A couple of months ago I took a Military Records class at the Great Lakes Branch of the National Archives. My reasons for registering were to gain more knowledge and hopefully find more records on my World War I and II ancestors, especially those from Chicago. I thought there might be Statement of Service records at the Great Lakes Branch.
The class was an hour and a half long and covered military history from World War I forward, then as time permitted near the end of the class, backwards to the Revolutionary War. Each participant received a folder full of information such as a booklets: NARA Reference Information Paper 109 Military Service Records at the National Archives; NARA Reference Information Paper 92 Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II Military Awards and Decorations; and NARA Reference Information Paper 78 Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II “The American Soldier” Surveys. These are fantastic resource booklets! We also received a Power Point handout of the lecture plus brochures on finding World War II records and Civil War records. The class also allowed participants to ask numerous questions as we moved along through the topics. It helped to hear what others have found, or not found, and what brick walls they face, which are similar to mine.
I was actually very surprised at the end of the class how much I already knew. In fact, there were very few points of interest that I needed to follow up on. I suppose this could be attributed to the dedication I have had for researching all options for records the last six months and the wealth of information and ease of use on the National Archives webpages. I have always been able to find what I need on their pages.
One thing I did want to learn more about is the Statement of Service Cards for World War I soldiers. Since most of the Army records burned at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973, finding service information on my soldiers has been difficult unless they were killed in the war. I read about this Statement of Service Card in a couple of genealogy books and sent a letter to the Illinois State Archives asking if they had these records. The State Adjutant General should have had these records, if they existed. The ISA sent me to the National Archives Atlanta Branch to seek out the records. They in turn, sent me to the Great Lakes Branch. After many questions to the National Archives Archivist who taught the class, I learned these records do not exist for the State of Illinois. They exist for some states. The Archivist told me I could look through the Textual File at the archives and find information if my relatives were drafted. If they enlisted, as one did, I would have to contact Washington D.C.
Overall the class was great and I will absolutely take another one on a different topic in the future. If you have the opportunity to take a class with the National Archives, try to do it. The booklets and resources they give you are fantastic and while you can find the same information online, it is nice to have it all contained in one booklet you can hold and write in.