NARA Compiled Service Records @ Internet Archive

Last month I posted about the Allen County Public Library adding NARA microfilm records to the Internet Archive.  In following my RSS feed, today I saw that they began adding another set — the Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (M881).

The Compiled Service Records are available as part of Footnote.com’s offerings and you can read more about them on their page.  It will be great to have freely available access to these now through the efforts of the ACPL.

The organization of the records are by regiment, so it’ s not as easy to immediately locate a person of interest, so it may be easier to search the Footnote collection and then take note of the location of the record.

As with the VA Pension List, I am maintaining a list as they become available. So far, there are 20 rolls online (out of 1,096).   And, to give an update on the VA Pension Records — when I first posted there were about 30 rolls available; there are now more than 140.

VA Pension Cards 1907-1933 Going Online

For the last two months I have been actively monitoring items added to the Texts collection at the Internet Archive (IA).  By subscribing to several different RSS feeds, I’m able to check them every few days and see what is being uploaded.  For example, I learned that UNC Chapel Hill Library has been adding old issues of yearbooks and blogged about this incredible resource even well before their official announcement.  Even then, their announcement was only for the yearbooks from UNC-Chapel Hill, when they’ve added yearbooks for many other schools besides just UNC-CH.

So many goodies are being posted at the Internet Archive, but here is another one definitely worth mentioning.  The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center has started uploading NARA microfilm records of the Veterans Administration Pension Cards: 1907-1933.  Military records are still sources that I’m quite unfamiliar, but a just looking through the records themselves + Google searching quickly made me realize how valuable these can be for genealogical research.

The pension records are arranged alphabetically by surname; the entire collection has 2, 539 reels and includes about 2 million cards (Microfilm collection M850 at NARA).  Two types of cards are included – those for soldiers themselves and then the Army/Navy Widow Cards.

What kind of information can you find on them?  These listed below, plus more.

  • Veteran’s name
  • Unit of service
  • Rate and dates of payment
  • Date of death
  • Home town

And, on the widow cards you’ll find

  • Wife’s name
  • Veteran’s name
  • Rate & record of payments
  • Record of any payments made to minors

As I write this a little more than 30 reels from the “A” alphabet have been deposited to the IA.   To help keep track of them I have created a spreadsheet that lists each roll and I will continue to add to it as they add more.  I can only hope that ACPL Genealogy Center will start a list/directory on their website though and/or blogs about it soon – I may get tired before they get all 2,539 reels done!  :-)  UPDATE: Curt Witcher, Manager of the Genealogy Center, just confirmed for me via email that they do plan on putting all the reels up.

Some links for ya

If you’d like a version of the surname listing for all reels in a more accessible format, I spliced those pages off and uploaded them to Scribd. You can get it below.   I’m looking forward to seeing more of these reels come online.

VAPensionCards_1907_1933

Family History in San Francisco

Have you ever been on an aircraft carrier??

I had a chance to visit one this past week during a recent trip to San Francisco.  I was in the city for academic reasons (attending the American Medical Informatics Association annual conference), but since I’d found out in May that the USS Hornet was now a naval museum in Alameda, CA, it was high on my priority list to visit.

One of my maternal grandmother’s brothers, Lorenza McNair, served on the USS Hornet for 13 months.  As a “ship’s company” member on the carrier from the day it was commissioned in November 1943 until early December 1944,  Lorenza experienced many battles during the Pacific campaigns in World War II.

In May, I blogged about my visit to Pearl Harbor, where Lorenza missed being present during the attack by only a few days. The ship he was stationed on at that time, the USS Portland, had left the base enroute to Midway.  After that visit, when looking at the ships he’d served on during his entire time in the Navy, I learned that the USS Hornet was outside San Fran.

Lorenza joined the ship the day it was commissioned, November 29, 1943. I found this picture in an online photo archive of the ship right about this time, in December 1943.

During his 13 months on the ship, the USS Hornet  participated in close to 30 air strikes in the Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, Caroline Islands, the Phillipines and all throughout the Pacific Ocean battles.  Every time I review the historical record, I’m amazed at the ship’s extensive battle history and that my great-uncle experienced it all.

The TOUR

My friend went with me to visit the ship and we spent about 4 hours on board touring the various parts of the ship.

Never having seen an aircraft carrier before, I’d not realized how large the ship would be!  We started our time on the ship with a tour of the engine area of the ship.  The docent who did the tour was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to learn about how the engines operated.  Here is one of the steam engines in the ship.

They would convert the saltwater to steam in order to power the ship. Now, the ships have jet engines, but the steam engine rooms would get incredibly hot – up to 120-130 degrees or so depending on how high the ambient air temperature was outside.

Lorenza was a cook in the Navy – here is the main mess deck of the ship where he would have spent a majority of his time.  Of course, during active battles, men would be pulled from all parts of the ship to help out, so I imagine he helped during these times as well.

I have more pictures of the ship in my photo album, but I was so glad I was able to tour the ship.   So that I can contiue to learn more about what his life would have been like, I purchased a couple of books on the history of the ship from the gift shop onboard.  I also plan to contact the curator to find out what information they have on crew members from the first year of the ship in hopes of possibly finding something relevant to Lorenza.

As I’ve blogged before, Lorenza never talked about his military service, but I feel as if I’ve been able to have another glimpse into it this week.


Lorenza McNair (1921-2005) during the 1940s.

My Visit to Pearl Harbor

From Hawaii 2009

I’ve just returned home from a 4 day visit to the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii. I was there for a business trip, the annual gathering of the Medical Library Association. It has been busy and interesting and on Monday I had a chance to do something I had been looking forward to for months – I visited Pearl Harbor.

My desire to visit Pearl Harbor is very emotionally driven.  Though I did not have anyone in my family perish that day, my great-uncle, Lorenza McNair, served in the US Navy during this time and was at Pearl Harbor just days before the attack and would serve on ships fighting in the Pacific Campaign for many months to follow.  I’ve blogged some before about his military time, but this visit was a chance for me to revisit what I know about his service and I’ve decided to do a more timeline based approach so I can visualize his experience better.

On December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, my uncle was two days away on the USS Portland, which had left Pearl Harbor as part of a carrier fleet en route to Midway Islands.  During our visit, we watched a short documentary before going over to the Arizona memorial and at one point the narrator refers to the USS Portland having been out en route to Midway and I nearly started crying when they said that because it was such a clear reference to where Lorenza was at the time.

Following the attack, Lorenza would stay on the USS Portland, eventually transferring to the USS Neosho. The USS Neosho was one of the ships docked in the line of ships when the USS Arizona was sunken; Neosho was about 5 or 6 ships away from the USS Arizona.  Neosho sustained damage, but was repaired and sent back out.   Both the USS Portland & the USS Neosho were near each other in the waters at the time, and Lorenzo was transferred to Neosho.  He transferred on May 6th, 1942.   On May 7, 1942 the Neosho was attached and lost 80% of the crew.  My uncle was one of 123 men rescued afterwards.

After the attack, I noted in Lorenza’s records a gap of a few months and I’d wondered where he had been.  Then, in re-reading my earlier blog post about his military experience, I realized that in the newspaper article about him that my grandmother had a copy of, it mentions that he was home on furlough after the attack, so that explains the gap in his service records.  After his furlough, Lorezna was stationed at NAS San Diego and stayed there for 2 months before going to the USS Enterprise.

Lorenza was on the USS Enterprise from October 8, 1942-  until at least September 30, 1943.  The USS Enterprise saw a lot of activity during the war and is the most decorated ship of WWII.  While on this ship, Lorenza participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and the Battle of Rennell Island.

For it’s service, on May 27, 1943, Lorenza and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew received the Presidential Unit Citation, a citation given for heroic action during Japanese crew in the Pacific.  Lorenza’s ship sunk or damaged 35 Japanese vessels and shot down 185 Japanese aircraft.

In November of 1943 Lorenza moved to the USS Hornet where he would stay for the next 13 months.  The USS Hornet left Pearl Harbor in March of 1944; Lorenzo was on it then, and during the time period he was on the ship, his records show 27 carrier strikes in which the ship participated.  After leaving the ship in December of ’44, Lorenzo was transferred to NAS San Diego again and eventually moved to Shoemaker, CA where he separated from the Navy in December of 1945.

From Hawaii 2009

Thoughts of Lorenza were very much with me as I toured the USS Arizona Memorial. I wonder if Lorenza knew any of the people that perished during the Pearl Harbor attack?  I am glad that I had the opportunity to visit and be on the same ground that Lorenza had been.   I’ve blogged more specifically about my time at the memorial and other info about my trip on my main blog.

Our Family and WWII

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of years now as it was one of the most interesting history lessons I had early on when I started doing my genealogy in 2006.

December 7th marks the anniversary of Pearl Harbor and my great-uncle,  Lorenza McNair (1921-2005), was in the military during this time of war.  I’d always heard from my mother that after he returned, he told the family that if they had any questions about what happened, they’d better ask then because he was never going to talk about it again.  To the best of my mother’ s knowledge, he never did.

Lorenza McNair

Lorenza’ s military records show that he was a crew member on the USS Neosho when it was attacked during the Battle at the Coral Sea on May 7, 1942.   This is the last picture taken of it after it was bombed; 80% of the crew were killed during the attack and my uncle was one of 123 people rescued when the ship was found 4 days later; he was wounded in action.   This picture comes from a very thorough account of the ship and it’s activities from a man named Del whose uncle was also one of the rescued.

You can read more about the intense action of that day on Del’s website. He also has a video interview of his father and his uncle with his uncle describing some of what happened that day. This was very moving for me to watch as my own uncle was part of it too.   There’s been a book written about the USS Enterprise that I should read – The Big “E” by Edward Stafford.

Lorenza’s next military service was then on the USS Enterprise, which he joined in October 1942.  The USS Enterprise was the US ship with the most battle stars during WWII.  While he was on the USS Enterprise he was also involved in several more battles:

In November 1943, Lorenza then transferred to the USS Hornet. The Hornet deployed in 1944 and began it’s career with a series of raids against Japanese bases in the Caroline islands; Lorenza’s records show he was on the ship during this time.

According to my grandmother,  her brother was the 1st black man from Plymouth to join the Navy.  There was a newspaper write-up about him that I have, but it does not have the date on it.  One of my future research tasks is to see if I can find out when this was published.  However, the article gets the order of his ship service wrong, having him listed as being on the Hornet first and then the Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I learned all of this, I realize it is no wonder Lorenza did not want to talk about his service.  This was certainly a traumatic experience.  I think our family was truly lucky that he did return home after the war.

I’ve added information about Lorenza to his Footnote Page.

Patrick Golden’s Congressional Medal of Honor

My next few posts are likely to be posts about genealogy searching I am doing for friends of mine. My obsession lies not only in my family tree, but in others as well!

One family I am working on is that of Clancy family. This family is of Irish descent and from the early 1900’s to present has lived in and around the Springfield, Illinois area. I first started working on this tree (on behalf of friend MC) late spring, and in the past week or so, have come back to it. It is actually quite interesting what some time away from a genealogy can do for you. Since I last worked on her tree, I have been learning even more about doing better searches, different types of sources, etc., and I have found that some of what I’ve learned these past few months have helped me this second time around.

So, I’d been sharing what I’d found with her, and she in turn shared it with her father. Well, today, she brought me a photocopy of some family history she’d asked her grandfather to write down this summer and it is absolutely fascinating! There is some great oral history in her family, so I am on a hunt to confirm as much as I can.

One such tidbit was that her grandfather had a great-uncle who fought during the Indian Wars in Arizona after the Civil War and for his service won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Her grandfather even has a picture of him wearing it. This is Patrick Golden, brother to MC’s grandfather’s grandmother, Delia Golden Clancy.

So, I searched to find any verification of this and found it! The US Army has a website that lists all recipients of this medal. It is divided into sections, so given that her grandfather indicated when Patrick Golden received the medal, it was easy enough to go directly to the list of recipients during the Indian War Campaigns. And, a quick Find-In-Page command later, there is Patrick Golden. —- “Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Arizona, August to October 1868. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 24 July 1869. Citation: Bravery in scouts and actions against Indians.”

This could possibly lead to a whole slew of research into his military background, that I can’t even begin to think about yet. But, I thought it is cool that I found this – I hope her family finds it of interest.