Over the last several months I have met a lot of people working on their World War II family research. Some of these people come from a genealogy background where they are usually taught to search for collaterals to assist their research. Others come from a non-genealogy background where they are simply interested because they heard a story, someone’s birthday is coming up, or a family member recently passed. These people may not have ever heard or considered searching for anyone but their ancestor.
One example of searching for information on collaterals is my Flying Tiger, Robert Brouk. If I only wanted to know about his service, I could look for a service record, Flight School information, genealogical resources, his Air Force Accident Report, and his IDPF. I could interview family members and see what photographs and memorabilia they have on his life.
Would I know the whole story? Would his story make sense to anyone else reading it if I wrote it without adding historical context or looking at the collaterals – those with whom he flew and served – to tell the story? Might I find some mention of him in someone else’s memoir or history?
No, I would not know the whole story, just his and it might not make complete sense without historical context. Who were the Flying Tigers? What was the AVG? Why was he flying in China against the Japanese before Pearl Harbor? If I look into the lives of the pilots in his squadron, histories of the Flying Tigers, and searched for collections of his leaders and others involved with the formation and disbandment of the Flying Tigers, I may uncover information I never expected.
This is why we should search for collaterals even if you are not pursing genealogical research. The collaterals can be extremely helpful.
© 2014, Jennifer Holik Woodridge, IL