This post is being shared with Elizabeth O’Neal’s November Genealogy Blog Party on Heart of the Family. Be sure to visit and check out the other military family history stories.
Veterans Day is just a few days away. Was a member of your family a 20th century veteran? If so, Chronicling America and subscription-access digitized newspaper websites might fill in details of his/her wartime activities.
People today think society has no privacy anymore. Well, in some ways, it was even worse during the early to mid-20th century. Everybody knew everyone’s business, whether you were visiting out of town, missed church on Sunday or were getting divorced. That’s because it was all reported in the local newspaper that the entire community read!
However, there are some definite positives to all those newsy events appearing in print. We are given a nice clear picture of what life was like for our families at a given point in time.
Reporting news about the “local boys” who went off to Europe to serve in the World Wars was just part of keeping the community informed. Those same tidbits of news might well include our own family members and the types of news articles varied tremendously.
First, it let everyone know who was next to be shipped out:
Part of a long list!
It also brought more distressing news from the war fronts:
Family visits were duly reported:
Everett Bell of Baltimore, Maryland made a trip all the way to the Ozarks to visit his sister while on leave from the U.S. Army.
Correspondence from servicemen was also shared in print:
Did Fred Woodruff survive the flu pandemic and World War I? Yes. After the war was over, he married and set up a medical practice in Denver, Colorado. He married twice and had at least four children. I wonder if his grandchildren ever heard the story of surviving the flu?
The flu was of military concern at back at home, too:
Private James M. Scott wrote his mother from France:
Private Scott survived the war, too, and might have been one of the longest surviving veterans of the Great War, as he died on 21 December 1991 at the age of 98 1/2 years old!
Oliver Planchon, evidently in Navy boot camp, unexpectedly met a neighbor:
Tom Caldwell enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was home on furlough after 18 months of service:
He was stationed on the USS Rhode Island:
Frank Conley was in Army boot camp at Camp Pike, Arkansas. His parents made a trip to St. Louis and, on the way back home to Monett, Missouri, stopped at Camp Pike to see him.
Camp Pike wasn’t exactly along the way home, but I am sure Mr. and Mrs. Conley were very happy to see Frank, even if for a short time:
Monett to St. Louis to Camp Pike (today Camp Robinson)
Source: Google Maps
Lastly, war cost a lot of money and efforts to raise funds to support the effort were also part of the daily news:
If you have never read vintage newspapers and think that your family won’t “make the news,” you are probably wrong, particularly if you are looking for military service information.
All of these articles came not just from a single issue of the Monett Times of Barry County, Missouri, the articles are all found on page 7 – a single page – of the 4 October 1918 issue.
World War II era papers did the same type of articles as everyone sought news of the local men and women serving and of how the war effort was progressing.
World War I papers are available on Chronicling America, but if you are interested in World War II, watch for free access days on the subscription websites if you don’t already have a membership with them.
There is lots to be learned about those who fought in the world wars and it was all reported in the local newspaper.
4 thoughts on “Was Your Ancestor a Veteran? Local Newspapers Share Military News”
Love all these examples! Did these come from research you had already done for other purposes, or did you pull them specifically for this post?
I just randomly found them, as Missouri has a lot of digitized newspapers. My husband’s family came from Barry County.
Wonderful reminder to check local newspapers! I found a number of veterans in my hubby’s family from 19th century and early 20th century. Since newspaper databases are always changing, I think I’ll redo my searches and see if more articles pop up.
One of the other very exciting things to find in the newspaper during war years is a “Serviceman of the Day” photo, a common thing in many papers. I have not yet found any of my relatives as one of those servicemen, but I keep looking!