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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
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:
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.
Passenger Lists Records: Elevenses with Lisa Episode 34
Video & Show Notes Original air date: 11/19/20
If you’ve ever struggled to find a passenger list or figure out what it’s telling you about your family history, you’re in the right place. In this episode I’ll show you where to look, and how to interpret what you find. Click to watch the video and follow along with the notes below:
A Question About Passenger Lists
Genealogy Gems Premium Member and Elevenses with Lisa viewer Deborah Huber wrote in about some challenges she was having with passenger lists.
“Hi Lisa, I have a few questions about the passenger records I have found for my mother and grandparents. They are all from Ancestry.com.” Let’s go through Deborah’s questions step-by-step.
Deborah is looking for the Felberg Family:
Otto age 33 (Grandfather) b. 1894
Marta age 23 (Grandmother) b. 1904
Ruth age 3 (Mother) b. 1924
They Sailed March 25, 1927 from Hamburg Germany to New York
“My mother was born in Heinrichshoff on “Stork Day,” a day celebrating the return of the storks in the spring and welcoming them to their nests on top of the chimneys.”
Passenger List records to look for:
German Passenger list (the outbound record)
New York Passenger lists (the incoming record)
Searching for the New York Passenger List
How to search for passenger lists at Ancestry: Search > Immigration & Travel > Search by name and birthdate. If you don’t see both expected passenger lists (ex. Hamburg and New York) check the Card Catalog. Example search: Hamburg passenger or Germany passenger. From the results page you might have the opportunity to click through and see a photo of the ship. You may also find a link to additional passenger lists (in this case, the Hamburg Passenger List).
A quick Google search will tell us the dates that Castle Garden was in operation: “From August 3, 1855 to April 18, 1890, Castle Garden was America’s first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.”
Tip: Search Multiple Sources for Passenger Lists You may find the quality of the digitized image varies from one genealogy website to the next.
Top Free Resources for searching for Ellis Island passenger lists:
Tip:Finding Passengers When Names are Hard to Read When names are difficult to read, focus on other information that is easier to spot such as the person’s age. In the Felberg family’s case, Ruth was 3 years old. Looking for a “3” in the age column proved much easier than reading the names.
Identifying the Location Named in a Passenger List
Question: On the screenshot from the Hamburg list is says the destination was “Greenlake”. Is that a port? All I could find on the internet about Greenlake is that it is a NY state park. Answer: The “Greenlake” mentioned in the indexed passenger list record refers to the final destination, not the port of arrival. Carefully review both original passenger list records.
Tip: Don’t Miss Page 2 Like many genealogical records, passenger lists records may be more than one page. If the index refers to something that you do not see when you click through to the original record, it is a strong indication that there is another page. Always look at the pages before and after any digitized record. In this case, we find Greenlake, WI on page 2!
1820 – 1907: Ship manifests are 1 page in length
After 1907: Manifests are 2 pages with additional information provided.
Source: The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Now that we know that Greenlake is Greenlake, Wisconsin, we can run a quick Google search to find the correct name and county: Green Lake, Wisconsin. Then continue your googling to find more historical information such as old maps and postcards. Click “Images” on the results page to quickly review the results.
Here are a few of the resources we found for Green Lake, WI:
There is a wealth of information on the Felberg’s passenger list, starting with the name of Otto’s father and the town where he lived:
Nearest relative listed on a passenger list
How to decipher an Ellis Island passenger list form.
Hamburg Passenger Lists
Question: “I can’t read the actual document which is the Hamburg Passenger List.” Answer: The Hamburg passenger list can be found in the Card Catalog. Card Catalog > Search Title (Hamburg Passenger Lists)
2 results: the passenger lists and the index.
We discovered that not only was the passenger list extremely difficult to read due to the ink copying over the page, but also the link did not go to the correct page. This is where the Index, found through the Card Catalog, because indispensable.
Band 161 (1927 F-J) (The year of their arrival and “F” for Felberg)
F (for Felberg)
Search the Index to locate the page number for the passenger’s record. Then go back to the original record and find the handwritten page number in the upper corner.
Tip: Quickly Navigate the Ancestry Record
Simply press the appropriate key on your computer keyboard to quickly navigate the pages.
“N” = Next page
“P” = Previous page
Visit Elevenses with LisaEpisode 17 for more Ancestry search tips and tricks.
We found the Felberg family on page 117, exactly where the index said they would be. It’s a good idea to search all the passengers for others with the same last name. In this case, Otto’s brother Rudolph Felberg was also on the ship. This aligned with the family lore that Rudolph may have sponsored the family’s move.
Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 153 Jackie Schalk, Director of the American Family Immigration History Center at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc discusses clues you may find in US passenger lists.