Category Archives: Military

Was Your Ancestor a Veteran? Local Newspapers Share Military News

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:

Source: Wikipedia

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.




November Genealogy Blog Party: National Cemeteries Grave Locator

Elizabeth O’Neal’s November Blog Party theme is very appropriate for this month – Veterans and Military.

Here is a tip for locating family members and ancestors who might be buried in a U.S. national cemetery.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, under the National Cemetery Administration, has a searchable database – the National Graveside Locator – to help the public locate graves of those buried in our national cemeteries.

I’ve used this database to locate not only more recent family members, but also to find Civil War (Union) soldiers.

My husband’s 2X great grandfather, John Stufflebean, died during the war at a hospital in Nashville on  10 June 1864. He had no gravestone in his hometown in Missouri.

On a whim, I decided to try the National Graveside Locator (and knew to check Stufflebean spelling variations):

John Stufflebeam was buried in Nashville at what became the Nashville National Cemetery. The locator gives the section and grave site number. There is even a map that denotes the cemetery sections:

For genealogical purposes, the National Graveside Locator can search all national cemeteries for people of the same surname. If your surname is unusual and you’d like to identify distant cousins who served in the military, this is a great option.

It will also identify  spouses who have been buried with their service person from 1 January 2000 to the present day.

Lastly, given that many families no longer choose to have an obituary printed and the Social Security Death Index is restricted in terms of those who have died in the past few years, the grave locator database can help identify more recently deceased family members.

One last comment – Many people tend to lump Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day together as holidays with one purpose. However, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

Veteran’s Day is a day to honor and thank all those who have served. Ceremonies and public events will no doubt be curtailed this year because of the pandemic, but if you happen to be out and about and see someone with a veteran’s cap, be sure to acknowledge their service.

Freedom isn’t free.





Purple Heart Day

U.S. Post Office Stamp

Tomorrow is Purple Heart Day. I knew very little about this military honor, except that those who were wounded or killed in action were eligible to receive it. I was aware that the award had been created by George Washington, hence the American postage stamp issued in 2014. However, I didn’t really know much else about the Purple Heart. Here is a short history of the Badge of Military Merit and its evolution to become the Purple Heart.

The Badge of Military Merit, the forerunner of today’s Purple Heart,  was established by General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces seeking American independence, on 7 August 1782.

It is said that General Washington presented but three Badges of Military Merit, but others were awarded by his officers. However, after the Revolutionary War, the Badge fell into disuse for another 150 years.

In 1931, General Douglas MacArthur – yes, of World War II fame – revived the Badge, which was redesigned and became known as the Purple Heart. On the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth, 22 February 1932, the first Purple Heart was presented to General MacArthur himself.

Also eligible to receive the Purple Heart were soldiers who had been wounded or killed in action back to 5 April 1917, the day America entered World War I. However, not until 25 April 1962 could the Purple Heart be given posthumously. In 1984, criteria were broadened to included incidents of terrorist attacks.

It is estimated that 1.8 MILLION soldiers have been awarded the Purple Heart.

Did you know that there is a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor? Any recipient or their family can enroll the soldier by providing military documentation of the award.

The Hall of Honor is located at 374 Temple Hill Road (Route 300) in New Windsor, NY and is open six days a week (closed Monday). It features a number of exhibits.

However, if you can’t visit in person, the Honor Roll can be searched online.

A number of famous people have received the Purple Heart, including actors Charles Bronson and James Garner, author Kurt Vonnegut and director Oliver Stone.  The first woman to receive the honor was Army Lieutenant Annie G. Fox, chief nurse at Pearl Harbor during the 1941 Japanese attack which brought the United States into World War II. Only one American president has received the award – President John F. Kennedy – for his back injury and heroic actions during World War II.

The Purple Heart is the oldest American military award still presented today. If one of your family members has received this honor and is not enrolled in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, then he/she should be. Visit the Hall website for details.

If you are interested in learning more about the Purple Heart, here are some resources:

U.S. Department of Defense

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

The Military Order of the Purple Heart


Purple Heart Foundation

NPR – A History of the Purple Heart

National Museum of the United States Army

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Recognize the Sacrifice