Family History Research

Follow-up to Chicago Tribune posting WWI lists

With more creative search terms yesterday on ProQuest for the Historical Chicago Tribune, I not only found lists of men who were deemed physically fit to be inducted into the Army, but also lists by District (Local Draft Board) number of which men were being sent to Rockford, Ft. Sheridan, Texas, etc. and some of those lists included what unit the men were being assigned to.

My search terms included: District 26, Board 26, Rockford, Ft. Sheridan, Texas, Army, New Army, Men Accepted, etc. I also searched Districts 25 and 27 just in case one of my Kokoska’s was put on another list by accident. I was unable to find when Michael shipped out of Chicago, but according to the 32nd Division Unit Histories, they trained in Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas. No search I came up with showed him on a list going south. I was also unable to find two of his brothers on a list.

I’m not finished searching yet. Maybe I’ll stumble upon a better search term this week and find everyone I’m looking for.

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World War I Draftees Accepted Lists

Well this is very exciting! I am working on my Narrative Lineage for my BCG certification and was looking through my files for an article on Michael Kokoska where it lists his brothers in the service.  I cannot locate the file so I went to ProQuest, Historical Chicago Tribune, looking for the article I and came across articles about WWI Draftees being accepting into the new army!  I had no idea the Trib published lists of Draftees and Enlisted men after their examinations. I stumbled upon the first article quite by accident and I’m so excited to have found this!

If you know what Draft Board your Chicago ancestor registered with, you can look through the lists, which say District rather than Draft Board. Michael registered with the draft board 5 June 1917. He is listed in the paper 15 August 1917 as being accepted as physically fit for service. I searched from 6 June 1917 – 1 October 1917 for District 26 and then started reading each entry that popped up. I now plan to do the same for his brothers. I know three of them, from that article I cannot locate at the moment, were either drafted or enlisted and served/trained stateside. The brothers never saw action overseas, only Michael.

What an exciting find!

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Treasure Chest Thursday – The Pain of Losing a Son in World War I

In a past post, I wrote about World War I Burial Files and researching the story of my great grand uncle, Michael Kokoska. I also posted about a book called Soldier Dead How We Recover, Identify, Bury, & Honor our Military Fallen by Michael Sledge. This book is available on Google Books via a preview only.  I received the book through inter-library loan yesterday and after reading only part of the introduction, will now purchase the book so it remains part of my library.

Today I would like to share with you a piece of the Burial File for Michael. This is one of a few letters written by his father, Joseph Kokoska, to the Quartermaster, asking about his son’s body. I share this one letter with you today because part of a paragraph in Sledge’s book brought tears to my eyes, as did reading Michael’s Burial File, especially the letters from his parents. I have never lost a child and can only imagine the pain they must have felt.  From Michael’s book when discussing with friends if the “end” to searching for our fall should happen due to all the money the government spends on the searches, “And in those times when I shared my research and thoughts with friends of a more gentle persuasion, often the mother of a young man or woman, I observed the faraway look that came over the face of a parent envisioning, if for only a moment, the horror of losing a child and, even worse, not even having a body to grieve over and lay to rest.” (Sledge, Michael. Soldier Dead How We Recover, Identify, Bury, & Honor our Military Fallen. NY: Columbia University Press, 2005. Page 4.

The letter below is two pages.  Watch my blog for more posts about Sledge’s book and more pieces of Michael’s Burial File. If you have a World War I ancestor who died, I highly recommend you read the post about how to acquire those records.

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Military Records class at the National Archives

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.

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