A Quick Guide To Researching United States WWI Military Genealogy

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. Members of the 369th Infantry serving in the trenches in France during World War I, 1918 Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/c0532ca7-41a0-88cb-e040-e00a18064619

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. Members of the 369th Infantry serving in the trenches in France during World War I, 1918.

Researching the WW1 military involvement of your ancestor in the United States has unique challenges. A 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed about 16-18 million official military personnel files (OMPF). The official National Archives web site states that 80% of the records showing personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 were destroyed, and no duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained.

I recently purchased a series of WW1 newspaper pages showing faces of men who had been killed in action, or died of disease, or airplane accidents. I wanted to share these photographs and to add information on their life. Who were they? Who did they leave behind for family? What role did they have in their branch of the service? Where specifically did they die, and in what manner? Where are they buried?

Researching these WWI heroes was not easy, I admit. Persistence is your greatest tool. I will share with you where I looked for their records. Caveat: be aware that some of these records are at paid sites, though the majority are absolutely free. I would be remiss if I did not mention that interviewing your own family, even extended cousins, is of utmost importance as you may find a great deal of information within your personal circle. Continue reading