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

All the records burned and I cannot tell my soldier or Airman’s story!

How many times have you heard that phrase uttered by Army, Air Forces, and National Guard WWII researchers? I’ve heard so many people give up and continue to pass the myth around Facebook that nothing can be done. But did you know there is a record set that will help you reconstruct military service? Even if the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) or service file burned, you can still find out what happened to your soldier or airman from beginning of service to end, with this record set.

What people do not realize is there is a hidden gem in the records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. A record set that will provide the foundation researchers need to reconstruct service history from start to finish, especially if they are creative with their research. What is the gem?

Company Morning Reports

I Co 504th PIR Morning Reports-3A Morning Report was created each day outlining events of the prior day for the events of a Company. To locate information in Morning Reports you must know the Company in which your soldier served. It is not enough to know in which division or regiment. The Company can be found on a discharge paper or IDPF or any other letter or document that has a unit listed on it. Morning Reports can be traced in any direction based on the information you have.

Morning Reports listed many details about the company which include:
  • The location of the company for the date of the report.
  • Strength of the unit in numbers of men
  • Details of those entering and leaving the company
  • Names of those declared AWOL, Missing In Action, Killed In Action, or wounded.
  • The reports also provided information on the day’s events. Some clerks reported weather conditions, in addition to the usual information on where the unit was fighting, and other enemy encounters.

The companies were required to report numbers of men at each meal, which provided information to the Army, who then was able to provide food and appropriate supplies for the soldiers. These numbers also alerted headquarters when the ranks were depleted and replacements were needed.

Morning Reports are useful because they can help you track a soldier’s service from start to finish, as long as the company clerk included all the details of the entrance and exit of a soldier, showing where he came from, and where he was going. Not all company clerks did this or had the time to do this. If you cannot find detailed information within a Morning Report, consider the battle conditions under which the clerks were trying to compile reports.

Analyzing a Morning Report

The Morning Report shown in this post is for I Company 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Infantry Division. What can we learn from this report?

  • Date of the report
  • Location (but be careful with Airborne reports because their station is reported as being in England, but if you keep looking at the reports, you will end up at month’s end learning the company is really in Holland and has been there several days.)  Always check other records to ensure your soldier’s company was where you think it was.
  • We see Robert Wagner listed as going from duty to slighting injured in action. We have his serial number and rank. Knowing he was injured adds to his timeline of service we can create. Had he been removed from the company, that would have been noted.
  • We know how many men are in the company this date.
  • We have a record of events which helps us locate additional histories and records.

How do we access these records?

You can hire a researcher to pull the records or you can visit the National Personnel Records Center yourself and go through the microfilm.

To learn more about Morning Reports, see my books Stories from the World War II Battlefield, which provide a more in-depth look at these records. You can also see several examples at the 134th Infantry Regiment 35th Infantry Division website.

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 to receive tips and coupons for our research webinars and classes.

©  2020 Research A Veteran

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!

Are you interested in learning about the military death files created in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam? Would you like to understand the job of the American Graves Registration Service and how they handled our war dead? Then this webinar is for you!

This 1.5 hour webinar will focus on the history and jobs of the men who worked in the American Graves Registration Service. Then we will explore the Individual Deceased Personnel File and discuss why you need this vital record. Finally, take a journey with me in the footsteps of my cousin James Privoznik, through his military records and path through Europe to his death and burial. Learn how I told his story.

Learn more and register here to save your spot. This is the final time I’m teaching this course.

© 2020 World War II Research and Writing Center

Are you ready to explore your family and military research in a new way? To identify family patterns and secrets? To begin writing your stories to help transform your research and life? Then this course may be for you!

Over five weeks, beginning 8 February 2020, you will be exploring one of my family stories from its first version to the current version (at the time I created this class). Using my stories as an example, we will explore themes of identity, family patterns, perspective, secrets, emotions, and transformation and you will write your own stories.

This course includes two live webinars and one hour of Office Hours.

Within each module there are worksheets to download and writing assignments to complete. You are not required to share these with anyone unless you choose.

Module 1: Starting Our Journey

Module 2: Identity

Module 3: Perspective

Module 4: Family Patterns and Secrets

Module 5: Transformation and Course Wrap-Up

This course will create a foundation for the master class you may choose to participate in this summer.

Register today to save your spot. Space is limited to 20 people.

© 2020 World War II Research and Writing Center

 

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!

I am excited to announce that registration is open for my new 2020 short story writing groups! These groups began in January 2020 and will have a rolling enrollment as space is available.

A 6-month commitment is required. Be sure to watch the video in the registration page to learn more about why writing is transformational for your research, life, and family.

Roots and War Writers Group

Two exclusive writing groups limited to 8 people.

Two date/time options for participation.

Roots and War Writers Group will help participants take their stories, articles, and blog posts, to a deeper level by exploring topics beyond the basics of genealogy or military history.

View additional details and register here.

 

© 2020 World War II Research and Writing Center

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 SEARCH ONLINE?

Many of the records you will need to reconstruct military service are not online, but you may find a lot of puzzle pieces to help you move the research forward and connect some dots. Here are my top 10 techniques to help you.


  1. Use quotes around exact phrases you wish to search. “James Privoznik” is an example.
  2. Search by name and serial/service number. Try James Privoznik 36640529, or just the number. Usually the results will come from the NARA Enlistment Database, if the soldier enlisted in the Army. Sometimes it will come from articles or blog posts, unless records have been indexed.
  3. Use specific and unique terms. Try 90th Infantry Division, 358th Infantry WWII, 90th Division WWII, or any combination.
  4. Try the wildcard using the * symbol. WWII* or Privoznik*
  5. Change your search preferences to search a specific date range of items posted online. For example, maybe you are looking for a person and only articles posted this year or a specific date range of 2012-2014.
  6. Search for the name of a group using different spellings. For example, the 100th Bomb Group was called the Bloody Hundredth or Bloody 100th. Searching all three options may provide different search results.
  7. For Army Air Forces, try searching for the name or number of the plane flown, the name of a pilot, or names of bomb crew members. Search for collaterals – those people your service member served with.
  8. Search for names of bridges taken, battles fought, cities bombed, specific Hills (and their numbers).
  9. Try a specific group and the name of a military report you wish to locate. For example, 100th Bomb Group Mission Report, 90th Division After Action Report, or 327 Engineer Morning Reports.
  10. Creatively search the results that appear in a search. Digitized materials are prepared by Optical Character Recognition (OCR.) OCR picks up approximately 80% of the words in a scanned document, which leaves a lot of room for researchers to miss key records. This happens more in military documents which are blurry, damaged from weather, fire, water, or other reasons, or were not in great condition when they were originally scanned. Not all military records, regardless of archive from which they come, look like they were just printed off a laser printer.

 

 

ARE YOU READY TO START SEARCHING ONLINE?

Websites change every day. Be sure to document what sites you visit and what you discovered or did not discover. Maybe the most important tip I can give you is:

Download every single file you find. It might disappear tomorrow.

 

 

Best in the Industry

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

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EXPLORING THE DEATH RECORDS FOR WORLD WAR I


It has been more than 100 years since the U.S. entered World War I. Because of this anniversary, many people are beginning to investigate their World War I soldier’s history. A lot of people think all the records burned, as was the case with many World War II personnel files. While the fire did destroy some World War I files, there are still so many other records you can obtain.

Did you know that all soldiers, sailors, and Marines who died or are still considered Missing In Action (MIA) in World War I have a death record called a Burial File? This is the World War I equivalent of the World War II Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). This is one file you want if your soldier, sailor, or Marine died during the war.

A couple of years ago on my WWII site, I wrote an article about U.S. Army Transports. These USAT transported both living soldiers and the dead. My great grand uncle, Michael Kokoska was one such soldier.

The Burial File contains information on a soldier’s death, temporary burial overseas, correspondence from the family, and final burial details. Michael Kokoska’s contains a lot of handwritten letters from his parents begging for word on his burial location and return of his remains. The letters are heart breaking.

There is also a document, written a year after Michael died, about the cause of his death. Is this really what happened? Perhaps. For now it is all I have to go on about the cause of his death. While Michael’s file was difficult and sad to read, it provided a lot of information on his service.

Wold you like to know more? View the Burial File for Michael Kokoska. Watch a short video about Michael.

Would you like to know more about Michael and his life? In my book, Stories of the Lost, you can read Michael’s full story.

©  2019 Jennifer Holik

 

Are You Ready to Research?

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!