REQUIRED Reference Material for Finding World War I Veterans and Their Stories
[Editor’s Note: The World War I Genealogy Research Guide is currently on sale in Kindle format for $4.99 (67% off the print price) – click HERE and the paperback version is priced at $15.00 – click HERE.]
Dudek, Debra M. World War I Genealogy Research Guide: Tracing American Military and Non-Combatant Ancestors Includes a Guide to Canadian Military Research. Self-published: April 2018. 97 pages.
Have you ever convinced yourself that you had sufficient knowledge about an area of genealogy, only to find out that you didn’t know as much as you thought? That’s exactly the epiphany I had when I first read World War I Genealogy Research Guide: Tracing American Military and Non-Combatant Ancestors Includes a Guide to Canadian Military Research by Debra M. Dudek.
And once I started using the information for my own Great War ancestors, I found myself doing “head smacks” and saying to myself, “Why didn’t I know this!” This guide would have been so useful when I was researching some of my family lines! And I think you’ll find the guide just as enlightening for your own research.
Perspective on World War I
The author makes a strong argument that The Great War is often overlooked in American history and even by genealogy researchers, partially due to a loss of records (with a major fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri in 1973). This guide is meant to assist family historians wishing to document the lives of ancestors who fought in World War I and overcome some of the obstacles presented by a lack of records.
If you do purchase this book, I urge you to read the introductory materials where Dudek makes sure that you understand the basics of how World War I records sets were created and where they are located. The author provided so much information that made up the “education gap” I had for World War I research.
Getting Started – Goal Setting
A useful tool for any researcher is a “road map” for how to approach research before hopping right into using records. The author has come up with a smart approach for World War I research:
- Determine if your ancestor served
- Find rank and unit info
- Determine dates of service and details
- Understand World War I history and geography
- Document veteran’s post service life
- Share your World War I veteran’s story
World War I Research Topics
The author dedicates the majority of the guide to covering these areas of records for World War I research:
- Online Research: Covers Ancestry (and why the three most important record sets are NOT listed under World War I records!), FamilySearch, Fold 3 (the author offers excellent search strategies for this military records site), Internet Archive, and more resources including historical newspaper records.
- State Specific Resources: A breakdown by state of available resources.
- National Archives Records: A thorough review of onsite, in-person research opportunities including the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri; National Archives at College Park, MD; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC; Library of Congress, Washington, DC and more.
- Naturalization and Enemy Alien Records: An often overlooked research area and also FBI records containing enemy alien information.
- Non-Military Women’s World War I Records: The author lends valuable background on how women sought employment opportunities during World War I. Many women served in various types of positions usually without being enlisted directly in the military. Finding these “contractor” type records are not easy but Dudek provides the clues.
- Short Guide to Researching Canadian Military World War I Records: This section is not as thorough as you would find in a guide written specifically for the Canadian researcher. However, the information is valuable for American researchers, since some US citizens went to Canada to fight in The Great War especially before the US entry into the conflict in 1917.
World War I Genealogy Research Guide should be required reference material for any genealogist researching ancestors who may have served in the American military forces during The Great War. If you’re looking for a road map to success to get the most information on a veteran’s World War I experience, you’ll find it here.
About The Author: Debra M. Dudek
Debra M. Dudek is Head of Adult and Teen Services at the Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, IL. Ms. Dudek specializes in British genealogy, World War I research, and emerging technology topics. An alumna of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, Ms. Dudek holds a Masters in Information and Library Studies as well as a Post Graduate Certificate in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies.
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