Debra Dudek has released a new book helping genealogists trace their American and Canadian World War I service members, World War I Genealogy Research Guide: Tracing American Military and Non-Combatant Ancestors Includes a Guide to Canadian Military Research. In this short guide, she provides many resources that genealogists often hear bits and pieces about in conference lectures. The book not only lists these resources but contains detailed descriptions on each and exactly where to locate the records. Debra combines everything together in one place in an easy to understand fashion.
The book is written from the perspective that researchers will primarily do online research and visit the National Archives repositories where vital military records are held. The tips provided on most records will help those who choose to visit the repositories in a much clearer way than what you can find on the NARA websites.
Before You Begin
This chapter outlines several things you may encounter as you start your research.
Research Goals & an Introduction to Online Research
Through six specific goals, Debra walks you through the process of moving from family story or a little information to obtaining records both online and offline. The repositories and types of records described are not only the commonly used genealogical records but possibly “unknown” military records. She also provides information on how to search for digitized records and digitized books. The end of this chapter states the book contains a Research List, which was not in the Kindle version. The Research list is also available on her website but there was no link provided.
State Specific Collections & Resources
This is a lengthy chapter containing a lot of website links and Ancestry.com record sets and databases. Those who purchase the Kindle version of this book will have an easier time using the website links. As with any online database like Ancestry or Fold3, check their website regularly for new databases.
Note: Always download any records you find online as website rules and access changes. Never assume that a record you view today will still be available online tomorrow.
Examining Essential Records at the National Archives
Several vital military records are described in this chapter at not only the NPRC but National Archives in D.C. branch, Library of Congress, and state repositories. Have you explored all your options when searching for World War I American records? You might be surprised at what you find at the state level. Debra also includes some military specific Chicago institutions like the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and the First Division Museum.
Note: While your soldier may not have served in the 1st Infantry Division, you should search for unit reunion associations to see what records they have. Many World War II reunion groups often have roots in World War I and the association will often have records. Google Search for your unit and see what exists. If you find a website but no digitized records, contact the president or historian as most associations have records but not the tech know-how or funds to digitize everything.
Naturalization and Enemy Alien Records
Genealogists often look for Naturalization records to prove citizenship of their immigrant ancestor, but did you know many immigrants were naturalized as a result of their military service? This chapter discusses both the positive and negative side of being an alien (non-naturalized person living in the U.S.), in America during World War I and what records exist. Several repositories with contact information and websites are provided to guide you. Again, having the Kindle version of the book will be helpful.
Non-Military Women’s World War I Records
Women participated in World War I on the home front and in Europe. Are you aware of all the records available to find their stories? Debra outlines many ways to search for women’s participation during the war years. Numerous websites are included in this chapter.
Short Guide to Canadian Military World War I Records
I felt like this chapter was a bit out of place in a book primarily focused on American research. Will Debra release a book all about Canadian research? While I do not get many questions about British forces for World War I, I think that book is needed. It is another topic you see at genealogy conferences but nothing in-depth seems to be available. From what I know of Debra’s research the last few years, she is just the person to write it.
One thing I wish was mentioned is about records access at the NPRC. There are many researchers who will not visit the NPRC and there is no mention of records the NPRC will not research for you if you are unable to visit, which are not digitized. There are many, such as Morning Reports, Monthly Reports, etc., for both World War I and II that you must obtain yourself in person or hire a researcher. NPRC will send you enough to show your soldier served, but will not do in-depth research, especially if the OMPF (Official Military Personnel File) burned.
Book available in Paperback and Kindle versions.
Disclaimer: Debra gave me a free copy of her e-book to review. The links included in this review are my affiliate links and I make a small royalty off the sale. This does not affect the price you pay to purchase the books.
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