Family History Research

Background Information Research

Roughly six months ago I began writing a book about my cousin Robert Brouk. Robert was a Flying Tiger in China just before the start of the United State’s involvement in World War II. The Tigers helped the Chinese keep the Burma Road open in the fight against the Japanese.

Writing a book takes a lot of background research. Robert was such a hometown hero in Cicero, Illinois, that The Berwyn Life newspaper wrote many articles about his war service and his life after his return home in July 1942. The newspaper also formed a committee to honor Robert with a Bob Brouk Day on August 2, 1942 in Cicero. I was fortunate that my uncle made several trips to the Berwyn library to look through microfilm for articles about Robert and these articles helped give my research a boost.

I am fortunate that my library has a subscription to ProQuest, a newspaper database. The databases available to my library’s users include the Historical Chicago Tribune, National Paper Abstracts, ProQuest Newspapers, and the Historical New York Times in addition to over 2,500 others.  ProQuest allows me to search by a term, dates, limit to only certain records and change the number of posts shown. I can check a box next to a record which then allows me to email, cite, or export that article. I can view the Page Map of the page on which the article resides to see what else is on the page.  By opening an article I have several more options. I can print; save the file; search; and view the Page Map.

Not only has ProQuest allowed me to find numerous articles about Robert, I have also been able to successfully search the Historical New York Times Newspaper for immigrant ship news. John Phillip Colletta spoke in February at the DuPage Genealogical Society conference and in one session told the listeners that the New York Times has brief articles about ships coming into and leaving the Port of New York. He said at times you will find the ship being reported as docking days later than the ship log states, which could have been caused by a backup of ships or illness or weather.

Searching Frisia between January 1, 1880 to December 31, 1880 brings up many articles. Some of these are listed as Classified Ads and list the ships with incoming and outgoing mail service; ticket prices for steamships; and steamship arrivals.  Depending on the ship or the passenger, the New York Times will have articles on prominent first class passengers and their arrival in the paper.

Not only did I search newspapers for background information, but I also used online search engines to find books and articles on my specific topics, Robert Brouk, Flying Tigers, A.V.G. (American Volunteer Group) China. Some of the books I located were available through my library system. Others were not and had to be requested through WorldCat which is an international collection of books. I was able to obtain several books through WorldCat’s Interlibrary Loan program. Some books came with a $3 fee, but the money was well spent.

And finally, I am lucky the A.V.G. group has an official Association. Searching their webpages allowed me to become a member and post questions regarding Robert or the Flying Tigers. I have been in contact with the webmaster regarding their records, and even had a great email conversation with a former Armorer in Robert’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron. Always be sure to contact a local or national group for the topic on which you are researching. You never know what or who you will come in contact with that will help your research.

Have you used different sources to conduct background research for your family history? If you have, I would love to hear what they are.

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