Finding the Answers: Starting WWII Research Webinar

15 December 2018

My name is Megan Heyl and I am the President of the Genealogy Study Group located in West Michigan.  I have a suggestion box available at each meeting for members to request topics for presentations.  I have received many requests about how to research military records, and I needed to contact an expert in the field who could guide and direct my group.

I found Jennifer Holik, and the World War II Research and Writing Center website and reached out asking for her help to present a basic military webinar to my group.  After a few calls to set the date, time, and other details that needed to be worked out, we scheduled December 15, 2018 for her presentation.  I had informed her that the majority of my group had very little or no experience in military research, so a basic introductory course would fit the bill.

The presentation was titled:  Finding the Answers – Starting WWII Research.

Jennifer had asked me to gather a few questions from the group, and send them to her in advance of the presentation, which I did.  Jennifer in turn sent me a PDF file to distribute to my group as a syllabus handout on the webinar.  By the time the date was here, everything was in order and ready to go.

My group thoroughly enjoyed this course, had all of their questions answered, and she also had a brief Q & A session that answered the questions that were sent into her in advance.  By the time the session was over, my group immediately asked for her to return.  They left the class being able to locate records, what information do you need to acquire these records, tips on where to send away for this data and what to expect and when to expect items.  She dispelled the myths and misgivings of this specialty research, and boosted the confidence in the attendees.  Throughout the next few days, I received more emails from my group thanking me for arranging for her to speak, for the excellent handouts, and the opportunity to have a professional researcher lead them in the right direction.

One thing is for certain, anyone who hires Jennifer Holik to speak at their meeting will not be disappointed.  She is now called our “Go To Girl” for military research.  Her passion and experiences in this field of study are unsurpassed by no one else.

Navigating World War II Records on Fold3

8 September 2017

No, it didn’t all burn in 1973.  Ms. Holik’s program “Navigating Word War II Records on Fold3.com” offers concise steps to follow in researching WWII service.  Yes, records were damaged and destroyed but there are other places to locate and experts to consult.  Her presentation is educational and filled with tips to aid the researcher in locating details on their veteran’s service.  Examples from her own research help make the work entailed well worthwhile.

Nancy Gaynor, Genealogy & Local History Librarian Cary Area Public Library District

80th Infantry Division Reunion

17 August 2016, Alexandria, Virginia

We were thrilled to have Jennifer Holik speak at 97th Reunion of the 80th Infantry Division in Alexandria, Virginia on August 19, 2016. (During WWII the 80th was part of Patton’s Third Army, commonly referred to as, “Patton’s Workhorse Division”).  Jennifer did a fantastic job in breaking down how to find critical military information for the families of soldiers from WWII.  She has done all the homework on how to make what can be an overwhelming process, seem much easier. She has helped countless families retrace the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers on the battlefields of Europe and in the Pacific. During her speech, she told numerous stories of soldiers and had our entire group captivated.  If you’re looking for a speaker for an upcoming event, I can highly recommend Jennifer.  You will not be disappointed!

Bill Black, National Commander, 80th Division Veterans Association

Ninth Infantry Division Association Reunion

August 6-8, 2016, Ft. Myers, Florida

Dear Jennifer:

I want to thank you for be the guest speaker at the Memorial Service of the 71st annual reunion of the Ninth Infantry Division Association.  Your words remembering and honoring our WWII and Vietnam veterans were inspirational to all present. It was one of our best memorial services.

As our Association is now largely composed of widows and sons and daughters of 9th Infantry Division veterans, we all enjoyed your second presentation on negotiating the often complex search of military records. As a result, several attendees expressed their desire to have other similar presentations at our next reunion in 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.

Thank you again for you interest and support in the Ninth Infantry Division Association.  I would gladly recommend you to other military organization.

Sincerely,

Terry R. Barnhart, President, Ninth Infantry Division Association

The Liberators

Jennifer Holik at the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, Groesbeek, the Netherlands

On October 28th 2015, we had the privilege of receiving Ms. Jennifer Holik in our museum for her workshop ‘The Liberators. Doing research into the lives of WWII soldiers’. The workshop was well attended by a range of historians – by hobby or profession, local history groups and people with an interest in their own family history. It was clear that Ms. Holik had her work cut out for her and she did not disappoint us.

Right from the start, Ms. Holik presented us with a wealth of information, checklists and constant reminders to be thorough and double check every fact against every other source. Wise words. She provided insider knowledge on what you could find in various archives, how to receive an answer quickly when corresponding with archives and when to spend that extra money on traveling to an archive or hiring a local researcher. Amongst all this practical information were touching examples of the lives of soldiers she had researched and the discoveries she had made during her search, which added a personal touch to all the data. A reminder that these were not mere names and numbers but very real and often dramatic human lives.

The level of her workshop might be best described as ‘intermediate’: very well suited to the student or historical hobbyist. Experts heard much that was familiar to them and a handful of valuable new tricks, while visitors who were completely new to the field of history had a hard time keeping track of the wealth of information. Luckily for them, Ms. Holik was kind enough to provide hand-outs and a lot of extra information on her website, as well as in her books.

We were very happy to have Ms. Holik’s workshop in our museum and were very satisfied with the result. There is no shortage of historians who like to talk about their own discoveries, but very few who take the time to teach others how to research history for themselves. It is fitting that this important work, opening up the field of history to those who do not have the opportunity to become professional researchers in universities, should focus on World War II. Every family has its own World War II stories that will never find a place in the official history books. Ms. Holik offers a toolbox to help those families write history books of their own.

Rense Havinga, curator at the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, the Netherlands

24 November 2015

Stories of Our Past

Goirle, Netherlands 26 October 2015

On October 26th 2015 in Goirle, the Netherlands, Jennifer Holik presented her experience on researching the history of American military personnel, who lost their lives during WWII, such that family members may know that history and give it a place in their memory of their loved ones.

She demonstrated that it was necessary to have in depth knowledge about the operations at the time, the archives where facts can be found and to know people who are knowledgeable in this respect. Jennifer has written a book about such a history of one of her own family members (this book was on display). Her lecture was full of photographs, stories and facts that she has been able to recover. It was a pleasure to have attended this lecture as I have been born myself at the very end of this war; reason why these stories are part of my origin.

Frans W. Zonneveld, attendee

26 November 2015

The Liberators

Crash Museum 40-45, October 24th, 2015 Aalsmeerderbrug, Netherlands

Since I was child I always was interested in hearing WWII stories from family, especially from my grandmothers. I was educated in airplane technology and I kept my interest in old WWII airplanes, especially Fokker airplanes that fought in May 1940 against the Germans. During my research I came across the Crash museum and had visited it on the old location some years ago. During the research I always was interested in all the other WWII stories. Many holidays were filled with visits to WWI and WWII locations and I still go to places when possible.

When I was older I got to see old family photo books and found the cousin of my grandmother. It took some research to know who he was and then many years of research and visits were made. My grandmothers cousin Enje Timmer died in Neuengamme concentration camp and his ashes were thrown in the SS kitchen garden. With this information I knew I had to do something with this story. I found out that half of the resistance group were executed and that the other half was murdered in camps, some weeks after they were betrayed. After some years I have a lot of information, letters, pictures, stories and even more personal things and I don’t know what to do with it. I have an old colleague Eric Bijtelaar with an enormous interest in WWII. His Facebook announcement that Jennifer Holik was having a speech at Crash 40 45 triggered me.

What drives this young woman to put almost all or her energy in WWII research and why? I had to see her, because there must be something in common.

From the beginning until the end Jennifer presented us with a lot of information, where to look for information and that you have to check your facts and information in every source you may have access to. Years of experiences made that Jennifer knows how to take the shortcuts to get her information and to make use of other people. It was also good to hear that for example the USA is still taking care of information and personal belonging of army personnel. What almost made me cry were the personal stories of soldiers. Beside the family relatives that were fighting for peace, that is what we have in common. Give the man/women a story and not just a picture or a grave. They deserve it.

Personally, the visit to Jennifer Holik in Crash 40-45 made me more motivated to write the story about this Dutch resistance group. I think I am obliged to the many young man that died.

Maybe I need the resources mentioned by Jennifer in the future to make to story complete.

Richard Hoogeveen, family genealogist and researcher of Dutch resistance group “Dirk de Geus”, Zoetermeer, Netherlands.

24 November 2015

The Liberators

A lecture by Jennifer Holik at the National Liberation Museum, Groesbeek, Netherlands 28 October 2015

What is a more suitable location for a lecture about our Liberators, than in a local liberation museum in Groesbeek? This is an area famous for some fierce fighting by the 101st Airborne Division in mid-September 1944.

Jennifer is unique in inspiring people to research background stories from deceased and killed liberators. She has many interesting and mind blowing stories to back up her lecture. If you need tools to learn how to research, to find out what tools are available, and how to find the information you seek, Jennifer is the person to listen to!

Jennifer also wrote a variety of books. Recently she updated one of her best, Stories from the World War II Battlefield. This is a guide and more detailed version of the lecture she gave at Groesbeek. Reading this book gave me the tools to find numerous resources for information online. I found photos of soldiers, stories in old newspapers, and documents in online archives, such as Fold3. It helps using specific search descriptions for sites like those. This is all knowledge Jennifer is willing to share.

I will end this testimonial by thanking Jennifer for the tools and knowledge she taught me. It made me feel like she is able to hear the stories directly from the departed soldiers. Letting them guide her to the rivers of information. It made me want to do more to preserve stories for the future. Jennifer is a wonderful person, always willing to help. I have a feeling we will meet again.

Bob Moolenbeek, 20 November 2015

Apeldoorn, The Netherlands

Finishing the Story Program – Niles Public Library

Jennifer’s generous presentation, Finishing the Story, at the Niles Public Library elicited uniformly excellent reviews from our patrons. Her lecture proved equal parts informational and affective, rich in genealogical insight and moving in description of departed  soldiers and their families.  She demonstrated the value of  military records still existing, namely Morning Reports and IDPFs, to military researchers who have been at a standstill.

Neil O’Shea, Niles Public Library 25 June 2015

Finishing The Story Program – Schaumburg Township District Library

As the Genealogy Coordinator at the Schaumburg Township District Library, I frequently am in contact with genealogy program speakers in our area.  Jennifer is one of the speakers that I invite to present her programs at our library to our audience.  Over the years Jennifer has provided multiple programs to our genealogy enthusiasts at our library.  Over the years I have seen Jennifer provide top-notch deliveries of all her programs.  Her visual materials are stunning.  Her speaking mannerisms draw in the audience.  Her knowledge of the particular genealogy subject being presented is deep.

Jennifer is a prolific author and seems to have focused her writing skills on telling the stories of her World War I and II military ancestors through her multiple published works.  Jennifer recently presented to our audience one of her military topic presentations titled “Finishing the Story”.  I can only say that she WOWed our audience with her personal stories of her military ancestors.  Her authority on World War I and II military research and resources is so incredible at this stage that I would consider her one of the best resources in our area on this topic of research!

She has truly found a home in becoming an expert on World War I and II military research.  Yet she also combines that knowledge with the ability to convey it to audiences through her warm and inviting speaking style and concise presentation material.  If I am being asked to assist someone regarding World War I and II military research, I will direct the researcher to Jennifer’s web site for the valuable “Toolbox” of military resources she has there.  Additionally, I direct World War I and II genealogy researchers to her recent book titled “Stories from the World War II Battlefield: Reconstructing Army, Air Corps and National Guard Service Records” that we have added to our circulating collection.

It has been such a joy to see Jennifer rise to the top among the multitude of genealogy program speakers in our area over the years.  If you are in need of a genealogy program presenter on World War I and II resources and research methodology, Jennifer has got to be the first one for you to think about.  Someday we may even see Jennifer on “Who Do You Think You Are?” showing her skills and knowledge on all things World War I and II military research.  She is that good on her depth of World War I and II military research knowledge.  I look forward to that airing!

Tony Kierna, Genealogy Coordinator, Schaumburg Township District Library, June 2, 2015 

Various programs at Fountaindale Public Library

I found her to be consistently pleasant, tackling all assignments with dedication and a smile. Besides being a joy to work with, Jennifer is a take-charge person who is able to present creative ideas and communicate ideas effectively. She has successfully developed several presentations and online technology ideas for our library that have resulted in increased patronage, online visibility, and a renewed interest in library programming.  Though she has been an asset to our programming efforts, Jennifer is also extraordinarily knowledgeable, helpful, and an above-the-board professional.  She assumes leadership roles well and is inspiring and motivating to others.

Debra M. Dudek, Adult and Teen Services Manager, Fountaindale Public Library

© 2019 Jennifer Holik