Saluting Military Ancestors

Posted on: July 3rd, 2014 by
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From the American Revolution to the present, Americans have served their country through military and patriotic service. The records they created are a cornerstone of family history research

As we once again approach our nation’s birthday celebration on July 4, it’s a great time to review the contributions of our military ancestors. We are normally aware when spouses, siblings, parents, and grandparents performed military service, but often we don’t know about more distant relatives who served.

Here’s a quick summary of American military actions–check for military service for ancestors of military age–generally teens through forties–during these conflicts.

    • 1775-1783–American Revolution. Military actions took place from Lexington and Concord to Yorktown in all areas of the colonies, including the western frontier areas. Ancestors serving in the military–continental and state–left traces in service records, muster rolls, pensions, and compensation records. They may have received or applied for bounty land from federal or state governments. Those who were still living in 1840 should be listed in federal census records (whether they were heads of household or not).
    • 1812-1815–War of 1812. Most Americans know about the siege of Baltimore and the burning of Washington, and they may know about the famous frigate actions that took place during this war, but the threat of British military action affected virtually all areas of the country. Serving ancestors left traces in service records, muster rolls, pensions, and bounty land records.
    • 1811-1858–Indian Wars. These include the battles in the Northwest Territory (Indiana), the three Seminole Wars (Florida area), the Creek War (Alabama area), the Black Hawk War (Illinois, Wisconsin), the Navajo Wars (New Mexico, Arizona), and the Yakima Wars (Washington, Oregon, Idaho). Serving ancestors left service, pension, and bounty land records in federal and state sources.
    • 1846-48–Mexican-American War (Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, California). Serving ancestors left service records, pension files, bounty land, and other records.
    • 1861-1865–Civil War. Although most military action took place in southern and border states and Pennsylvania, soldiers and sailors from all areas of the country served. Look for records from the country’s first draft registration, service records, and pension records. A special veterans census was conducted in 1890; veterans census records for the District of Columbia, Kentucky, and states alphabetically following Kentucky survived the general destruction of the 1890 census records.
    • 1865-1900–Indian Wars. These include the Sioux and Cheyenne Wars (Dakotas and Montana), the Apache Wars (Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico), the Modoc War (California), and the Nez Perce Wars (Idaho and Montana).
    • 1898-1902–Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection. Look for service and pension records at the state and federal levels. Veterans should be identified in the 1930 census; one of the supplemental questions in the 1940 census also asked about military service.
    • 1917-1918–World War I. Records of the three World War I drafts encompass virtually all men aged between twenty-one and forty-five in 1917 and 1918–about 24,000,000 men born between about 1873 and about 1901. World War I servicemen left service records, although up to 80% were lost in the 1972 fire at the National Personnel Records Center. Many states conducted special military censuses or offered bonuses to veterans, and World War I service should be recorded in the 1930 census.
    • 1941-1945–World War II. More than 20,000,000 men between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four registered for the draft. Other records include enlistment records, service records (again affected by the 1972 fire), casualty records, and bonus records.
    • 1950-1953–Korean War. More than 300,000 Americans, including many World War II veterans, served under arms. Look for service records, casualty records, and bonuses. Access to service records may be restricted to veterans and next of kin because of privacy concerns.
    • 1954-1975–Vietnam War. More than 500,000 Americans served during this war. Because of privacy concerns, access to service records is restricted to veterans and next of kin. Look for casualty and burial records.

For information on specific wars and records, start with the Ancestry and FamilySearch wikis. The following books will also help you find more about your ancestors’ military service:

James C. Neagles. U.S. Military Records: a Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1994.

Christine Rose. Military Pension Laws, 1776-1858.San Jose, California: Rose Family Association, 2001.

Christine Rose. Military Bounty Land, 1776-1855.San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2011.

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It’s Conference Time!

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by
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This evening is the opening of the Minnesota Genealogical Society’s TechTrek Conference, featuring Thomas MacEntee. I have been working on the planning team since last fall. We had a wonderful group from the three co-sponsoring societies–the Minnesota Genealogical Society, the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, and the Pommern Regional Group of Minnesota.

In case you’re wondering, these conferences don’t just happen. Planners work on five major areas–program, venue, registration, publicity, and vendors. Program planning involves creating a program that will entice people to sign up, recruiting presenters, obtaining the bios, session descriptions, etc. needed for publicity, and keeping in touch with the presenters so they know where and when to show up and what to bring. If–as in the case of TechTrek–there is a national speaker involved, the program team needs to contact this person about a year in advance, ascertain their availability, write a contract, select their presentations, coordinate their travel arrangements, and take care of their local transportation and other needs while they’re in town.

The venue team surveys possible conference sites, narrows down to one or two possibilities, ascertains cost and availability, and makes contract arrangements with the venue and the caterer. This team is also responsible for checking out the rooms to be used, learning the quirks (where the lighting controls and outlets are, how projectors and screens operate), and making sure everything goes smoothly with the host.

The registration team sets up registration. In our case, we use a WordPress plugin from our blog. The event needs to be set up in the plugin so that people can register online. Some prefer to register by mail, so the registration team is also responsible for manually entering their registrations into the registration system, keeping track of payments, answering questions, and resolving issues. The registration team also downloads the lists of registrants, converts them into a form usable by the volunteers at the check-in desk, and creates nametags and conference folders.

The publicity team uses all the avenues at its disposal to get the word out about the conference and persuade people to register. In our case, the new MGS EasyNetSites website made it easy to provide publicity on the home page and also on the Events page. One of our volunteers maintains a list of bulletin boards and websites that list genealogy conferences, and puts our events up on those sites. Another volunteer creates brochures, which other volunteers distribute to libraries, Family History Centers, and other places where potential attendees can discover them. More volunteers create blog and social media posts.

Our vendor team recruits societies, individuals, and businesses to have tables in our exhibit hall. This creates a fun experience for conference-goers to connect with genealogical societies and other organizations–libraries, historical societies–of interest to them. For TechTrek, we have a doll vendor, a technology firm, an author publicizing her books, and a bookseller in addition to the society and organization tables. The vendor team keeps track of the vendor registrations, designs the layout of tables, coordinates with the vendors and venue, and makes sure that everything goes smoothly at conference time.

The volunteer organizing the TechTrek vendors is also organizing a Silent Auction. The auction gives the co-sponsors a little more income, and creates fun for the conference-goers who can bid on the items donated. Genealogical services are a staple, as are baskets of donated goods. In the past, we’ve been able to offer biplane rides and cabin weekends.

So, you see, these conferences don’t just happen. They result from a lot of work by a lot of dedicated volunteers. I’d love to see more society members participate–both as attendees and as conference volunteers. Most conference organizers would love to have help with tasks large and small, on- and off-site, in advance and at the conference.

Well, I’m off to pick up our speaker! Will I see you at TechTrek?

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Genealogical Gratitude

Posted on: November 30th, 2013 by
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Thanksgiving is a time to name what we are thankful for. Thanksgiving 2013 is just past, but it’s never too late to express gratitude. Here are nine things about genealogy today that I am thankful for:

  1. The quantity of original source material that’s available on the Internet.
  2. The rate of increase in the quantity of source material available on the Internet
  3. The people and organizations who are providing the money and volunteer time to make those materials available.
  4. The people and organizations who are setting standards for quality in genealogy and family history.
  5. The people and organizations who are explaining and teaching the standards for quality genealogy and family history.
  6. The people and organizations who are making educational opportunities more accessible than ever for genealogists.
  7. The people and organizations who are preserving genealogical records.
  8. The people and organizations who working to keep records of interest to genealogists open and accessible to the public.
  9. The societies and individuals who make physical and virtual places for genealogists to come together, exchange ideas and practices, and share their successes and frustrations.
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