In all your WWII research travels, have you come across this Ancestry database, U.S., Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974? Be sure to read the full description of this database on Ancestry’s site, but part of the description includes the following.
One responsibility of U.S. consulates is to report deaths of American citizens occurring within their districts to the U.S. Department of State. This data collection contains these death reports for the years 1835 through 1974 and is compiled to provide satisfactory proof of an American death as that information may not be available from any other source. It does not include the deaths of active military personnel, which are reported to the Defense Department rather than the Department of State, or the deaths of individuals whose citizenship status was unknown.
What’s interesting about this is that you will not find every civilian in this database. You must also keep in mind that Merchant Marines from WWII were not active (official) military personnel, so you will find many of them listed in the database. For example, look up JAMES M. DOWNING, Service Number Z-134110. Merchant Marines service numbers began with the letter “Z”. However, if you read through the many pages of documents on James’ death in this database, you will see other numbers assigned to him from obtaining various seaman certificates. The ABMC database has yet a different number for him in the entry showing he was buried at Cambridge. James will have an IDPF available through the NPRC in St. Louis as well as a service file (OMPF) there as well. His file in this database provides a lot of clues for researchers to follow to obtain more information about his life and service. Go take a look.
What’s interesting is there are individuals who will not be found in this database that probably should be included. Arthur J. Clarke, also buried at Cambridge, is not found in the database unless his name and death date are completely and horribly incorrectly transcribed. Technically as a civilian employed, he was not official military, so should have an entry, but he does not.
Whether you have a civilian who died overseas during this time period or not, I would invite you to just go browse around the database and see what you can learn. Maybe you will discover the story of someone who needs to be heard beyond the veil. Maybe you will pick up a few new research techniques through reading the records documented in each individual’s file.
Have you used this database? What did you discover?
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