Memorial Day Ceremony in the Netherlands – an Update

I’ve blogged many times before about the Field of Honor project in the Netherlands who memorializes service personnel that were killed in the line of duty during World War 2.  They had originally planned a 75 year memorial event for early May that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.  

On Memorial Day, they held a small event for 30 people that was attended by the King and had a flyover.  They reached their goal of obtaining 7500 photos of the interred; thank you to all that helped with the research!

You can learn more about the organization and the ceremony here and here.

They have set a new goal of 8000 photos for the larger event that was postponed until next spring (hopefully).  Please continue to send photos by checking their website.  

Only 180 Photos to Go


Photo from Fields of Honor Database

Just 75 years ago this spring, WW2 came to a close.  The Faces of Margraten project, spearheaded by the nonprofit Fields of Honor Database in the Netherlands, is attempting to locate 7500 photos of U.S. service personnel who sacrificed their lives to end the conflict.  Between May 2-6, 2020, at the American War Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, the photos will be displayed at the gravesite or the Memorial Wall for those who were missing in action.  

As of today, the organization is only 180 photos short of their goal.  Do you know of a family or community member who was interred in Margraten?  If so, you can send a photo of the deceased to  info@degezichtenvanmargraten.nl.

I became involved last summer when I received an email from the organization inquiring about a distant relative found in my Ancestry.com tree.  I didn’t have a photo but after checking out the organization, decided I needed to help.  All it took was an email to the hometown library and a request to check a local newspaper for a photo in the obituary.  The following day, I received the photo which I forwarded to the Fields of Honor Database. I then tried to find photos for the Indiana soldiers.  I was able to find 21.  I don’t live anywhere near Indiana but I remember my high school had a memorial to the alumni who were killed in combat.  That memory made me want to help find the Indiana folks.  One of those 21 photos happened to be an alumni of my alma mater.

Want to help but not sure how?  First, go to the Fields of Honor Database then click on an alphabet letter.  For example, I clicked on “A” and then the first entry, AARON, John D.  If you see the following:

then a photo is needed.  To find a photo I use the same genealogy skills I would to find information about any ancestor I’m researching.  Here’s the steps I would take:

1.  Review what is known – From the memorial page I see that John D. Aaron was born in Chismville, Logan, Arkansas and he enlisted in Kansas in 1943.  He was killed 27 Nov 1944 near Barmen, Germany.

2. Look in the obvious places first (in alpha order) – Ancestry, BillionGraves, FamilySearch, Find-a-Grave, Fold3, MyHeritage, etc. to get more info. I like to start with the 1940 US Federal census because I can get an age and education level for the soldier and discover where he/she lived (1935) prior to enlistment.  Why?  So I can look at year book photos.

This is what I find for John D. Aaron using Ancestry:

I’m going to check out the third entry because it’s a close match name, age, and places – born in Arkansas but living in Oklahoma.  That record is a little disappointing:


1940 U.S. Federal Census, Bristow, Creek, Oklahoma, population schedule, p. 5A (handwritten), line 39, John D. Aaron; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  29 Feb 2020); citing NARA microfilm publications m-t0627-03288. b

because John only went to grade 6, meaning no picture in a high school year book. 

If a year book photo is not available, I check out the online family trees for the individual. On Ancestry, he’s found in 23 family trees.  If you find a photo, contact the poster for permission to use and then send to the project.  If there is no photo but you find a tree naming the individual, contact the owner to ask if they have a photo and explain why you’d like one. But don’t stop there, we all know it can be YEARS before someone will respond to your query.

Interestingly, the first tree I went to on Ancestry has an obit.  When I go to Gallery to get the citation, I find a note from the family member who provides his email address with a note that he is looking for a photo to be included in the Faces of Margraten project.  Small world!  Since I know someone is actively searching for this photo, I’d go back to step 1 and pick another individual to research.

3.  Ramp up your search by contacting a local library, genealogy organization, hometown newspaper or high school.  Briefly email the organization what you know and why your searching for a photo.  Sometimes newspapers put the photos in a special section, other times with the obituaries.  Besides newspapers and year books, photos have been located in library clipping files and family donated materials.  The local staff can help direct you to another archive if necessary.  I’ve even had small town libraries tell me that they know of family members who still reside in the area and they’ve reached out to them for a photo.  Isn’t that heartwarming?!  

My biggest learning experience with this project was that the American Gold Star Mothers organization, founded in 1928, does not have an archive containing soldier information.  That’s a shame since many of the U.S. government records were destroyed in the 1973 fire in St. Louis.  Makes me appreciate the Netherlands organization even more for memorializing the fallen.  

Now it’s your turn to pitch in and find a photo.  I’d love to hear of your success; leave a comment or email me at GenealogyAtHeart@gmail.com with your soldier’s name and how you made the discovery. 

A Volunteer Opportunity from your Arm Chair

Want to get help with an overwhelming indexing project or help get records you are desperately seeking online?  You”re in luck! Now available is a crowd sourcing tool for genealogy groups or individual enthusiasts to use to help get those currently unavailable online records indexed for everyone’s benefit.  

Thanks to the Federation of Genealogical Societies Fall Forum 2019 article, check out Crowd Sourced Indexing for more info.  If you’re an individual who’d love to help the genealogy community but want to do that from the comfort of your home – check out the current index projects on the site and pick one that tugs at your heart.  If your a community group that has salvaged old records and wants to get them indexed – on the ribbon, go to About and FAQ to obtain information on how to contact the site administrator to get your project up and running.  

This is a win-win for all and with winter approaching, a perfect time to cuddle up with your laptop, a mug of cider and the knowledge you’re a do-gooder!

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.