Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Acquire a Copy of Your Ancestor's Military Record

            So you have some relatives who served in the US military and you would like to have copies of their military records? It’s actually relatively easy to get them, and depending on your relation to the person, as well as when he or she served, there might not be any cost involved other than a stamp.
            Naturally there are places that will obtain the records for you, and if that is the route you want to go, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to do the paperwork for you!
            However, if you were that child who stubbornly said “I’ll do it!” then here are some easy how-to steps to take…
            First, you probably want a copy of his or her DD-214. If you didn’t already know it, the DD-214 (Report of Separation) is the standard piece of documentation that verifies someone served in the US Armed Forces. More specifically, according to the DD-214 website (
The Defense Department issues to each veteran a DD-214, identifying the veteran's condition of discharge - honorable, general, other than honorable, dishonorable or bad conduct. Before January 1, 1950, several similar forms were used by the military services, including the WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and the NAVCG 553.

The Report of Separation contains information normally needed to verify military service for benefits, retirement, employment, and membership in veterans' organizations. Information shown on the Report of Separation may include the service member's:
·         Date and place of entry into active duty
·         Home address at time of entry
·         Date and place of release from active duty
·         Home address after separation
·         Last duty assignment and rank
·         Military job specialty
·         Military education
·         Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
·         Total creditable service
·         Foreign service credited
·         Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)

As you can see, a DD-214 is very useful in providing a basic outline of the service of an individual. To obtain a copy of your DD-214, or to obtain that of someone related to you, you begin with the National Archives’ Veterans Service Records page. You can find it at There they remind you that:

Military personnel records can be used for proving military service, or as a valuable tool in genealogical research. Most veterans and their next-of-kin can obtain free copies of their DD Form 214 (Report of Separation) and other military and medical records several ways.

Although there are several ways, the fastest and easiest way to acquire a DD-214 is right there on that page. If you meet the criteria (either the vet to whom the records pertain, or the next-of-kin, such as spouse, parent, sibling, or child) then you are entitled to a free copy of the DD-214 for your records. Simply click the button marked “Launch the eVetRecs System to start your request Online”. It’s that simple!
Follow the instructions, completing as much information as you have available to you, and at the end you will be instructed to print two pages, one for your records, and one to sign and mail to the appropriate office.
If you are looking for records for a member of the military who served prior to WWI, or if you don’t meet the next-of-kin requirement, you will need to complete a different form and mail it in. We’ll talk about that next time. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Almost

Taking my cue from today I am posting two photos. Both are from a client, and are being used to discover where in Ireland they started. These two photos have given me many clues (with thanks to some knowledgeable friends in the world of historical fashion and historical photography) What do they tell YOU?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vanity of Vanities. All is Vanity. Or Arguments in Favor of Preserving Your History

Many of us were brought up to be humble, not to think of ourselves as “better” or “more important” than others. That means that when presented with the notion of being the focus of a documentary film, folks protest:

“It seems so vain, like I think I’m something special.”
“I didn’t do anything worth spending that kind of time, money and attention on me.”
“I don’t look so good these days. Do this with someone younger and more attractive.”

            While we can appreciate your sentiments, you are looking at this question from your perspective alone. But what if you looked at it from a historical viewpoint?

“It seems so vain, like I think I’m something special.”
But you are special! Your family, who loves you and wants to have you with them forever, wouldn’t be here if not for you. That very fact, in and of itself, is a reason to pass on your life story and wisdom to future generations.
Yes, we understand that it might be a bit uncomfortable at first, especially if you are not accustomed to being the focus of so much attention, but your family will appreciate the fact that you were so thoughtful, overcame your reluctance, and took the time to do this for them.
Imagine how much it would have meant to you if you had a video recording of your parents, especially after they were gone, to comfort you and to share with your children.
Don’t think of this as vanity. Think of it as history. By creating this film you are ensuring that your family’s history – particularly the things that you know and remember - is being preserved and passed down to future generations.  Not only will your children have this memento, but your grandchildren, and their children.

“I don’t look so good these days. Do this with someone younger and more attractive.”
At the risk of sounding like somebodies’ mother, you are who you are, and your family loves you for you, not your appearances.
Again, if you had to choose between no DVD of your parents or an hour-long film of them talking, laughing, and telling stories at the very end of their life, which would you prefer?
Your face - wrinkled or not, with its crown of grey hair (or no hair!) - is the face that your family loves. Your voice - even if it is no longer as robust as it once was - is the sound that they most love to hear. Give them this gift – put aside your hesitations and worries and preserve a few hours of you for them!

“I didn’t do anything worth spending that kind of time, money and attention on me.”
The average and normal are amazing. It is our very uniqueness that makes us each a star in our own little universe.
Those stories about the everyday things you did are what your family treasures. Whether it is the story of working in the fields in the summer heat, fishing with your friends when you played hooky, or how you met the love of your life, these are the most favored and valued stories of your children. Not because they are best-selling tales, but because they are you.
When you look at old family photos, I imagine that you know some facts about those ancestors of yours: their names, when they lived, perhaps even an interesting tale or two. But what is missing from that photo is the essence of who they really were. What did they sound like? Were they really as serious as that photograph leads you to believe? Are they proof that your inability to tell a joke is hereditary and not your fault? Could they sing? Who were they?
Only by preserving your image and voice in a documentary-style film will future generations have the answers to those questions when it comes to you.

“She/he is too ill to do it now so we shouldn’t bother her/him with this.”
We understand and appreciate your concern for the well-being of your loved one. And we will work closely with the medical and care-taking staff to be sure to do everything possible to minimize discomfort and disruption. If that means we have to film the interview over a course of several days, we can do that.
However, we have found that sometimes the opportunity to tell favorite stories - to be asked by a genuinely interested and totally new audience to relive old memories - has a revitalizing effect. Rather than causing the speaker to become tired, they are more energetic as they think back on younger times. And those who have been struggling with memory issues are relieved to be discussing times and places that are distant enough that they can be confident in the accuracy of their memories.

If you haven't done so already, isn't it time to start preserving your family history, the stories of your loved ones? Begin with YOUR story. And then gather and preserve the stories of your parents. This isn't vanity. It's history.