Follow Friday – January 10, 2014

69 years ago the Battle of the Bulge was raging in Europe. Here are a couple of news stories that bring that story into the present day.

Emerging from History: Account of Black Soldiers Killed By Nazis

And one in which my friend in Luxembourg, Mike Boehler is quoted. Act of Mercy Amid Brutal Winter Fighting in the Battle of the Bulge

Have you read any good articles or books about the Battle of the Bulge recently? Please share in the comments.

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL


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Military Monday – The Dead of Winter Book Review

Dead of Winter coverI just finished reading this book, The Dead of Winter by Bill Warnock. What a powerful book! I have done genealogical research on my family’s World War II soldiers, almost all of whom died in service. I have worked with military records (IDPFs, Morning Reports, After Action Reports, and Unit Histories to name a few.) I have seen some X-files, the files for those soldiers who were unidentified at the time of burial. I have never worked on a MIA case ……yet. I suspect this is in my future.

This book is an excellent example of the research conducted by historians, genealogists, forensic scientists, veterans, and those who live in Europe who dig for artifacts and those who were declared Missing. Every genealogist researching WWII ancestors should read this book because it provides an excellent storyline while incorporating the research conducted, the process of locating the Missing, the records used, and the timeline of events. Just as genealogy is not easy, neither is researching the lives, deaths, and burial locations of our Missing.

One thing that struck me as I finished the book was that there is no central repository of information. The government has JPAC and other organizations dedicated to various components of this search, recovery, and identification process. There are numerous historians, battlefield investigators (many of whom do this research on their own time and dime), genealogists, and others who request and analyze data in the search for the Missing. Can you imagine how much faster the process could become if there was a way for everyone to work together? What a concept right? Cooperation? Sharing of information? I’m no expert on what the U.S. government is doing currently with the location, recovery, and identification of the Missing, but from what little I have read, things are not quite the way some would wish them to be. Long delays and inadequate funding are a few issues.

One of the best things about this book I feel, are the stories. The author not only explained the research, recovery, and identification process, but brought to life the soldiers that were Missing. He brought to life the stories of the soldiers who survived and helped in the research process. The STORIES are so important. It is something I strive to teach people when I lecture and through my soon to be released books. Write those family stories even if you have only that. A story. Write it. The research will come of course and you’ll add and modify the family story according to records. But you must start somewhere.

I challenge you in 2014 to WRITE the stories of your military ancestors.

One of my goals for 2014 is to continue reading books and research such as this. I feel there is a reason why I’m learning so much about the WWII Graves Registration Service, the Missing, the military records available, and being connected with so many who do this kind of research. If you know of some good books or articles I should read, please note them in the comments or email me directly.

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Stories of the Lost Book Update

Photo courtesy of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Photo courtesy of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

As 2013 ended and 2014 rolled around I really began looking closely at my book, Stories of the Lost, which I had planned to publish by now. That did not happen. The final story in the book, about James Privoznik, who died on January 11, 1945, has taken on a life of its own.

When we research our family trees we are used to seeing breadcrumbs in our path. A clue here, a family story there, or a photograph that appears out of nowhere. The same is true of writing a book. Sometimes you have to just release all expectations about what you think the book will be about and contain and go with the flow. A colleague and I recently had this discussion as she told me about a book she wrote recently. The characters took her on a journey beyond what she anticipated. That is what has been and continues to happen with James’ story. What exactly do I mean?

Initially this book was to contain four stories about men who fought in WWI and WWII in my family and died. They were lost. I had three stories written previously but they needed a lot of work and updating. To explain one story, Frank Winkler’s not D-Day story, I felt I needed to know about the Graves Registration Service. I spent an entire weekend in August working on learning the basics. Then I requested numerous books and spoke to numerous individuals with knowledge. In the end I had a new chapter for my book and it totally reworked the Stories of the Lost lecture I was writing. I went with the flow.

Since then I have been adding pieces to James’ story. I was on track to finish and publish by December until September when James’ nephew handed me a bag full of stuff. What stuff? His burial flag from Luxembourg, a flag sent to his mother after he was temporarily buried, photographs, and a photo of him at Camp Butner, NC in January 1943. I had no idea he was at Camp Butner because the Morning Reports had not traced him that far back (yet.)

20131211_171740The research continued and a book The Ordnance Soldier’s Guide appeared in my path. I found a copy on AbeBooks and bought it. A 1942 book with valuable information on what an Ordnance Soldier would have learned. What James would have learned. Numerous other books were placed in my hands and then James’ nephew found one last photo album that contained photos of an unknown camp and a photo in a frame of James with his rifle standing in front of a tent. Do you know all those photos in the album were unidentified? I have no idea (yet) where this camp was located. Do you know that the back of the photograph in the frame was identified? It said, Tennessee Maneuvers Aug-1943. Wow – so the 126th was on Maneuvers in Tennessee. I did not know this! Now I have to chase this lead down. The fabulous researcher, Norm Richards, in St. Louis is tracking down the 126th Medium Maintenance Morning Reports for me now. (Note: If you need a good researcher at the NPRC, contact Norm and tell him I sent you – see my website Resources page.)

I’ve worked extensively with the fine reference librarians at Pritzker Military Museum and Library the last several months. They, particularly Paul and Teri, have sent me valuable websites, books, resources, and people, that will help me tell this story. And from all of their help, discussions we’ve had, the research and writing I’ve done, something new has emerged.

This one particular story in this book has a greater meaning and purpose for me, the genealogy and history community, and all of those men and women who participated in WWII to ensure our freedom. What is this greater meaning and purpose? I’m seeing glimpses of this now which I will keep to myself. But this is changing some of my 2014 plans where my military research and writing is concerned. I promise you, what emerges from this one story in this very important book will be exciting.

Will this book be released this year? Yes. All I can say right now is in the spring. Then I will redirect my attention to The Tiger’s Widow and revise that draft for preparation for publication this summer. And what comes after that? Research for Book 3 in my Stories of the Lost series which I hope to have out by the end of 2015. And research and writing on a new series I feel those doing genealogy, family history, and writing need right now.

I look forward to sharing all of this with you soon.

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL


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Military Monday – Vanished Book Review

I just finished reading the book Vanished The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton. This book blew me away.

My research and writing has been focused on WWII Europe and mostly infantrymen with one pilot. I wasn’t ready to move to the Pacific yet but certain events, people, pieces of information have started nudging me in that direction. When I was browsing WWII books at Barnes and Noble this one jumped out at me. I read the book over the course of a few hours on a Saturday night, had to force myself to stop and go to sleep, only to resume at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Curled up on the sofa with my coffee, under a really snuggly blanket, I did not move until the book was done.

This book takes you into WWII Pacific and the life of Bomber Groups. It talks about the records used to piece together this enormous puzzle about the location of three specific bombers in Palau. It discusses the various theories as to what happened during the crashes and if there were survivors. Hylton puts you on these islands with the men during WWII and with the teams that searched for the planes and remains. I cried tears of sorrow and tears of joy at various points in the book. There is also the discussion about Missing in Action (MIA) servicemen and the impact of that status on their families – for the rest of their lives. This is not something most of us deal with as genealogists nor do we talk about it. But we should. And that is something I strive to do with my research and writing – tell the truth and dig deep no matter how much it hurts to read and write.

As you continue reading you discover the research spanned years until……….you’ll have to read the book to find out how it ends.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about WWII MIA, war in the Pacific, and the teams that research today to bring our MIA from not only WWII but future wars home. You will also learn about the military records that are helpful to genealogists without MIA family members, who just want to tell their stories of war. 

The BentProp Project is an organization focused on recovering remains in Palau and was formed by members in this book during the search for the three bombers. For more information on the book, visit your local bookstore or see The BentProp Project links below.

The BentProp Project’s FaceBook Page

The BentProp Website

© 2013, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday – Combat Medic Book Review

combat medicI read a book last week called Combat Medic World War II by John Kerner, M.D. I had seen this book recommended by a couple of people on FaceBook and it caught my attention a couple of times when I was looking for books at Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago. Finally I checked it out thinking it was something I should read. Ever get that feeling when a book keeps popping up? It almost screams READ ME!

The book was excellent. I admit to having gotten lost in it for several hours over two days while I read. John transported me to the battlefields of World War II and spoke of love, fighting, death, survival, the human spirit, and the ability of humans to care for each other. 

I do not have any combat medics in my family (to my knowledge.) My family in World War II served in the Navy (Armed Guard), Army (Ordnance and infantry and engineers.) This book gave me an overview of what the war was like from the point of view of a man who was trying to save lives. I gained a better understanding of the type of wounds received, the type of care given, and what I assume is true no matter what job you held – the enormous difference between how you were trained versus what real war was like.

This book really opened my eyes to life in combat and I suggest it to anyone studying the WWII soldiers in their families. Open your mind to a new perspective. You will not be disappointed.

Have you read any good WWII books? I’d love some suggestions for my 2014 reading list.

© 2013, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Follow Friday – Digging For Ancestors Book

DiggingforAncestorsDid you know the In-Depth Genealogist (IDG) just published their first book? Digging For Ancestors: An In-Depth Guide to Land Records by Michelle Roos Goodrum.

First, where can you purchase this book? Visit the In-Depth Genealogist’s Products page and you have the choice of paperback book or E-book. IDG made sure they catered to those of us that still love holding books and those that like their E-Readers.

Navigating land records has never been one of my favorite things. There are a few books available on the subject and I’ve done some online searching to find answers but they still frustrate me. This book however holds your hand and provides friendly “here’s how you do it and what to look for and what this means” conversation. Sometimes THAT is exactly what we need as researchers. There are so many facets to genealogy that some are easy to understand and others not so much. Why is this? Because we all have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I personally prefer military research over land records.

What can you find in this book? There is a section on Tips for Using Land Records, explanations of various land records, property descriptions, using Google Earth for research, and many resources to help you navigate land records.

Now, Harold Henderson wrote a very in-depth review of what is and is not contained in this book. You can read his blog post and comments here. He has a lot of constructive feedback and I suspect IDG may consider a 2nd edition of this book in the near future. Contact them through their website if you have a suggestion.

One thing all readers should keep in mind is that when each of us reads and reviews books, we come at them from different levels of experience and expectations about what the book should include. This book was meant to help beginners navigate the large sea of land records. It was not meant to be the end all be all resource for land records. Michelle really holds your hand through the book and guides you so you have the foundation laid to proceed with your research. To me, that is very important and again, just what some of us need at times in our research.

I encourage you to check out this new book on land records and let IDG and us know what you think. How does the friendly conversation and guidance in this book help YOU research?

© 2013, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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