When I lecture in the U.S. and Europe, or talk to people I don’t know online, the one question they always ask me is, ‘Why did you start researching World War II or any of the 20th century wars?’My business did not start out in military research, but genealogy. When I was finishing my history degree I took a class in 1996 which required a family history project. Once I started, I was hooked. Being Czech, as far as I had traced in 1998, I was determined to finish my degree, return to Chicago and become a great Chicago Czech researcher.

Funny how we make plans and life happens……A year after I started my business in 2010, I began working with an Italian American in Chicago. Five years later I became a Chicago Italian researcher with an expertise on the people from Ricigliano, Italy and surrounding villages. Even in 2019, I am still working with this client. His project went very quickly beyond a few generations. Each year I create several books for him documenting his entire family from past to present, with photographs, biographies, and stories. This client has written many pieces of what is becoming his memoir. I know my Italian client’s family better than my own Czech ancestors.

Robert Brouk

By the end of the the 2nd year of my business, I had published several books. One on my cousin, the Flying Tiger Robert Brouk, and several Genealogy teaching books for kids and adults. This laid the foundation for what was to come.

So how did I move from genealogy to military research? Over the course of several years of personal research into my own family’s military history, my relatives who died in service pushed me to research their stories. So I did. I researched and wrote about my WWI great grand uncle Michael Kokoska, KIA in France 1918. My Flying Tiger cousin, killed during training pilots after his AVG service ended in 1942. My cousin Frank Winkler, KIA in France in 1944. My cousin and guide for many years, James Privoznik, KIA in Belgium during the Bulge in 1945. I wrote a lecture, Finishing the Story, to help educate genealogists on some of the records I was using. That led to a book called, Stories of the Lost, where I told the stories of all those men. Along with that book, I also released the second in that series called The Tiger’s Widow, which is about the widow of Robert Brouk, Virginia Brouk, who became a WAAC then WAC in 1943 and served in Egypt.

The more I researched and looked for resources to help the process along, I realized there really were not any. Anything that did exist was so out of date, the information was basically useless. Records access changes all the time. The only book I found focused on the Army and had one chapter dedicated to records. In my mind, this lack of educational materials was unacceptable. 

I began researching service men and women across all branches of the military during WWII. With each individual, and each client who hired me, I learned more about how to research and how to write the stories. I was connected with researchers overseas who live in the Philippines and Europe, research adopted soldiers, specific units or battles, or doing Missing In Action research. These connections led to a lot of sharing of information between us and the ability to connect with other people on both sides of the ponds. I also read several “expert” websites to see what information was being shared. One expert in particular really irritates me every time I read his answers. There is a lot we can learn from those who irritate us – the question is, how do we take this and turn it into something positive to help others.

The more I read online, the more I see there is a lot of misinformation being given to people about WWII research and records access, even from genealogists doing research today. Researchers should stay on top of these issues and disseminate current information. The question was, how could I change all the misinformation being spread?

The answer came in the form of several more lectures which teach people how to research. It also led to the creation of the only books on the market today, which teach people in the U.S. and Europe, HOW to research and write the stories of American service men or women across any branch.

Luxembourg James Flag (54)My genealogy to WWII journey has taken me down many interesting roads. It led me across the sea to Europe where I’ve created a life there with my Dutch husband Johan. Actually I live two lives – one in Chicago and one in Europe from time to time. Makes for interesting stories, experiences, and life. My journey often led me down deep, dark, emotional trails to help me grow and change. Military research is not all sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows. It causes us to examine things we prefer to avoid, and feel things we may have held apart from our hearts for a long time. It sometimes brings to the surface the secrets, lies, darkness that our family has tried to hide. I have helped many clients process these results over the last decade.

 

The most important part of the journey is that my research, writing, and speaking has provided a lot of education and healing for myself, the service members I research, and their families. For this I am extremely grateful. I truly have the best job and am living my life’s purpose. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Where will the road or airplane lead next? I have some plans and ideas that are exciting. You’ll have to come back and keep reading to see what happens!

Why did you start researching World War II? Please share your story with us in the comments.

 

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

 

Sources in your home may contain clues for family & military research. Have you explored every possibility?”

SUBHEADING

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.

Would You Like More?

Download our Military Home Source Checklist and start searching today!

Schedule a Free Research Consult Today!

Email Jennifer!

Many of the clients who work with me over the last few years have sought deeper answers. They come to the research consultation with family stories, secrets, perhaps lies they discovered. They come with questions wondering who really was my father or mother? Sometimes the research itself provides secrets that were hidden for decades, or answers that change the perception a client has on their family member or even, themselves. This can cause grief, a sense of loss, sense of abandonment, trigger PTSD, and many other things.

Research Services

We offer many research and writing services. Each project is customized for the client because each client has different needs.

  • Locate, analyze, and interpret World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam records across all branches for military personnel, including individual soldier records, company records, and unit records.
  • Reconstruct service history, placing pieces of your service member’s puzzle together, even when the records burned! We find the answers where other firms do not.
  • Help you locate information you didn’t realize you had and sort out your family stories.
  • Help you process the emotions that rise through your family stories, the research, and final results.
  • Help you plan a trip to Europe to walk in your soldier’s footsteps.
    • Connect you with researchers and tour guides in Europe to learn more about your soldier’s story or visit the battlefields.
    • Can’t visit Europe? We can go where you soldier was to document the journey.
  • Write and publish a book about your family or soldier or assist you with the project.

So What is Upgraded?

Many of our clients discover things through the research they did not know or that changes what they knew. We now offer resources to clients from the start of the project, to help them process what they learn.

First, not every client receives news from the research that changes their world or shatters the image of their family member. I am seeing a rise in what clients require for support over the last two years and feel resources are necessary. To learn more about this, you can read two articles I recently wrote. More details from the Zoom professionals calls will be coming as new resources are developed within the group.

Each new client will receive an intake type of worksheet asking them to write notes about their project, their family member and themselves. I encourage this at the start of the project. Some clients will learn things they were not expecting, so having a baseline to refer to later is helpful in processing their emotions and the new information.

Additionally, each client will receive an exit worksheet asking similar and different questions to help them to continue processing the information learned. Where necessary, additional resources will be provided.

For clients who would like a more personalized approach to understanding and working through the research, I offer one-one facilitation sessions where we focus on your research, the results, your stories, what it brought up for you, and we move through this in various ways. Explore our Facilitation Services to learn more.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist and that is not my role in the facilitation. I can provide resources but they should not be taken as medical advice. Some clients with disturbing and life altering results may need to seek professional help to work through things.

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

Why Use Themes?

  • They help you organize thoughts.
  • Secondly, they help you create interview questions.
  • Thirdly, they may guide a family gathering and conversation.
  • Fourth, they create an outline for a story or book.

Writing Themes

My invitation to you:

Take these writing themes and craft some interview or journaling questions around them. See where each leads you and begin to craft your story.  Download a writing theme worksheet to get you started!


Top 10 U.S. Writing Themes

Prompt Themes for United States Writers

  • Life on the Home Front Before, During & After the War
  • Community Impact
  • Women in the War
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Communication
  • Propaganda
  • War Orphans, War Widows, and Adoptions
  • Remembrance of the Fallen
  • Honoring the Veterans
  • Memories of Post-War Generations

Top 10 European Writing Themes

 

  • Life Before, During & After the War
  • Occupation or Annexation
  • Propaganda
  • Resistance
  • Persecution
  • War Orphans and Adoptions
  • Memories of the Post-War Generations
  • Preserving the Memories
  • Memorials and Monuments
  • Liberation Ceremonies

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

Let Us Help


Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service?

Email us at  info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time.


 

 

 

 

JOURNAL TO HEAL YOURSELF AND YOUR ANCESTORS


Journaling has been something I have been doing since I was a little girl. Not consistently though until the last few years. My early journals were typical of a girl moving into puberty, Jr. High and High School, with talk of which boy was the cutest, drama with friends and siblings, and my dreams for the future. In High School they became much more. An outlet to describe frustrations in my family life (typical teenager complaints), a safe place to explore the larger world and my gigantic dreams which were too large and out there for most people in my life. I’m sure most people who knew me then, thought I was crazy for having such big dreams and growing up in such a small town.

After I became an adult, the journals changed again as an even more safe place to talk about my fears, sadness, guilt, shame, mistakes, anger, and dreams. When I had my first child, miscarriages, and later twins, the journals became a place to express all I had before, adding marriage troubles, and my hopes and dreams for my children.

When I moved out in June 2012 to get divorced and start a new life, I had a relatively new and thriving business. The journals became a place to work through all the changes in my life, express my fears in being a single mother and business owner, channeling my relatives and guides as I transitioned into a more authentic version of who I was. They also became a place to create many things for my business, which shifted from genealogy to WWI and WWII research, speaking, and writing.

My journaling has been so intense the last several years, so vulnerable and open, that I have personally changed a great deal, as have those around me. As we heal ourselves, others heal too, even if we are unaware it is happening. I channel the soldiers when they show up asking for help. The research and writing, and even the programs I teach, heal the living and the dead.

The journals that have shown up and gifted to me since December are also full of magic. I ask them before I write in them, what do you want from me? The last journal I filled told me I had to be more open, honest, and vulnerable about everything and share the journal with my fiancé! That was a scary concept because I don’t share my journals. Yet I knew if I could be vulnerable and authentic, and share my writing with him, I would be able to share more of myself with the world when the time was right.

Do you know what happened when he read the journal? We both healed. I didn’t die of fright or shame or guilt over anything I wrote. He didn’t head for the hills and never speak to me again. The entire process allowed me to move into a place I had never been. A very good place.

We are all works in progress. As I shift more each day into a more authentic, aware version of myself, a healer, mother, soon to be wife, daughter, friend, business owner, the people entering my reality is shifting and changing. Clients are showing up asking for military research but also so much more. I’m hearing words and phrases:

I’m looking for answers, closure, peace, healing.

Words they put into their stories when we talk include: answers, closure, peace, healing, shame, guilt, fear, anger, love, trauma, PTSD, inherited trauma, resolution, secrets, pain, and many more.

I’m trying to understand WHO my father really was. Why our relationship was as it was. WHO I am after learning all this.

These secrets were kept for so long. What do I do with them? How do I resolve the past and understand?

Would you please write a summary of my dad’s service to be read at his military funeral?

At least a few of my new clients are journaling about their lives, families, trauma (both their own and inherited), and research on their family members. Some of them use journaling to understand the past to heal it and themselves. Others use it to also record their journey through the research, the questions and answers, and healing, in preparation to write a book or walk in Europe where their soldier walked (and often died.)

When we think of genealogical or military research, we often focus only on the research and adding information to our family tree. Too often we choose not to write anything. It becomes a single short fact in a tree or database.

What would happen if we had a journal dedicated to our research? A safe place to document our progress, questions, answers, hidden family secrets, and all the shame, guilt, anger, hate, and even LOVE that arises throughout the process?

Are you using journaling for your research? How has it helped you? What tips do you have for others who are ready to start this process of research and healing?

 

 

Let Us Help


Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service?

Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time.

You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

 

 

 

 

I am often asked how to reconstruct a military service file. In this short video I talk about this. Be sure to scroll down to see the additional resources to help you accurately reconstruct military history. You might be surprised to discover reconstruction is not what a lot of people tell you it is.

Watch our video to learn more!

Additional Resources

Pick up one of our research books on Kindle or Paperback from Amazon. We have the only books on the market that teach you how to research any 20th century war. The strategies, records, and tools that we teach you for WWII research apply to WWI, Korea, and Vietnam.

Take one of our online courses available at WWII Education.

Educational Articles on Research

Videos

 

Can I help you with your research?

Check out our Researching WWII Online webinar. This webinar gives you the tools to research any 20th century war.

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

Robert & Virginia Brouk 3 weeks before he died training pilots.

“Finding the Answers is possible when you do 20th Century Military Research. Even when the records burned.”

In 2010 when I wrote my first book about my AVG Flying Tiger cousin Robert Brouk, I had no idea how to research WWII service. I knew the records burned and was afraid no answers could be found. However, after writing that book and knowing I had to research the stories of my other military family members, I embarked on a journey which took thousands of hours and several years to develop the strategy to find the answers and research any branch for any 20th century war, even if the records burned.

By 2012 I was teaching these strategies I was creating and by 2013 I started releasing the first of my military research books. After eight years of teaching these research classes, I am ready to move on. If you would like to know all the secrets to finding the answers, you will want to sign up for this webinar today. This is the last time I will teach this class.

WEBINAR DESCRIPTION

World War II research is surrounded by stories and myths which often give people the perception they cannot obtain any information about military service. What most people do not realize is military research should be done in two parts. Starting at the end with a discharge unit will usually lead you down the wrong path where you will waste time and money.

This 1.5 hour webinar will focus on what is available first at home and then within the archives and online repositories. You will learn how to put a timeline of service together, how to properly reconstruct military history, what can be found within service files and company-level types of records, and where else to look. At the end of this webinar you will have the tools to proceed to the next step in military research – contextual history.

A webinar on learning how to research the second part – contextual records – will be held in February 2020. Registration for that webinar will open 6 January 2020.

Register for webinar

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

 

Thank you for stopping by Research a Veteran! This is a new site, a subsidiary of Jennifer Holik’s WWII Research and Writing Center.

On this site Jennifer will be focused more on Korean War and Vietnam War research and writing and helping clients find the answers.

To learn more about our services while we build more content, visit the WWII Research & Writing Center to learn more. Also stop by our educational sites:

More content will be added soon.

Stop by again in January 2020 when we will have settled more into our new home.

© 2019 Jennifer Holik Research A Veteran