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

Abbreviations, codes, numbers, and ……. confusion.


Is this how you feel sometimes when you are looking for World War II information?

Sometimes the most difficult part of starting World War I or World War II research is locating vital pieces of information to move a search forward. This is especially important if the Official Military Personnel File burned. Are you looking for information on a service man or woman’s service number, unit, enlistment and discharge dates? The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, has a great resource for World War I and World War II researchers. The VA Index.

The VA Index

VA Index card

The VA Index is available for World War I and World War II service members. What is on the Index and why do you need it?

  • Full name of soldier, sailor, or Marine
  • Unit in which they served (not always on the card.)
  • Address
  • ENL: Date of enlistment
  • DIS: Date of discharge (often if the soldier was KIA, the death date is written on the card.)
  • SN: Service/serial number
  • A lot of letter codes with numbers. World War I cards may have more letters than World War II. There are many more codes than this, but these are the commonly seen ones on these cards.
    • C: Veterans Claim number
    • XC: Prefix X indicates veteran is deceased.
    • K: US Government Life Insurance. Issued when veterans converted their War Risk term (T) insurance into permanent policies or made direct application for this type of insurance.
    • N: National Service Life Insurance. Term insurance issued veterans during WWII.
    • V: National Service Life Insurance. This type of policy was issued when veterans converted their term insurance (N) or made the initial application permanent.
    • I: Permanent or Total Disability Claim or death payment of term insurance (WWI ONLY)
    • A: Adjusted Compensation (Bonus)
    • T: War Risk Insurance (WWI ONLY)
    • R: Rehabilitation (WWI ONLY)
    • CT: WWI Certificate (issued with bonus)
    • Z: Merchant Marine service number prefix.

Request a search

The VA Index is searchable by NPRC staff for a fee.

NPRC

1 Archives Dr.

St. Louis, MO 63138

What other resources have you used to start your World War I or World War II research? Please share in the comments.

© 2020 Research A Veteran

Contact Us For Research Help!

Contact us for information and to set up your free phone consultation today!

“The most common question I get from people is, “Why aren’t all the records and resources I need to research my military service member, free and online?”

MOST COMMONLY USED SITES

Additional Resources

  • U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
  • Pritzker Military Museum & Library.
  • Internet Archive
  • Library of Congress
  • University Library Special Collections. Search special collections in the cities and states where your soldier lived after the war.
  • Research libraries.  Many have finding aids to help researchers locate information.
  • Genealogical and historical societies. Most towns, counties, and states have societies that hold some information.
  • Local libraries. There are many small libraries around the country that do not have the staff or money to digitize their collections. Are you communicating with this resource?
  • European and PTO researchers. Did you know there are many hobbyist researchers in Europe and the Pacific Theater who have amassed a large amount of information? 

THE MYTH & CHANGING THE DISCUSSION


Military research is a combination of online and offline research, which allows us to tell a more complete story about a soldier, sailor, or Marine’s service. The most common thought from most people we encounter at the World War II Research and Writing Center, is that all the records and resources you need are all free and online.

This is not reality.

Read my article, Why WWII Research Is Not Free to learn more.

We observe conversations on social media that insist all the records are available online and if they aren’t, you don’t need them. The same handful of websites are referred to again and again. People get stuck because the information isn’t online, they get frustrated, and often quit. Instead, why not consider working with a researcher (yes you will pay for this service) and using a variety of sources?

Why don’t we also change the discussion? What would it take for those die hard folks who insist it is all free and online to step back and see there are many ways to conduct research? And for the research community as a whole, why not recognize there are many more resources available than the ones commonly suggested?

Changing the Discussion

Did you know there are many more websites available where people can locate pieces of their soldier, sailor, or Marine’s service history?

Each website you visit, each book you pick up, each record you analyze, each story you hear or photo you view that belongs to your family, adds a piece to the entire puzzle. Each piece allows you to view that soldier’s history in historical context. Only exploring the limited information online does not allow for the fuller picture to emerge. So where can we find more information that no one is talking about? Start thinking outside the box of where to locate information.

Additional Resources

The resources presented here will hopefully start you thinking along a new path for research. Need more suggestions?  Books to help you learn how to research online and offline. Visit our book section to see all the military research books Jennifer has written. While WWII based – the strategies, records, and tips also apply to WWI, Korea and Vietnam.

We are industry leaders.

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

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

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!

© 2020 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