There are a lot of World War II researchers, grave adopters, foundations, re-enactment groups, museums, and organizations dedicated to learning about our American World War II soldiers and preserving their memories through various programs. The most well-known groups of researchers are the Dutch, because of the successful grave adoption program, Foundation for Adopting Graves American Cemetery Margraten, at the Netherlands American Cemetery (Margraten.) This program was established shortly after the Margraten temporary cemetery was created in 1945. Since that time, the foundation has been so successful, that every grave and every name on the Wall of the Missing has been adopted. It seems almost weekly in a U.S. newspaper, there is a story about a Dutch person who adopted a grave at Margraten and is seeking information.
There are many foundations and researchers in Europe seeking information on our American soldiers. There are many ways Americans, and specifically genealogists, can help these groups. Here are some things you should know to help you collaborate with European researchers and groups.
European foundations, museums, and organizations are usually run in large part, or all, by volunteers.
Usually these groups are run by volunteers and exist off volunteer time and monetary donations. Larger groups or museums may have sponsors to help offset costs. Keep in mind that American genealogical and historical societies have similar issues. It is a good idea to speak with those in charge to find out the best way you can help and they can help you through research.
European World War II researchers and grave adopters may not be familiar with genealogy.
You know how genealogists are taught when they visit a library or archive, they are not to give the librarian or archivist their entire family history? The same concept applies when working with overseas foundations and museums focused on World War II. Most of these groups are unfamiliar with genealogy. They also have no need, in most cases, for your entire family history. Before you get all excited and bombard these researchers and groups with information, see if their website tells you what specific information they would like to have. If it does not say, please ask before sending a lot of materials.
Before you send anyone information, especially a foundation, museum, or organization, ask the following questions.
- What is their mission or purpose?
- What information are they collecting?
- Are they collecting photographs or scans of documents?
- How are they using the materials?
- Are the materials source cited so other researchers can follow the paper trail?
- If not, suggest to the researcher or group that they do this and provide a few examples.
Tips for submitting information
- Focus on soldier and his immediate family.
- Source all facts and documents provided.
- Write a short story (See Stories from the World War II Battlefield Volume 3).
Donate to their cause.
Many groups run off donations or sponsorship to make their data available online and to create projects. Consider donating to their cause.
What are some foundations, museums, and researchers who would benefit from our research?
This group runs the Fields of Honor Database and Faces of Margraten Project
Epinal Cemetery in France – U.S. Memory Grand Est France
Normandy Cemetery in France – Grave Adoption Foundation
Would you like to learn more?
I am giving two World War II research talks at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference this week in Springfield, IL. I will be at AncestorStuff’s Table with a limited number of research books for sale, and answering research questions at the conference. Come say hello on:
- Thursday 10:00 – noon and 2:00-5:00
- Friday 9:00 – 11:30
- Saturday 9:00 – 11:30
Come back tomorrow to learn what questions European Grave Adopters have about their adopted American World War II soldier.
You can also listen to the Genealogy Guy’s Podcast at 35:35 where they talk about my research books and program.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center