An extraordinary list of European record sets is included in this week’s new and updated genealogical collections. Starting in Ireland and moving across the country, places include: United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Netherlands, and more.
Ireland – Marriage Index
Over 250,000 names have been added to an online database of Irish births, marriages, and deaths. The Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) first created a marriage database in 2014 when it put 40,000 marriage certificates online, and now is adding entries for births and deaths too.
The Early Irish Marriage Index is completely free to all who wish to use it, however, those wishing to browse the Early Irish Birth and Death Indexes are required to take out membership of the IGRS.
United Kingdom – Yorkshire and Derbyshire – Baptisms
Yorkshire & Derbyshire Methodist Baptisms
at Findmypast contain over 42,000 for Methodist Churches between 1795 and 1997. The collection covers the densely populated Sheffield district. Sheffield is located in South Yorkshire, traditionally part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and many of its suburbs stretch into Derbyshire.
Each record will provide you with a transcript created from original church records. The details in each record will vary, but most will include name, birth year, baptism date, denomination, chapel, place, parent’s name, and county.
United Kingdom – Yorkshire & Derbyshire – Methodist Marriages
Also at Findmypast, the Yorkshire & Derbyshire Methodist Marriages collections contains over 22,000 records. These records also cover the Sheffield district. Within the collection, you will find records from eight branches of the Methodist Church: Free Methodist, Methodist, Methodist New Connection, Primitive Methodist, United Free Methodist, United Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Reform Methodist.
Within the collection, you will find records from eight branches of the Methodist Church: Free Methodist, Methodist, Methodist New Connection, Primitive Methodist, United Free Methodist, United Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Reform Methodist.
United Kingdom – Newspapers
Over 1.5 million new articles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British Newspapers. Three brand new titles have also been added; the Cricket and Football Field, Lloyd’s List and the Homeward Mail from India, China and the East.
Lloyd’s List is one of the world’s oldest continuously running journals, having provided weekly shipping news in London as early as 1734. The Homeward Mail from India China and the East will be a huge help for those researching the history of empire, or for those with British or Irish ancestors who lived in India.
United Kingdom – Middlesex – Monumental Inscriptions
Findmypast offers over 12,000 records of Middlesex Monumental Inscriptions for 1485-2014. These monumental inscriptions are from St Nicholas Church, Chiswick.
The records cover the years 1485 to 2014 and include transcripts for each entry. While the amount of available information will vary from transcript to transcript, most will include a combination of name, birth year, death year, dedication, place, monument type, and inscription.
Inscriptions might include the names of others buried in that plot and more specific details regarding age, birth, and death dates. This can be helpful as it can provide you with the names and dates of your ancestor’s next of kin.
Belgium – Civil Registration
FamilySearch’s database titled, Belgium, Namur, Civil Registration, 1800-1912 is one of the extraordinary European records collections this week. This collection contains primarily civil registration records of births, marriages, and deaths. A few other records are included are marriage proclamations and marriage supplements.
Among the details found in these civil registrations, you will likely find names, dates of vital events, residences, parents’ names, and residences, occupations, and much more.
France – Parish Records
The European records for genealogy continue in this new and updated collection at FamilySearch, the France, Finistère, Quimper et Léon Diocese, Catholic Parish Records, 1772-1894. Though the record set is rather small with only a little over 11, 000 records, this collection consists of name indexes and images of Catholic parish registers recording events of baptism, marriage and burial in the Diocese of Quimper et Léon. Parishes in this diocese lie within the department of Finistère and this collection only contains parishes that start with the letter “A” or “B”.
The following parishes are included:
- Brest Hospice Civile
Further revisions to the collection will follow as other parishes are published in future.
Netherlands – Misc. Records
FamilySearch has added more European records in the Netherlands, Archival Indexes and they include such records as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, land records, and tax records. These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment and more.
The collection continues to grow as records become available, but as of now, the only indexes published on FamilySearch are the Amsterdam Christening Registers from 1564 to 1811 and the burial index from the Regional Archives Rijnlands Midden. For the entire index collection, visit OpenArchives.
Russia – Church Books
Also at FamilySearch, the Russia, Tver Church Books, 1722-1918 are now available. Though only a relatively small number of these records have been indexed, there are over 3 million that have been digitally scanned and are browse-able. Records include births and baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials performed by priests in the province of Tver (and surrounding provinces) from 1722-1918. These records were originally created at a local level, but were acquired from the state archive in Tver. An index of baptisms is also included.
United States – Maine – Brunswick
There is a unique story of a person who felt the call to serve the genealogy community. Mr. Richard Snow has collected and created an extensive index of articles, pictures, and obituaries from the Brunswick [Maine] Telegraph and the Brunswick Record — forerunners to today’s The Times Record. He then donated his work to the Curtis Memorial Library and it is accessible to you!
The Snow Index will give many a chance to delve into their family’s pasts by accessing the library’s website, a substantial shortcut over previous practices like coming into the library or browsing newspaper websites. This is an index to citations only and not index that leads to full online text. However, with this index as a help, you will likely be able to find the full content with the assistance of the Curtis Memorial Library. Isn’t it great to hear about genealogist’s doing great things? Thank you, Mr. Snow!
United States – Wisconsin – Vital Records
A recent change in state statutes will allow Wisconsin residents to more easily obtain public documents. All Wisconsin register of deeds offices can now issue birth, death, marriage, and divorce records regardless of the county in which the event occurred, as long as the event occurred in Wisconsin.
A statewide database has been created that will allow all offices to access the records. Not all records are available, but the following are:
- Wisconsin births since 1907;
- Deaths since Sept. 1, 2013
- Marriages since June 21, 2015;
- Divorces since Jan. 1, 2016
Be sure to contact the county register of deeds office you plan to visit to make sure they are offering the database at this time. It will likely take a while to get everything up and running!
Ghana – Census
FamilySearch has also added more indexed records to the Ghana Census, 1984. This population census for Ghana is a complete enumeration of the 12.3 million people residing in Ghana as of midnight March 11, 1984. The census is divided into 56,170 localities. According to the government of Ghana, a locality is defined as any “nucleated and physically distinct settlement.” Localities may include a single house, a hamlet, a village, town or city. In some areas of the Upper West and Upper East Regions, these localities are based on kinship groups. Only those individuals, including foreign visitors, who were present in Ghana on March 11, 1984, were included in this census.
There have been some records lost in Ghana and so not all localities are available. Important: Be aware that the printed date on the census enumeration form usually says 1982, but this census was formally conducted in 1984.
The 1984 Ghana census may hold the following information:
- Detailed address of the house
- Name of town/village
- Full name of members present on census night
- Relationship to head of household
- Gender, age, birthpla
ce, and nationality of each individual
- Level of education
- Employment status
- Names of visitors on census night
- Names of members absent on census night
More on Researching European Records for Genealogy
Chart your research course to find your European ancestors with the how-to instruction in this book. This one-of-a-kind collection provides invaluable information about more than 35 countries in a single source. Each of the 14 chapters is devoted to a specific country or region of Europe and includes all the essential records and resources for filling in your family tree.
Inside you’ll find:
- Specific online and print resources including 700 websites
- Contact information for more than 100 archives and libraries
- Help finding relevant records
- Traditions and historical events that may affect your family’s past
- Historical time lines and maps for each region and country
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Scottish genealogy records are as popular as plaid this fall. Deeds, paternity records, and censuses are just a sampling. Also this week, records for Ontario, New York State, Philadelphia, and the women’s suffrage movement!
Scotland – Deeds
Findmypast offers Scotland Deeds Index 1769 with over 1,000 transcripts. This collection contains the details found in minute books kept by the Court of Session and includes a variety of different types of deeds including: assignations, discharges, bonds, obligations, protests, and leases. Each deed transcript will record the type of deed, the date it was recorded, and the two parties named in the original court document, their addresses, and occupations.
By understanding what each type of deed is, you may be able to glean additional clues to your research. For example, a discharge is granted once evidence is shown to a granter that a debt or payment has been paid in full. Discharges were also given to release an individual from specific tasks or duties. A heritable bond, however, is in regard to land, property, or houses that pass to an heir or next of kin. In some of these cases, the records could be proof of parentage. For more details about the types of deeds in this collection, read here.
Scotland – Paternity Decrees
Containing over 25,000 records, Scotland, Paternity Decrees 1750-1922 will help you find out if your ancestor was involved in a paternity dispute that appeared before Scotland’s Sheriff Court. These records could identify illegitimate ancestors and break down brick walls in your research. You will find cases from jurisdictions across Scotland including: Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and Roxburghshire.
Each record offers a date of birth and sex of the child whose paternity is in question as well as the name, occupation, and residence of both the pursuer and defender.
Scotland – Census and Population List
Also at Findmypast, Scotland Pre-1841 Censuses and Population Lists now contains over 3,500 early census fragments and parish lists from Jedburgh, Greenlaw, Ladykirk, Melrose, Applegarth, and Sibbaldbie. Until 1845, these courts were for governing the local parish and overseeing parish relief. Many kept up-to-date lists of the parish residents, their occupations, and their birth places.
The details recorded in each transcript will vary, but most will include a birth place, occupation, and address.
Scotland – Registers & Records
Over 1,700 new records have been added to the collection titled Scotland Registers & Records at Findmypast. These additions include Written Histories of the Highland Clans & Highland Regiments.
By Gsl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Scotland Registers & Records contain images taken from 21 different publications related to Scottish parishes and families. The records vary and include parish records, topographical accounts, and memorial inscriptions.
Some of these records reach back as far as the year 1100! To see a list of each of the publications within this collection, click here, then scroll down to the subheading, “What can these records tell me?”
Canada – Ontario – Birth Index
Findmypast offers a collection titled Ontario Birth Index 1860-1920. It is comprised of 1.7 million civil registration records. Civil registration in Canada is the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories and it was not standard practice until the late 1800s.
Each record contains both a transcript and an image of the original document. Information should include:
- Ancestor’s name and date of birth
- Place of birth
- Parents’ names
In some cases, the record may also provide:
- Parents’ occupations
- Where the parents were married
- Name of the attending physician
- Address of residence
Special Savings for You
If you are interested in subscribing to Findmypast, we want to let you know about a special savings. Findmypast is now offering a year subscription for $34.95, a savings of $79.95. Click here for more details!
United States – New York – City Directories
New York Public Library is digitizing its collection of New York City Directories, 1786 through 1922/3, and sharing them for free through the NYPL Digital Collections portal.
The first batch—1849/50 through 1923—have already been scanned and the 1786–1849 directories are in the process of being scanned. The whole collection will be going online over the coming months.
See the digitized directories here.
City directories contain more than just names and addresses. You may be surprised to learn that they record the price of travel and postage, the kinds of occupations around the city, the layout of streets, and at what time the sun was predicted to rise and set!
City directories might also contain images, maps, illustrations of buildings, and advertisements.
United States – Massachusetts – Women’s Suffrage
The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced that seven collections relating to women in the public sphere have been digitized. A grant made it possible to create high resolution images that are accessible at the MHS website, as well as preservation microfilm created from the digital files. The seven collection titles and links are listed below.
Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838
Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, 1895-1920
New England Freedmen’s Aid Society records, 1862-1878
Rose Dabney Forbes papers, 1902-1932
Society for the Employment of the Female Poor trustees’ reports, 1827-1834
Twentieth Century Medical Club records, 1897-1911
Woman’s Education Association (Boston, Mass.) records, 1871-1935
United States – Pennsylvania – Newspapers
Check out the Philadelphia Inquirer on Newspapers.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the oldest surviving papers in the United States. The Philadelphia Inquirer was established in 1829 and originally titled the Pennsylvania Inquirer. It was originally a Democratic paper that supported President Jackson.
This collection covers the years of 1860-2016.
If you’re looking for specific mentions of an ancestor, you might find them in lists of death notices, marriage licenses, local social news, the day’s fire record, or building permits issued. This newspaper is searchable by keyword or date.
United States – Nebraska – Marriages
New this week at FamilySearch are the Nebraska, Box Butte County Marriages, 1887-2015. Information found in these marriage records does vary, but you may find any of the following:
- Estimated birth year
- Birth city/town, county, state, and country
- Marital status
- Marriage date
- Marriage city/town, county, and state
- Parents’ names
- Previous spouse
More Helpful Tips for Scottish Genealogy
Lisa’s Premium Member episode 116 is just what you need. Marie Dougan, a professional genealogist specializing in Scottish research, joins Lisa in this episode to talk about how to research Scottish ancestors. If you haven’t taken that plunge and become a Premium Member, why not do so today! There are over 100 Premium Member podcast episodes and over 30 video classes on a wide variety of genealogy topics waiting to inspire and educate. Join today!
The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
This episode features a special interview with renowned Canadian expert Dave Obee. He shares his favorite tips on researching the Canadian census?his insights are fascinating whether you have Canadian ancestors or not!
Also in this episode: an inspiring adoption discovery, DNA testing news at 23andMe, a tip for incorporating family history into a wedding, and a brand-new resource that can finally help you solve one of genealogy’s most perplexing questions.
NEWS: ATLAS OF HISTORICAL COUNTY BOUNDARIES UPDATE
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
Google Earth for Genealogy (and more on Google Earth Pro)
NEWS: 23andME DNA TEST UPDATES
Click here for the full news and Diahan’s comments
MORE recent DNA news:
Family Tree DNA enhancements:Click here for the full story, with comments and step-by-step instructions on updated myOrigins tool
Get help with DNA testing at both these sites with these quick reference guides by Diahan Southard:
Understanding Family Tree DNA
NEW! GENEALOGY GIANTS GUIDE
by Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton
Click here to watch the presentation that inspired this guide: a popular RootsTech 2017 lecture comparing the four major genealogy records websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.
Available in print or digital format
This comprehensive quick reference guide explains:
How knowing about all four websites can improve your family history research
How the sites stack up when it comes to the numbers of historical records, names in trees, DNA profiles, site users, site languages and subscription costs
Unique strengths of each website and cautions for using each
What to keep in mind as you evaluate record content between sites
Geographic record strengths: A unique table has an at-a-glance comparison for 30+ countries
How to see what kinds of records are on each site without subscribing
How family trees are structured differently at these websites?and why it matters
Privacy, collaboration and security options at each site
How DNA testing features differ at the two websites that offer it
What you can do with free guest accounts at each website
Subscription and free access options
MAILBOX: LIZ ON FINDING CHUCK’S BIRTH FAMILY
Click here to learn more about Diahan Southard’s genetic genealogy video tutorials?and a special discount price for Genealogy Gems fans.
LINK TO: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/genealogy-gems-dna-tutorial
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. In the works: soon RootsMagic will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa
MAILBOX: THANKS FOR 1940 CENSUS TIPS
Kate Eakman shares tips for understanding the 1940: click here to read them or click here to listen to them on Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 201
MAILBOX: WEDDING TIP
Before a wedding: start an online family tree and invite each family member to add what they know!
Share family history this summer: Reunions, weddings, BBQs, etc
Genealogy Gems Pinterest Page: Incorporating Family History Ideas into Your Wedding
Go to: https://www.pinterest.com/lisalouisecooke/incorporating-family-history-into-your-wedding/
Our sponsor for this episode: StoryWorth
Give Mom the gift of StoryWorth this Mother’s Day
Visit www.StoryWorth.com/Lisa to get $20 off
INTERVIEW: DAVE OBEE
Continuing our celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday!
Dave Obee is an internationally-renowned Canadian journalist, historian and genealogist. Dave is a columnist for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today (formerly Family Chronicle). Dave has also written about family history for Canada’s History and Your Family Tree in the United Kingdom.
Put Dave’s books on your shelf:
Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide
Counting Canada: A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census
Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records
Making the News: A Times Columnist Look at 150 Years of History
Canadian census tips from Dave Obee:
The 1901 census is his favorite because it says for the first time where people had come from
He starts his searches on Ancestry.ca but census databases are free to search on Library and Archives Canada website
Marital status may not have been totally accurate. They only captured single or married or windowed. Divorced was not captured.
There are two different types of enumerations: de facto and de jure, and the rules were different.
This means your ancestor could be enumerated in multiple locations
Lisa Louise Cooke Googled the Canadian Census Enumerator Instructions for 1901:
At Library & Archives Canada
Original instructions digitized at Archive.org
More on Canada genealogy research:
Claire Banton in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #199
Blog post on Canadian Censuses 1825-1921
Search Canadian Passenger Lists for Free at Library and Archives Canada
Canadiana: Canadian Digital Archive and Portal to the Past
Google Earth for Canada and Genealogy
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.
MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is EXTRA special! It’s an exclusive conversation between Your DNA Guide and Cece Moore of DNA Detectives on researching adoption or unknown parentage. Don’t miss it! The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB
Our featured genealogy book club author this month is Miss Fannie Flagg!
The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg
Read more tips on discovering the historical context of your ancestor’s lives:
Tell Your Ancestor’s Story: Use Social History for Genealogy
Social History for Genealogy and the Colored Farmer’s Alliance
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer
Check out this new episode!
If one of your ancestors served in the United States Merchant Marine, then you’ll be especially interested in the conversation that our recent blog post on the topic of the Merchant Marine has generated about the records that may be available for your genealogy research.
Captain and crew of a new Liberty Ship SS Booker T. Washington just after it completed its maiden voyage to England. (L-R) C. Lastic, Second Mate; T. J. Young, Midshipman; E. B. Hlubik, Midshipman; C. Blackman, Radio Operator; T. A. Smith, Chief Engineer; Hugh Mulzac, Captain of the ship; Adolphus Fokes, Chief Mate; Lt. H. Kruley; E. P. Rutland, Second Engineer; and H. E. Larson, Third Engineer.” Captain Hugh Mulzac is fourth from the left on the first row. February 8, 1943.
The article was on how to find military service records. Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss made this comment about the United States Merchant Marine:
“Although not officially a branch of the military, the Merchant Marines sacrificed and lost lives since the days of the Revolutionary War, carrying out their missions of supply and logistics during times of war.”
A reader named Steve endorsed that brief remark in the article’s comments section, and expressed a desire to hear more on the Merchant Marine. He says:
“Although not considered to be a military arm of the United States, the Merchant Marines were an integral part of the war efforts in WWI and WWII and should be considered in genealogy. Many lives were lost in service of USA.”
Merchant Marine in Newspapers and Death Records
In a beautiful expression of genealogy serendipity, a Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast listener has written in with a specific question about researching relatives in the Merchant Marine. Vicki writes:
“I have a distant relative who was a Merchant Marine during WWII. Raymond Ralph Burkholder was a Merchant Marine Able Seaman killed when his ship the Standard Oil tanker W. L. Steed was torpedoed by a German sub off New Jersey Feb. 2, 1942. Following is a newspaper article about the incident:”
SS W. L. Steed (public domain image)
Vicki sent the following article from the Lebanon Daily News, Thursday, February 12, 1942:
NAZI SUBS BOOST TOLL OF SHIPS SUNK TO 25
New York, Today – (AP) The toll of ships officially announced as sunk or attacked off the United States and Canada thus far in the war stood today at 25, after the navy reported the 6,182-ton Standard Oil tanker W. L. Steed was sent to the bottom by an enemy submarine off New Jersey Feb. 2.
The announcement of the W. L. Steed’s fate was made yesterday with the arrival of three survivors, who had been picked up semi-conscious after drifting for two icy days in an open boat. No word has come from the remainder of the crew of 38 as three of the tanker’s four lifeboats still are missing.
A Williamsport, Pa., man was listed as a member of the crew. He is Raymond R. Burkholder, able seaman.
Able-bodied seaman Louis Bartz, 38, of Philadelphia, and Ralph Mazzucco, 23, and Joaquim R. Vrea, 39, both of New York, said the submarine torpedoed the tanker at 12:45 p. m. and that after the crew got off in lifeboats the enemy craft fired 17 shells into the sinking ship.
Last night the third naval district reported that a South American steamship sighted a lifeboat containing a number of bodies off the Atlantic coast yesterday, but was forced to flee when a submarine popped up in the vicinity.”
Vicki’s question is this: Where do you think I would look for a death certificate? New Jersey?
Before we jump into answering that questions, let’s learn more about Merchant Marines so we better understand where to search.
About the U.S. Merchant Marines
The Merchant Marine actually served in a military capacity before the U.S. Navy OR the Coast Guard ever existed.
According to the website, American Merchant Marine at War, the Merchant Marine can trace its history to 1775, when “a party of Maine mariners, armed with pitchforks and axes, inspired by the news of the recent victory at Lexington, Massachusetts, used an unarmed lumber schooner to surprise and capture a fully armed British warship, HMS Margaretta, off the coast of Machias, Maine. The men used the captured guns and ammunition from the ship to bring in additional British ships as prizes. American privateers soon disrupted British shipping all along the Atlantic coast.”
The Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of the Coast Guard, wasn’t founded until 15 years later, in 1790, to prevent smuggling.
Seal of the U S Revenue Cutter Service
There was a Continental Navy in 1775, but it ended with the Revolutionary War. The US Navy didn’t come into being until 1797.
The Merchant Marine, as an umbrella term, refers to a body of civilian mariners and government-owned merchant vessels: those who typically run commercial shipping in and out of the country. During wartime, merchant mariners can be called on by the Navy for military transport.
And that’s what happened during World War II. Our Military Minutes contributor, Michael Strauss, says that “On February 28, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the transfer (Under Executive Order #9083) of all maritime agencies to the United States Coast Guard. This order was a redistribution of maritime functions and included the United States Merchant Marine.”
Training Officers of the Merchant Marine on the Government Training Ship at New Bedford, Mass. Making an afternoon time sight (NARA, Public Domain)
Where to Look First for Merchant Marine Information
According to the American Merchant Marine at War website, over 1500 merchant ships were sunk during the War, and hundreds of others were damaged by enemy attacks and mines. That brings us to Vicki’s question about her relative.
As I discuss in my Premium eLearning video class Google Books: The Tool I Use Every Day, Google Books is a treasure trove of genealogical information.
A search of Standard Oil tanker W. L. Steed “Burkholder” in Google Books leads to the book Ships of the Esso Fleet in World War II (Standard Oil Company, 1946).
A genealogy gem found at Google Books!
This book is an invaluable resource that actually provides a detailed, eyewitness account of Raymond Ralph Burkholder’s final acts on the ship before having to abandon it. It even details his last torturous hours in the lifeboat before he became delirious and died, only hours before the other survivors were rescued!
In Search of Raymond Burkholder’s Death Record
Here’s where I put my head together with Michael. I suggested checking the death certificates of the county of his last residence, which may now be held at the state level. He liked that idea and said it’s worth the effort.
From what I’ve learned, the Master of the vessel would have reported the deaths of his crew to the vessel owners, who would have reported to the Coast Guard, and I asked Michael whether following Coast Guard records through the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots would be a good route to a death record for Raymond.
He said that instead, he would go directly to the Records of the Merchant Marines. Michael writes that these records during World War II “can be somewhat confusing, but not impossible to search. The records for your sailor during the war can be located at several different locations.”
Even if you don’t have relatives who served in the Merchant Marine, keep reading because you may get some ideas about records to discover for other family members who may have served in the military in other capacities.
6 Places to Look for Merchant Marine Records for WWII:
Where can you find Merchant Marine records for World War II? Here are six excellent places to look.
#1: Official Military Personnel Files
Official Military Personnel Files (known as OMPFs) are maintained by the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, MO. Since these records are considered Archival 62 years after the date of separation, these are open for Merchant Mariners and others who served during World War II who were discharged by the end of the war. Click here to learn more about ordering OMPFs.
Michael adds this note:
“You can also access the files by mailing in (Standard Form #180, downloadable here), and fill in the information requested about your Mariner. Note that the service record is likely to be under the heading of the United States Coast Guard when filling out the form—check that box. Don’t send any money; the Archives will notify you if the file is located.”
#2: Individual Deceased Personnel Files
If your Merchant Mariner was killed during World War II, request the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). This file is separate from the OMPF file and is also at the National Personnel Record Center.
Michael says, “These files are a wealth of genealogical information about veterans who died during World War II and other war periods. Contact the Archives to request this file. If the file is not in their custody, it is possible it is still in the hands of the Army Human Resource Command located at Ft. Knox, KY. The Archives will let you know the exact location.”
#3: National Maritime Center in Martinsburg, WV
The National Maritime Center website has links to records, forms, and general info. Request records with this downloadable form.
#4: National Archives Collections on Merchant Mariners
You will find Merchant Mariners collections at the National Archives cataloged under the records of the United States Coast Guard, Record Group 26.
This collection has 8 boxes of material containing details on Merchant Mariners killed, wounded, and those missing in action as a result of combat during World War II. Other records pertain to medals and other citations, court martials, and miscellaneous records.
#5: Ship Log Books
If you know the name of the vessel that the Merchant Mariner served on, then try a search for the logbooks.
Logs can name assignments for crew members, among other log entries of the day to day activities of the ship. The National Archives website has finding aids for log books.
A Google search for NARA U.S. merchant seaman finds several excellent National Archives resource pages there, including some for Ship’s Logs.
#6: Officer Applications
United States Merchant Marine applications for the licensing of Officers, 1914-1949 is available on Ancestry.com. This collection covers both World Wars. These document applicants who applied to be commissioned officers with the Merchant Marines, including men designated as Masters, Pilots, Engineers, or Vessel Operators.
Related collection: Lists of Merchant Seamen Lost in WWI, 1914-1919.
Crossing the Bar
During my research of the U.S. Merchant Marine for this article, I came across the phrase, “crossing the bar.” You may have heard this yourself. It refers to the death of a mariner.
The history behind this phrase: a sandbar can be found at the entrance of many rivers and bays, and crossing the bar has come to mean leaving the safety of a harbor for the unknown.
I wish all of you in search of your ancestors who crossed the bar good fortune in your genealogical pursuit.
Podcast Episode Featuring Merchant Marine Records
You can hear more about Merchant Marine records in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #159. (Subscription required.)