“Sources in your home may contain clues for family & military research. Have you explored every possibility?”
EXPLORING HOME SOURCES
A home source is a document, photograph, piece of memorabilia, or ephemera that provides clues to the puzzle you are attempting to solve. Search not only your home, but ask relatives to search theirs for clues.
Have you explored all the possible home sources that could provide clues to your military research?
As you search, look for information to help you add structure and details to your soldier’s story.
POSSIBLE HOME SOURCES
Bibles. Within family Bibles, we often find names of family members with dates of birth, marriage, death, and other significant dates like military service.
Company Records. Check with the businesses and companies for which the soldiers worked prior to the war.
Diaries, Letters and Postcards. Did the soldier keep a diary or send letters (V-Mail) home? Were there postcards sent home? The military censored a lot of material in letters and postcards sent home. While these letters will not have some key information we would wish they would, they give us an idea of life as a soldier. Check the envelopes of letters for service numbers and unit information.
MORE HOME SOURCES
Funeral and Cemetery Records. Did you check with the funeral home that handled your ancestor’s burial? If there was a military burial ceremony, proof of service had to be shown. The funeral home’s records may contain proof of military service or a copy of the discharge paperwork.
Home Movies. Did your family take home movies? Do you have any with your soldier in uniform? Are there any taken of parades or war gatherings in the U.S.? What clues do these movies provide?
Military Unit Newsletters or Newspapers. Some units created newsletters or newspapers while overseas as a way to keep the company updated on events or news from home. Often these will provide a date and general location of service which can help you complete a timeline of service.
Pension Records. Pension records from the military or an employer may provide clues to military service, addresses, and work and military history.
Probate Records. Probate records may seem more like a genealogical record to pursue, but depending on what assets the deceased had and to whom these assets were left, you may discover military information. Probate records usually contain Heir Testimony or lists of heirs, which will help you establish family histories. There also might be clues regarding the gravestone.
State-Level War Participation Certificate. It was common for a soldier to return to his home after the war ended before possibly moving elsewhere.
World War II Bonus Applications. After World War II, the government provided a bonus payment for service overseas. These bonus applications are often found within state archival holdings. Some, for states like Pennsylvania, have been digitized and placed online. The Bonus Application would have been filed in the state in which the soldier lived after service. Check with your State Archives regarding holdings and access. In some states, these records are open and available. In other states, like Illinois, laws restrict access for many more years.