This is the second article in a short series about researching your WWI Army Veteran online. Also, if your veteran served before the war, or after the war from 1918-1939, a lot of these tips may also help you discover puzzle pieces. Be sure to read the first article if you missed it. You will want those tips.
Ok, so you have started a timeline of service and started reconstructing military service and unit(s) your veteran was in. What’s next? We will talk today about those who died in service and the World War I Burial File (which became the IDPF for WWII and beyond). I provide a few resources for you to explore in your quest to add to the death story of your veteran. Please remember, there are many more resources available online and offline.
World War I Burial Files
World War I Burial Files are held at the NPRC in St. Louis. You can send in a request for this file and wait a long time or hire a researcher to request that plus the service file and do other research on-site, which will be much faster. This is a required file to tell your veteran’s story and I encourage you to obtain a copy.
What do these files contain and why are they so valuable?
- Details on the death of the soldier including a body chart. Sometimes the explanation of death was written much later, as you will see with Michael’s. True or not? No one can really say.
- Temporary and permanent burial. May also include details if it was an isolated grave and recovery was required. This helps tell the story of the soldier.
- Correspondence from family about their son. When I read Michael’s I sobbed as I could feel my 2x great grandmother’s pain. I also have all boys and that made it even harder to read her letters. You can really learn a lot about the family if there are letters.
- Sometimes details of military service.
View my great grand uncle’s Burial File. Michael Kokoska
NARA Burial Cards & Maps
View Michael’s Burial Cards FRONT and BACK now digitized by NARA. Check NARA’s database of Burial Cards for WWI deceased personnel. These cards provide similar information as what is contained in the Burial File and OMPF but you may also find additional details. All is helpful especially if the OMPF burned.
NARA RG 92: Initial Burial Plats for World War I American Soldiers. This database provides locations of the initial burials for soldiers. You might have to dig a little and definitely enlarge the maps but these add a visual to your story.
US, Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970. If your service member (any branch) was repatriated if they died overseas, or died in the U.S. and have a military marker, you want to check this database. Be sure to download the front and back of the application and remember, just because it is on here and the stone doesn’t always make it correct! A good example is my cousin Frank Winkler, KIA 24 June 1944 as part of the 115th Infantry Regiment 29th Division. Yet his application states 129th Infantry Regiment 29th Division, which is wrong. His dad completed the application after Frank’s remains were repatriated and buried at Bohemian National Cemetery. The government checked the application, though did not accurately verify unit, carved the stone and it is incorrect.
World War I, World War II and Korean War Casualty Listings. This database will provide you with a name, service number, and state from which they lived at time of service.
U.S. World War I Mothers’ Pilgrimage. Did your female ancestor go overseas to visit the grave of her son? You might discover information here.
Finally, be sure to search newspapers online or at archives, libraries, and genealogy centers. In World War I, even in larger cities, because there were not as many men who served, you will often find photos in the newspaper of our soldiers. Wounds and death information will also be discovered there.
Newspapers may also contain copies of letters the veteran wrote to their families or former employers.
Newspapers also had articles and sometimes photos of the funeral ships. These were the USAT ships that brought back the remains of our fallen. If you have the WWI Burial File, the ship name will be listed in that file. Search the ship name, your veteran’s name, or just ‘funeral ship’ and see what shows up. Sometimes the descriptions of these ships passing military bases or coming into port are very emotional.
Have questions? Please ask in the comments.
Be sure to come back for additional parts of my Research a WWI Army Veteran Online series.
Are You Ready to Start Writing and Researching?
I would love to help you research and write the stories of your family members from World War I – Vietnam. If you are ready to start a research or writing project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s set up a free phone consultation. I’m excited to help you bring your family’s military history to life and preserve it for generations. Also visit the Ancestral Souls Wisdom School to learn how a Genogram Session can help you identify your ancestor’s trauma and patterns and start to heal.
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