upon discharge his rank was 1st Sgt. The notes indicate he served 3 years, 7 months, 9 days with the New York National Guard. He served 4 years, 11 months U.S. Navy and his enlistment expired 20 November 1917. In addition to requesting his National Guard records from New York state, I would also request his service file for the Navy from the NPRC.

The Surprise – World War II Service

Searching further, we discover that at age 50, Eugene served in World War II also. In the record set, New York, New York Guard Service Cards, 1906-1918, 1940-1948, we learn more about his service.

Name: Eugene C. Bacon

He enlisted in two year periods and after each discharge, re-enlisted. His service periods in L Company 65th Infantry Regiment include:

11 February 1941 – 10 February 1943

11 February 1943 – 10 February 1945

11 February 1947 – 10 February 1947

Next Steps

Continue to search for databases and records on Fold3 and Ancestry for Eugene. Add each fact to his Ancestry family tree. Be sure to note where records are more than one page. Also, request his military records from the NPRC for his Naval service. His National Guard service will be recorded in New York State in National Guard records. From there, explore unit level records at the National Archives in Washington D.C., and College Park, Maryland, to get a better understanding of his overall service. The unit records will provide more contextual information on the units in which he served.

Are you ready to start exploring more World War I records? Please share the interesting discoveries you make in the comments.

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer Holik is an international WWII researcher, speaker, and author of the only authoritative books on the market, “Stories from the World War II Battlefield,” which teach individuals how to research WWII service across any branch. She can be found at her website The World War II Research and Writing Center or on Facebook.

5 Comments

  1. Susan

    Other good sources are Newspapers.com and fultonhistory.com. which is mainly for New York State papers. I was able to find an uncle’s information about his joining up in St. Louis, MO during WWI by checking Newspapers.com and the time period 1914-1918.

  2. Stephanie

    I second the use of newwapapers.com and other newspaper resources for researching military service. I’ve found information on numerous male relatives in various cities’ and states’ newspapers, including lists of those who registered for the draft and what their classification was, lists of those actually drafted and from which communities, lists of troop trains with names of those departing on that train and where the train was bound. In almost all instances the person’s address is listed. I’ve also found articles in the “personals” and community news columns of soldiers home on leave between assignments that give family members’ names as well as locations of their military service. I even found mention of my father’s first wife visiting my grandparents while he was stationed overseas that gave his duty station and military rank. They can be a gold mine of information.

  3. Tom Boyer

    Facebook has several groups dedicated to WWI service members. I found several of my ancestor’s military units through VA headstone applications or from their headstones themselves and then asked a number of Facebook groups where those units served in France. Remarkable insight and historical knowledge resource.

  4. Bruce Gomes

    Also want to echo newspapers as sources. Newspapers often published everyone who were required to register, even if they were ruled ineligible to serve (many recent immigrants attempted to serve) or if they then requested exemption from serving (sole support for a family). Newspapers would often then document when they left for service and where they first went, updates while they were serving and notices when they returned.

  5. Susan Deeter Murphy

    Re: New England records kept at city level.
    Tracing maternal lines led us to Vermont. The courthouse burned down, along with records. Can you suggest an alternate line of inquiry?

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