Locating Italian Immigrants on Ship Manifests

This morning I was searching for some Italian ship manifests for a client’s research on Ancestry.com and discovered something I had not previously. It appears no instruction was given to indexers when they began indexing the manifests. For some individuals (mainly children) where there is a line indicating the previous surname is the same for the child – no surname is entered. When the word “figlio” or “figlia” or “moglie” is added as a surname – it is indexed that way. Figlio/figlia mean son/daughter and moglie is wife. Take a look at the image below from a ship manifest in 1890.

Line 496 and entry 18. See what I mean?  Next time you are searching for Italians, be sure to search upside down, backwards, with and without surnames, given and surname reversed, and any other combination you can come up with.

Good luck!

Italian ship manifest

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Military Monday – Exploring Offline and Online World War II Resources

There is a myth many family historians believe and that is, all the records I need are online. This is not true. Only a small percentage of records available throughout time have been digitized and placed online. This is especially true for military records. Family historians exploring their World War II ancestor’s service and lives should search online to see what information exists and provides¬†contextual history for that soldier and his service. The researcher should also search offline record sources to obtain specific service and medical information and additional contextual history to properly place the soldier into historical context.

Online Sources

There are many online sources available today on Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and the National Archives website. These sources range from Draft Cards, Army Enlistment Records, Missing Air Crew Reports, Naval War Diaries (Operational diaries), photographs, and war crime testimony.

Researchers should not overlook all of the World War II Reunion Groups and Associations for the specific unit(s) in which their soldier fought. Many of these groups are obtaining and digitizing or indexing record sets. The 90th Division Association is one such group. The 29th Infantry Division is another to explore as one veteran created a searchable Excel file of all the Morning Reports for the 29th.

After you exhaust the online sources, don’t stop there. Explore all the offline resources available too.

Offline Sources

One of the first places to start your research is the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. There are three main ways to explore records at this facility. First, you can go to their website and print Form 180, complete it and send it in. This will produce a search of military service records and medical records only. Nothing else. If your soldier served in the Army or Air Corps (today’s Air Force), chances are good they will send you a letter saying “the records burned.”

You can however, visit the NPRC in person to search these records in addition to the Morning Reports, payroll records, and other records held in this facility. The final way is to hire a researcher familiar with the procedures and records at the NPRC. I highly recommend Norm Richards as a researcher. He is efficient and knowledgeable. Norm is at the NPRC almost every day they are open conducting research.

Other offline resources include records held at Archives 2 in College Park, MD. These are the unit records (unit histories, rosters, photographs, maps, etc.)

Look for histories written and published by the official military branches, historians, and veterans. All of these resources will provide historical context.

Need more World War II Resources and assistance? Check out my book, Stories from the Battlefield: A Beginning Guide to World War II Research and my WWII Toolbox on my website.

© 2014 Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday – Finding Genealogy in Military Records

After finishing and publishing three books on World War II this year, I took a month and a half long break. Kind of a forced break you could say – where I just could not and did not want to research, read, talk about, or write anything World War II or military. I guess sometimes we just need to step back and stop. Some client work has pushed me back into the research and writing though. I’m happy to say I’m ready to dive back in, just not at the pace I was the last two years. Which was almost non-stop.

I have pieces of a file for a U.S. Navy Officer named George Tyler Howe. This man served from 1910 – 1935 when he was put on the retired list. Then went back into service in 1940 and remained there until discharge after World War II in 1945. His file is gigantic and at some point I will obtain a full copy. For now I have some important pieces of information such as his full record of service including the dates he was placed at various stations and on ship, how many days of sea service he had plus total service. There are medical records, a Bronze Star Citation, and family information.

What surprised me were the letters from a descendant of George T. Howe who had written to the National Personnel Records Center asking for copies of vital records that apparently were in the file at some point. Maybe they still are, I haven’t yet seen the full file. There are also lists of his beneficiaries and family members – both his wife/children and the names and addresses of a few of his siblings.

Service file page of George T. Howe, LT Commander, U.S. Navy

Service file page of George T. Howe, LT Commander, U.S. Navy

The file also contains a few handwritten letters written by his wife to the Navy asking about her husband’s health and current station. Can you imagine what it was like to have a husband serving in World War I and beyond and not knowing where he was? This man had a lot of health issues and his wife was concerned about this as well.

Overall the file is quite interesting as it combines records from pre-World War I and beyond to World War II. Add to this military history, the genealogy sprinkled in here and there, and it becomes even more valuable to researchers. And, in researching his service this morning, I discovered his son George Tyler Howe, Jr. served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a Marine Aviator. George Jr. was lost at sea 25 September 1944 in the Pacific. I plan to learn more about his service too. Stay tuned!

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