I typically spend my weekends as most others do: running errands, working around the house, watching a little t.v. and other mundane tasks that never seem to get done during the week. But I also allot a bit of time to indulge in things that I enjoy doing and might otherwise get pushed to the side if I didn’t allot some specific time to these items. Genealogy is one of those things. Volunteering at the National World War I Museum is another. Last weekend, those two things came crashing together.
I’ve been working on a goal as a volunteer at the museum. I really want to work in the museum’s research center. I mean, what genealogist or history junkie wouldn’t want to spend four hours or more surrounded by history of that magnitude and have the ability to help a stranger discover new and interesting information? My other goal is to step out of my quiet little comfort zone box and take a place among the interpretive corps of the museum. Yep, I’m challenging myself to step in front of a group of strangers and guide them through the museum and do it so well that they’re excited to spread the news about what a great museum the went to. Ah, but I digress.
So each weekend I’m putting in my volunteer hours, walking the corridors of the museum, learning as much as I can and talking to visitors who come in. Many have stories of relatives that served and in speaking to one person I had the sudden realization that I had a World War I draft card for my paternal great-grandfather, Ludwig Altman, in my possession that I hadn’t done a darn thing with. Whoa. Stop the crazy train because I need to get off for a minute and check this out. It was one of those moments that I really just wanted to headdesk myself because here I was, volunteering at a World War I museum that actually HAD a research center in the basement and I had neglected to check out this piece of information? As Bill Engvall would say, “Here’s your sign.”
World War I Draft Card for Ludwig Wilhelm Altman
So this past week I took a couple of minutes and composed an email to the research center staff at the museum requesting to know if I was able to provide the information from the draft card if they had the resources to look and see if my great-grandfather had served? The answer was yes so I forwarded the information to them and one of the kind volunteers was able to assist me in discovering that Ludwig had not served in the war. He was (in my mind, quite unfortunately) too old to fight but still young enough to be required to fill out a draft card. He was also the only provider for my great-grandmother Ida. A little disappointed that I would get no military file from Ludwig, I thanked the volunteer for their assistance and began to move on my merry way to other things. It only took a few minutes for me to begin kicking myself. Was I really giving up THAT easily? Surely somewhere in the family members I knew of that currently existed on my family tree there was someone, somewhere that had served during World War I?
Thus began my latest genealogy tangent. Oh how easy it is to get distracted from what you’re doing on one line when you make a new discovery. I decided I wanted to follow this tangent. It was a project that was, most likely, short-lived. It had a definite beginning and a definite ending and, potentially, wouldn’t take too much time to complete. I probably never would have attempted this project at this point if it wasn’t for the existence of a timeline view in my handy-dandy little iGadget app MobileFamilyTree. If you remember, I’ve been playing with MobileFamilyTree for a bit and did a review of the app here. One of the features the app has is a timeline view, which worked great for my needs on this project. I decided to begin by looking for people who would have been 18 years old when the U.S. entered the war in 1917. I knew there were younger people who volunteered earlier in the war but I just needed a place to start. Inputting that criteria into the app gave me the following view:
Time frame selection for timeline view
Final result of timeline view using the period 1880 to 1896
Now THERE’S a list! Everyone in my family tree that was born from 1880 to 1896 and would have been 18 in 1917. I know you can’t see the list very well, that’s okay, I just wanted to give you an idea of what the app’s timeline view would look like. The work of paring that list down wasn’t terribly difficult either. I went through the list, removing the females (because, let’s face it, they’re not highly likely to be in the military records) and those who were deceased or just born within those years. That got me a very manageable list. I believe I was looking at about 12 men.
A sampling of individuals from my timeline view
I then went to the Mid-Continent Public Library and logged onto their Ancestry database and began systematically checking each person’s name in just the military section of Ancestry. I managed to find draft cards on almost all of them. Unfortunately most of the eligible family members were claiming exemptions, so I suspect they won’t have served during the war. I am happy to report that I found a couple of good possibilities for war service, however, and will be checking with the research center very soon to see if anything pans out with any of the draft cards I located. Writing them off completely without verifying the fact that they have no service record would just be ridiculous, especially considering how easy it was to verify that great-grandpa Ludwig didn’t serve in the war.
So stay tuned, this is a project I hope to have completed in the next week or so and I’ll be sure to update you on my findings. On a side note, I was talking to my new brother-in-laws about my findings this weekend and PhotoGuru got very excited and said their family had some very interesting things pop up in their family tree when he traced their family history. Um, really? How did I not know that PhotoGuru had done this??? Funny how no one thought to mention that to the obsessed genealogist who was entering the family until now, LOL. So with any luck, PhotoGuru will gather up that information he discovered (along with some other rather interesting findings and information he talked about) and I can get on working on those elusive Newell ancestors.
Have a great week everyone!