With the 100th anniversary of America entering World War I, this week we’re shining the spotlight on an immense collection of important WWI records that are available for free at FamilySearch. Here are all the details from their recent press release:
FamilySearch Marks World War I Centennial with Free Historic Record Collections
Salt Lake City, Utah (4 April 2017), Did your ancestor serve in World War I? As the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I approaches, FamilySearch International is highlighting its free online collections of World War I records. Millions of free draft registration, service, and naturalization records online help fill in details about ancestors who served in the military during the conflict. April 6, 2017, will mark the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. Search the free collections at FamilySearch.org.
A century ago, the United States joined its allies to fight in World War I—the “Great War” or the “War to End All Wars.” When the U.S. joined the war effort, battles had already raged in Europe for nearly three years between the Allies and the Central Powers.
Almost five million American military personnel marched to war under the command of General John Pershing, commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Force. More than 116,000 Americans died in the war—about half from the Spanish Flu pandemic that swept the globe in 1918, killing millions around the world. Nearly 30,000 American military died of the flu before they even got to France.
The country followed the news of the war, with many people supporting the war effort in industry, farming, and other ways as they waited anxiously for the return of their loved ones. On November 11, 1918, about a year and a half after the United States entered the war, Germany formally surrendered, and terms of peace were negotiated. The nation rejoiced as soldiers returned home to rejoin their families and normal lives. But their experiences helped shape their lives, their posterity, and the country.
As the country remembers that war, many families seek to document the stories of their ancestors and friends who participated in the conflict. The veterans of that conflict are gone now, but many Americans are still alive who listened to the stories told by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of their families’ experience during World War I. Some have documents and old letters, but not everyone has such personalized memorabilia. They may find documents in FamilySearch’s searchable online collections to provide insights.
FamilySearch World War I Records Collections:
- United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918
- California, San Francisco, World War I Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits, 1918
- Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917–1920
- Maine, World War I Draft Registration Index, 1917–1919
- North Carolina, World War I Service Cards, 1917–1919
- Texas, World War I Records, 1917–1920
- United States Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918
- United States, YMCA World War I Service Cards, 1917–1919
To find details about an ancestor’s military service, start with the Family History Research Wiki, which directs readers to related documents. Type World War I into the search box in the wiki. The results provide historical context to events during the war, suggestions of records that may provide World War I information, and links to records on other websites.
The most extensive collection on FamilySearch.org is the United States World War I Draft Registration Card collection, with nearly 25 million records. During the course of the war, the amount and kind of information required on draft cards changed, but draft registration cards typically included at least the registrant’s full name, home address, birth date, birthplace, marital status, occupation, physical description, and more.
In addition, many states have registration indexes and card collections that may include other information. For example, searchable state service-card collections on FamilySearch.org for:
provide information about service records, injuries, periods of service, place of birth, age at service or date of birth, units served with, and more for hundreds of thousands of military personnel.
FamilySearch.org has also published searchable images of World War I Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits from San Francisco, California. This collection of records has nearly 34,000 records that offer invaluable genealogical information about noncitizen families during the war, including birth location, countries of citizenship, children, siblings, extended family, educational level, date of arrival in the United States, occupation, languages spoken, a description and a photo of the registrant, and more.
The United States Index to Naturalizations in World War I Soldiers, 1918 offers both indexed information about citizens naturalized during the war and links to images of the actual records.
Census records provide further clues about military service. The 1920 census did not ask questions specific to military service, but the 1930 and 1940 censuses did. Searchable images of the census sheets are online at FamilySearch.org.
One less-known collection containing information about the World War I military comes in records from the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). This volunteer organization provided programs and supplies to support the troops, the sick and wounded, and prisoners of war. Family Search.org has 27,000 images from the YMCA World War I Service Cards, 1917–1919 collection that provide names, addresses, work, religious affiliation, and army service information.
The following World War I books can be found in FamilySearch’s digital book collection online:
- Soldiers of the Great War (3 volumes) lists by state American casualties, killed, wounded, died of disease, etc. Also included are hundreds of individual pictures of soldiers.
- Officers and enlisted men of the United States Navy who lost their lives during the World War from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918
- Utah in the World War
- History of the Seventy-Seventh Division, August 25, 1917-November 11, 1918 – The division was made of draftees from New York City
Learn More About World War I for Genealogical Research
Here are three more Genealogy Gems articles to help you discover more about the impact of the Great War on your ancestors:
WWI History App in New and Updated Genealogical Collections
A WWI history app for genealogy leads our top picks for this week! History buffs are going to love Remembering WWI, an app that makes your WWI family history come alive. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical collections, Swedish church records, Canadian marriage records, Pennsylvania naturalizations, and more.
3 Tips for Finding WWI Ancestors and Their Stories
How did World War I affect your family’s lives? Start your search with these 3 tips for finding WWI ancestors.
Europeana for Genealogy: WWI Digital Archive and More
A major part of Europeana is its World War I digital archive. As the site describes, Europeana “has been running World War I family history roadshows around Europe, helping to digitize people’s stories, documents and memorabilia from 1914-1918.
England emigrants to its U.S. colonies appear in new genealogy records online this week. Also: the 1891 New South Wales census; Czech church, land and school records; English parish records; and U.S. collections from the Freedmen’s Bureau, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and New England towns and cities.
Australia – New South Wales census
Findmypast.com has published over 200,000 records from the 1891 New South Wales census. The census collectors’ books are the source, as these are the only surviving documents. “While they provide less detail than a full census would, they can still be a useful aid to historians and genealogists alike in placing people at a specific moment in time,” states the collection description. “Each result will provide you with a transcript and image of the original collector’s books from the 1891 census. Original images may provide you with additional details, such as the number of individuals living in the same household or the number of residents who were Aboriginal or Chinese.”
Czechoslovakia – Church, Land and School
FamilySearch.org has added to its collection of Czech Republic Church Records spanning more than 400 years (1552-1963). You’ll find “images and some indexes of baptisms/births, marriages, and deaths that occurred in the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Reformed Church parishes, as well as entries in those registers for Jews.” These are taken from parish registers and synagogue records now in regional archives. Though not fully indexed, the browse-only records number over 4 million! (Click here to learn how to use browse-only collections on FamilySearch.org; remember you can use the FamilySearch wiki for help in translating records in another language.)
FamilySearch has also added more than 850,000 browsable images to its existing collection of Czech Republic Land Records 1450-1889 and more than a million browsable images to the existing collection Czech Republic School Registers 1799-1953.
Remember recently when we blogged about emigrant records, or those created about people leaving a country? Ancestry.com recently posted a new database called Emigrants in Bondage, which it says is “the most important list of ships’ passengers to be published in years.” Indexed are names of “more than 50,000 English men, women, and children… sentenced to be deported to the American colonies for crimes ranging from the theft of a handkerchief to bigamy or highway robbery.” The collection dates cover 1614 to 1775, after which time the British empire was not permitted to ship its “undesirables” to U.S. shores.
England – Parish records – Staffordshire and Sussex
Findmypast has added to its collections of church vital records for Staffordshire, England. Its browsable parish registers, 1538-1900 now includes 300,000 full-color page-by-page images. Separate databases of baptisms, wedding banns, marriages and burials have also been updated.
Also, more than 1.2 million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of England, Sussex, Parish Records, dating 1538-1910. Sussex parish registers contain baptisms, marriages/banns, and burials. Date ranges of available records vary by locality; you will want to use the coverage table at the FamilySearch wiki to see what’s available.
U.S. – Freedmen’s Bureau Records
Now that the Freedmen’s Bureau collections have been fully indexed, FamilySearch is dumping them onto its website in batches. This week, they added these new databases:
- United States Freedmen’s Bureau Records of Freedmen’s Complaints 1865- 1872
- District of Columbia Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records 1863-1872
- United States Freedmen’s Bureau Ration Records1865-1872
- United States Freedmen’s Bureau Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education 1865-1872
U.S. – Military
FamilySearch.org has added just over 4 million indexed records to its database of United States Muster Rolls of the Marine Corps (1798-1937). The collection is described as an “index and images of muster rolls of the United States Marine Corps located at the National Archives. The records are arranged chronologically by month, then by post, station or ship.”
This week, the Fold3.com blog reminds us of its Coast Guard collections, in honor of the Coast Guard’s 226th birthday. Hundreds of thousands of search results on the site relate to Coast Guard history, from disapproved Navy survivors pension files to photos dating to the Civil War; accounts of shipwrecks or accidents, WWII war diaries for several units, images of insignia and Navy cruise books.
U.S. – New England
FamilySearch has posted a new index of New Hampshire Vital and Town Records Index for the years 1656-1938. It contains shy of half a million records of births, marriages and deaths. Entries were sourced from multiple archives in New Hampshire; the citation for each record is included in the index entry at the bottom of the record screen.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society has announced improvements to its databases for three New England cities, which now include more searchable fields and images. “Hartford, CT: General Index of Land Records of the Town of Hartford, 1639-1839, is now searchable by grantee and grantor name, and results provide the record type and volume and page of the record (available on microfilm at the Connecticut State Library). Boston, MA: Births, 1800-1849, and Dover, NH: Vital Records, 1649-1892, are now searchable by first name, last name, record type, family member names, date, and location.”
The biggest family history library in the world just got a new boss! Diane Loosle is the new Director of the flagship Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the first woman to hold this job. She has exciting ambitions for the FHL and I look forward to seeing how they unfold.
Diane mentions three specific goals she’ll focus on between now and the end of 2014:
- “Become more family and youth-oriented through providing interactive, discovery experiences.
- Enhance the services of the library through new collaborative research areas and better access to research staff.
- Engage more patrons from the geographic community surrounding the library.”
As an example of the first objective, a FamilySearch press release says Loosle wants to “study the role of the Family History Library and 4,700 satellite branches worldwide…and how to make them discovery centers for people of all ages, not just a research facility.”
“Our centers are great places to do genealogical research,” Loosle says. “[But] we need to figure out how to balance the needs of researchers while increasing appeal to those with other family history interests. You can’t attract a younger audience and offer the same experiences. We need to offer fun experiences and activities for the entire family that will increase love, appreciation, and understanding of their ancestors.”
I admit I’ve wondered about the future of satellite family history centers as increasingly folks stay home to research online. So I look forward to seeing how she will reinvent these community resources to serve today’s (and tomorrow’s) genealogical researchers.
Loosle comes to this job with great credentials. She is an accredited genealogist who has been with FamilySearch for 19 years, where she championed new customer service initiatives. She also has an MBA, strong business and leadership skills. She is described by a senior executive at FamilySearch as “one of the most qualified and capable to ever serve in this position.”
Congratulations, Diane! We look forward to seeing what’s coming next.