Family History Research

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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Women and the Naturalization Process

This week I came across a Naturalization Record Index Card for my husband’s great grandmother, Rose La Mantia Murabito. It stated she was repatriated. This confused me a great deal because she was born in Chicago, which is in the United States last I checked. I doubled checked her birth certificate to make sure I had it and it was her. It was. So why in 1939 was Rose being repatriated?

A kind blog reader commented on my post regarding this issue and sent me to a website regarding loss of citizenship due to marriage. This thought crossed my mind before I wrote the post but I could not locate anything specific on this. When researching both my lines and my husband’s, I suppose I just assumed all of the women in our direct lines became citizens. It never occurred to me that one of the women in my tree would have lost her citizenship until I found this index card. Due to this discovery, I took a closer look at my direct lines. Rose was the only woman on either side that was born in the U.S. but married an Alien after 1907. The rest of the women were either married upon arrival; married an Alien after arrival and was naturalized with him; or obtained naturalization on her own.

Today as I dig further into the Naturalization process and the information I thought to be correct, until this case arose, I am learning a lot about the changes in laws. KindredConnections has a fantastic article on the Naturalization Process called “Where are they? Finding Your Ancestors’ US Naturalization Records.”  In the article’s section about Women, the author, Karen Clifford, states, “An act passed in 1907 stated that a woman’s nationality depended entirely on her husband’s. This meant that if her husband gained citizenship, so did she. It also meant that if a woman who had been born a US citizen married an alien, she lost her citizenship. She could repatriate only if and when her husband naturalized.”

That completely explains Rose’s case. Isn’t it funny that I have read many articles on Naturalization and listened to speakers, yet never heard or saw this tidbit of information? I guess it is a good example of having blinders on and only seeing or hearing what we need at the time for the research we are doing.

Another great resource I discovered is from the National Archives. There is an informative article on their website from the Prologue Magazine, Summer 1998, Vol. 30, No. 2, called “Any woman who is now or may hereafter be married . . .” Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940 By Marian L. Smith

If you have other great Naturalization Process websites, please post them in the comments section.

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