Finding Photos and Memorializing the Fallen – A Unique Volunteer Opportunity

Last blog I mentioned Joseph Reid, the father-in-law of my husband’s 5th cousin twice removed.  You may be wondering why in the world I would have someone in my tree that is not related and so far removed.  Here’s the deal…I have done several surname studies which includes everyone by the same surname in a particular area.  My purpose was twofold; I wanted to try to connect all the Harbaughs in the U.S. and updated the last attempt to do so, the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider Harbaugh History book.

As was common until the 20th century, the Harbaugh couples had many children so my tree became quite large.  (I’ve also did a surname study of the Leiningers but they immigrated later and didn’t have quite as many children in each generation but that, too, added non relatives to my tree.)

Since I have so many Harbaughs in one place and I documented each one as best as possible when I added them, I am frequently emailed about our connections.  Usually, the question is, “How are you related to my (fill in the blank) Harbaugh?”  Actually, I’m not, my husband would be the relation.  I guess folks don’t see the Ancestry.com relationship info at the top of the page:

I try to always respond and let the the person who is inquiring know that all the information I have is public and posted.

When doing the surname study, if information was available, I would include the parents of the person who married into the Harbaugh family but I didn’t research that distant individual.  That’s why Joseph Reid, the father-in-law, was in my tree.  Joseph Reid’s son was Joseph Shortridge Reid (26 Aug 1889 MO-5 Jan 1938 MO) who married Ruth Arelia Harbaugh (11 Feb 1891 MO – 29 Jun 1969 MO).  The couple had 2 daughters and a son.  The email I received regarding the Harbaugh-Reids was inquiring if I had a photo of Joseph Shortridge Reid Jr. who died on 17 Apr 1945 as a casualty in WW2.

The Fields of Honor Database is an organization devoted to memorializing the 28,000 American service personnel that were killed or missing in the line of duty.  They are planning a memorial service in 2020 and were hoping to find photos of those killed in action.  Joseph Reid Jr. was one of those individuals.

I was not familiar with the organization so after checking them out, I decided to try to find a picture of Joseph.  The organization had already contacted Ancestry.com tree owners who had Joseph in their tree but no one but me had responded. 

I don’t frequently research Kansas City, Missouri but I thought I’d accept the challenge.  I checked the typical online sites for a photo – Fold3, MyHeritage, Newspapers.com, Chronicling America, Google, etc. but came up with nada.  I then emailed the American Gold Star Mothers to see if they had a repository that could be accessed.  Unfortunately, the reply I received said they don’t.

Next I contacted the genealogy section of a Kansas City public library and the research librarian did find a photo, albeit of poor quality, that had been placed in the Kansas City Star newspaper with his obituary:

I provided the obituary and photo to Fields of Honor and was asked if I could help with missing photos for Indiana men.  I agreed to do what I could and selected Lake and Elkhart counties.  

Lake County, Indiana is a particularly tricky place to research as many of Gary’s records have disappeared with the city’s decline.  Of course, most of the men I needed photos for had resided in Gary.  I again did a preliminary online search as I had for Joseph and came up with nothing.  I then went to the Lake County, Indiana obituary database that the public library system has available online.  NONE of the names appeared in the database.  I know that database contains names of people who have died elsewhere, like my grandmother for example, so why were all of these men missing?  Then it hit me – I recalled during the Vietnam War that those killed in action had a special write up in the local paper, the Gary [IN] Post Tribune. Could it be possible that this was also a practice in other wars?  

Before emailing the library research team I decided, as a backup, to find more information about the men.  I turned to the 1940 US Federal census to try to get an address of where they were residing. Knowing the area, I thought I could turn to school yearbooks to find a photo.  I could narrow the search to the nearest zoned high school based on the 1940 address.  A few men were not found in the census in Lake County.  That’s not surprising as many men moved to Gary after graduating to secure work in one of the steel mills.  That newly acquired info just gave me another place to look if the newspaper didn’t have a photo.

I then contacted the research library staff and am happy to report the following Gary men have been found:

Cloyce Neal Blassingame served in the first integrated Army unit:

Robert E. Cook:

Robert W. Ferguson:

Robert Ferguson was also found in Emerson’s school year book:

and Gordon Miller in Lew Wallace’s school year book:

(The year book publication date was 1946 and Gordon died in 1944.  There was not a 1945 year book, possibly due to the war.  Gordon was pictured with the class of 1944 but I’d like to find verification elsewhere like I did with Robert Ferguson.)

I am still in need of finding photos of the following men:

  • George Fedorchak Jr. (son of Mrs. Mary Fedorchak, 1428 W 13th Avenue, Gary; in 1940 he lived with his widowed mother, Anna, and sisters Marguerite, Genevieve and Helen at 800 “This South Avenue” probably Harrison Street, Gary.  He born about 1920.  Perhaps mother’s name was Mary Ann?).  
  • Edward A. Gooding
  • Mike Zigich (son of Pete & Annie, 2077 Grant St., Gary, born about 1926.  His only sibling predeceased him as a child.  Parents and sibling buried in a Russian Orthodox Cemetery on Ridge Road.  I wrote the parish for a possible church directory photo but did not get a response yet.)

The Zigich name is driving me crazy because I seem to remember Zigich’s when I lived in Gary as a kid.  I’m thinking Mike’s father was a friend of my grandfather.  Their burial place was only a mile from where I lived.  (This is off topic but my dear readers know how my brain works – I know I’m not alone in having a hazy memory from my youth so this is another reason TO WRITE EVERYTHING YOU DO REMEMBER DOWN NOW about your own family.)

So, this gets a little creepy – as the pictures were discovered it slowly dawned on me that people I knew would have known these individuals.  My mother-in-law would have attended Emerson High School with Robert Ferguson.  My aunt and uncle would have attended Lew Wallace with Gordon Miller.  I do recall that Lew Wallace had a memorial to the fallen; I even read the names once when I was waiting for a ride home before I had my driver’s license but the names on the memorial were meaningless to me.  As a teen in the 1970’s, the 1940’s seemed to be in the olden days.  The names listed were just names, not real people to me.  

As the world seems to be forgetting the lessons once learned, “lest not forget” these brave individuals who gave everything they had to end tyrrany.  Don’t let these lives cut short be forgotten!  The Fields of Honor is looking for photos from across the United States.  Click on their database and contribute a picture of a family member or someone from your hometown.  It only takes a few minutes to check your local newspaper archive or public library.  Your help is not only preserving their memory, it’s also supporting society’s fundamental principles in our troubled world. 

Volunteer at a Family History Day


Yesterday was a beautiful crisp fall day (okay, that would be by Florida standards) and our county genealogy society’s semi-annual community help day. Ten of us volunteered to assist and we were busy for 6 hours with no break. That’s awesome! Clearly there is a growing interest in genealogy and I met several people who shared delightful stories of their family and had burning questions needing answers.

If you contemplated becoming a volunteer at a genealogical event but feared you couldn’t because you weren’t a professional genealogist you’re sadly mistaken. That old saying “Two heads are better than one” is a classic example of why you would be helpful. Here’s some tips for first time volunteers:

Be prepared as time is limited. I always arrive early so my work area is ready. My society furnishes plenty of extension cords but yours may not. I bring my research baggie (see Research Tips), laptop with power cord, Kindle, and pad of paper. Make sure an empty chair is set up next to yours for the visitor. As soon as I’ve brought my computer up, I set up tabs with various sites (Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Fold3, NewYorkFamilyHistory, AmericanAncestors, FindMyPast, Findagrave, BillionGraves, Google) and login so I can go from one to the other quickly. As soon as one visitor is done I just need to clear the search engine and I’m ready for the next.
Connections are everywhere! The first two people who came for assistance didn’t know each other but their families evidently did back in Martinsville, West Virginia as they lived there at the same time in the late 1800’s. Strange that they were researching the same place and both came in within minutes of each other. If you overhear similarities play matchmaker! It’s an especially good technique for newbies to meet someone researching the same region even if it isn’t the same family. Think the “N” in FAN Club.
Patience is key. Many of the folks seeking help have no understanding that genealogy is a painstaking process. All they know is what they see on TV – instant family and travel across the pond. After introductions, I immediately say, “I hope I’m able to get you started on answering your family question. In real life, genealogy isn’t done in a one hour time slot. If we aren’t able to find the information online, I’ll give you additional resources where you can follow up.” Sometimes I have to remind them again when the online clues are scant.
Don’t take their disappointment as a personal failure. Yesterday, I spoke with two community people that had been referred to me because the prior genealogist couldn’t find the information they sought. After giving them my Patience is Key disclaimer, I asked what sources the prior researcher had checked and both said, “I don’t know. Just look again because they didn’t see it online.” This may sound silly but it really isn’t as it’s coming from people whose internet experience is limited. We’ve all used the refresh button and discovered an updated page. Of course, that isn’t going to happen on Chronicling America but they wouldn’t know that. I explain that I trust the prior researcher didn’t miss the obituary or emigration information minutes ago as not all info we seek is online. I then ask the prior researcher where he/she looked. I then check other places and make a list for the person to follow up on in the future. Because she didn’t get the obituary she wanted, one person stated she was done with genealogy forever. Okay, that’s her choice as this isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t make you feel your skills are inadequate.
Skill levels will vary. Be prepared to meet people that may have had more experience than you and folks that have never done any research. After introductions and my disclaimer, I ask what information they are seeking. The advanced will have a specific question, research logs and copies of documents. Several club members told me they paled when they saw other long term club members coming in for assistance as the volunteers felt they couldn’t possibly be of help to someone who had more experience then they did. Hogwash! Genealogy is not a spectator sport. All you need to do is listen to what the person wants to discover and where they’ve looked. Sure, sometimes the answer isn’t going to be found but there’s often an overlooked place just waiting to be discovered. For the individual seeking emigration information I recommended checking newspapers for Philadelphia for the late 1700’s bringing in indentured servants from Great Britain. Will it have her several times great grandfather’s name included? Probably not but it will give her more places to check as the immigration list for that particular ship may not have been digitized yet and she very well could find her ancestor listed on the original filed in an archive somewhere. She was quite happy with being pointed in a new direction.

These five simple tips can help you help others. I find it rewarding to share the genealogy bug and learn something from every person I meet. Give it a try!

History Unfolded – A Newspaper Project


Last week, I blogged about a summer volunteer opportunity through the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. A new challenge was just posted so I added my guess and the reason why. If deciphering transcriptions aren’t your style, here’s a new project that needs your help…

History Unfolded is creating a searchable newspaper database to measure the pulse of regional newspapers during the 1930’s and ’40’s regarding news about 30 Holocaust events. If you love to read old papers, then this is for you! You may use Newspapers.com or a local paper in which you have access. For more details – check out their website.

The Transcription Challenge


The Transcription Challenge is a unique way to volunteer. As AmericanAncestors.org transcribes the Massachusetts: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1798-1900, they have discovered some very difficult words to transcribe. Knowing the old saying “Many hands make light work” and “Two heads are better than one” are true, weekly during the summer, a new transcription challenge will be posted with the undecipherable area circled in red. So far, 4 challenges are available. All you need to do is take a look and make a comment of what you think is written for the appropriate number of the problem’s name. This is a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon! Give it a try…

More on Accessing Records

Last post I mentioned that access to valuable genealogical records may be limited due to proposed U.S. legislation. Today I want to let you know about other valuable records that are just waiting to be viewed. By becoming a NARA Citizen Archivist you can help digitize records that are just waiting to be discovered. Here’s a few of the tasks that are need:

Tagging

Transcribing

Uploading Photos

Contribute to Articles

Every little bit helps so find your niche and begin!

Viva Volunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You


I’ve just learned of an organization that does something unique in the genealogical field and I wanted to share it with you. Unclaimed Persons is an organization that unites families with deceased kin whose remains have not been claimed from the Coroner. Unfortunately, this is a situation that is occurring frequently as families relocate and lose touch with an elderly relative that remained behind. UnclaimedPersons.org was founded by Megan Smolenyak in 2008; more than 400 people have been aided but there is more work to do! You can help by volunteering your research skills from the comfort of your own home. Check out the FAQ on the website, visit the FaceBook page for open cases and put on your Super Sleuth hat to begin. Remember, “A good deed is never lost!”

Transcribers Needed! How You Can Help.

I recently received an email from the National Archives regarding a need for volunteers to help transcribe and tag items in the archives catalog.  What an awesome opportunity to help digitize historical records!  With the holiday season approaching, this opportunity is a wonderful way to give back to the genealogy community by helping to make available some of the U.S.’ national treasures! Not sure where to start?  I say, just follow your heart – check out the Transcription Missions and select whichever area interests you.  The directions are simple – just click here and the easy to follow instructions will get you on your way to doing a very good deed.

Mexican War Soldiers – A Project You Can Help With

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 29 Sep 2016.

Looking for a way to give back to the genealogical community?  An awesome preservation indexing project has begun that may be of interest to you.

The U.S. National Park Service’s Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park partnered last month with the Federation of Genealogical Societies for the purpose of developing a database of  individuals who served in the U.S.-Mexican War. The project will be ongoing – after the estimated 130,000 soldiers are entered to a searchable database, military unit information and related documents will be scanned and added.

You can help – just email Patricia Rand at projects@fgs.org.

Love Those Records Found Online? Here’s How You Can Keep Them Coming!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 10 July 2016.

Remember the days when you had to physically go to a location to find a record?  Or contact someone who lived close to where you needed to hunt and HOPE they would respond via snail mail?  And plan for months to get some ancestor hunting in when on a vacation or business trip?

Seems like years ago but it wasn’t.  How far we’ve come in this fast pace world with having information available at our fingertips whenever and wherever we are.

I’m not sure where the source of the statistic that I keep seeing that claims that about 10% of all records are posted online.  Whatever the number, I think we can all agree that  the benefits of surfing in the comfort of our home far outweighs the small costs we might have to pay to “belong” to an organization to access the records.

But being greedy, I want more!  I long for the day that I can click on any link on Familysearch.org and instantly bring up a filmstrip.  Wow – not having to order, wait (and wait and wait because my local peeps always forget to let me know that the filmstrip arrived), drive to thel library by rearranging my schedule to match when they have volunteers on staff, trying to unspool the film when I find what I want to take to the machine that prints a copy, playing with the copy to lighten/darken/enlarge/shrink, saving to my thumbdrive because their internet is sporadic and I can’t save to the cloud, cleaning up my workspace and then driving home again.  Not fun!

I’ve found four ways that you can help get more records online and this can all be done from your home!  It’s very simple, it’s fun and there’s no cost to you.  Just follow the steps below:

  1. Get cozy in front of whatever device you prefer – desktop, laptop, tablet – your choice!
  2. Click one of the 4 options below and follow their directions

             Family Search Indexing – between July 15-17th

Decoding Civil War Telegrams

Purple Hearts Reunited

World Archives Project from Ancestry

3.  Feel good that you have contributed!

Over the holiday last weekend I happily indexed Civil War telegrams.  For transcriptions, the handwriting was fairly clear and the input method was a breeze.  I used to index for Ancestry but haven’t recently.  I’m not sure if they still offer a discount if you indexed x number of records but they used to.  Check with them and see – it could save you money on your subscription renewal.  I plan to help out Family Search and the purple hearts group in the near future.  Working on my “On The Clock” portfolio took up a lot of my time over the past year so I didn’t have much free time to spend volunteering.  I’m planning on scheduling time in the near future though, as I believe it’s important to help get more records online.  Together, we can increase that 10% online and that’s helpful to everyone!