I spend a lot of time at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago conducting research for clients and myself. I also refer a lot of people there for assistance with their World War II research. I love the atmosphere at the library, the many shelves of books, the archival records, and the rare books. Plus, the staff is top notch and really know their stuff. I spend a lot of time talking to Paul Grasmehr, the Reference Coordinator, about my research and always learn so much.
Why, if the library does not have any military personnel records, would I refer people there, or any other military research institution?
There are many reasons, but a few important ones are:
- They have books which provide historical context on battles and what soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines endured.
- There are rare books you cannot find elsewhere with incredible information.
- There is an archive with original documents. This archive may not have information on your soldier but will provide context in many cases.
- The library has photographs and maps. These add interesting details to a story you can write about your soldier and help you understand the records. Photos and maps also add a visual component to stories which keep more people engaged.
- And, did I mention the staff is incredible?
Before asking any research institution for assistance, especially institutions with smaller staff, there are several things to consider.
- Staff is often limited to a few people who do multiple jobs. Do not expect an immediate answer to your inquiry.
- Inquiries may take longer to receive an answer because the staff member is conducting some preliminary research on your behalf before they respond.
- When you receive a response, read through it several times. Often the response will contain websites and books to look into.
- Responses may contain questions for you to answer about what was found or needs to be clarified.
- In-depth research is not always possible and the institution may suggest you hire a researcher.
- The more information you can give the staff member, the easier it can be to assist with your request.
- Use a Family Group Sheet created by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library for their requests.
- Do not overload your initial request with document copies. Instead, list the documents you have scanned that you could send if they wish to see them.
- Read the institution’s research request guidelines. Some repositories allow up to three requests per person until the request has been completed.
- Research is not always free and photocopies are almost always not free. Make sure you read that part of the guidelines so you know what you are getting into before you make a request.
- If you are looking for specific resources, use the institution’s card catalog to create a list to include with your request.
- Consider making a visit to the institution to conduct research yourself. Many repositories will pull materials prior to your arrival if you request.
Are you ready to take your World War II research to the next level? If so, start contacting repositories which have records and resources beyond personnel files.
If you need a researcher to do more in-depth work or help you research from start to finish, please contact me. I am currently taking new clients.
© 2015 Jennifer Holik
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