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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Liberty Ship of the Merchant Marines

According to the paperwork I have from the United States Maritime Service and the discharge certificate, my dad was on this ship on this day.

Ahh, genealogy.  I am one proud child of my merchant marine.

©2017  AS Eldredge


Monday, November 13, 2017

Military Monday: Sailing the Ocean Blue with the Merchant Marines

During the early days of World War II, my own special veteran papa, was part of the Merchant Marines.  I never really thought much about it.  I knew he had his first mate's papers and I knew he thoroughly enjoyed being on the water.

The Merchant Marines.  Well, this is quite interesting.  It wasn't until after my dad's death that the military decided these brave men who sailed the seas for our country during a time of war could be considered veterans.  As the Merchant Marines lost a greater per capita number of men than the US Armed Forces did during World War II, I found it astonishing that they weren't acknowledged as veterans until 1988.

Atlantic Trader, States Marine Co, WWII

The Atlantic Trader of the States Marine Co was just one of the boats on which he served. The captain during his trip to the French North Africa was a Captain S. Glenn.  Of interest in my reading is finding that the SS Keystone was torpedoed on a trip to North Africa at the same time my dad was on the Atlantic Trader.  Were they part of the same mission which had 45 merchant ships and 7 escorts?  I think I have more research to do.

I remember him talking about how they were gunrunners during the early war, but they weren't allowed to defend themselves.  Instead, they had Navy escorts when they trudged over the sea.  Although he told one of his cousins (who later told me) that it was really a cushy little job, he apparently tired of comments by those for whom he was running merchandize and men around.  So, after one trip ended, he tried to join the Navy.  They wouldn't take him.  Why?  I don't know.

He ended up talking with the Army who told them that they, the Army, also had boats.  That did it for him.  He joined up and spent the next twenty some odd years walking everywhere since he ended up in the Infantry.  Isn't that a kicker? Now, to be honest, he did spend some time in the Phillipines ferrying some men and some generals around.

Back to now---  I have been watching the World War II stories on my local PBS station and been amazed and horrified at the conditions these brave men fought.  One of them said that they weren't heroes.  Only the ones under the white crosses at Normandy qualified for that honor.  No, they were just survivors.

I think my dad felt that way as he told a sibling of mine that we should never forget all those brave fallen men.  My dad couldn't forget them.  And I can't forget my dad.

Ahh, genealogy.  A great big hug and thanks to all who served our country.  Papa was right.  We can't forget.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Census Sunday: He's Not in the Navy, He's in the Naval Militia!

Ever spend time looking and reviewing the information you have collected over the years?  I did just that on Veteran's Day, and did I get a surprise!

Some ten years ago or more, I spent time at the National Archives and was able to find, touch with my prettily gloved hands, and get copies of both my grandfathers' World War I draft cards.  One draft card was not a surprise as I knew that grandpa was in the Army 11th Infantry and was wounded in the Battle of the Argonne in 1918.  

On the other hand, here was the surprise.  The draft card for my other grandpa said Navy?  He had military service?  And no one living today knew this?

Two of his grandchildren have tried to get information on the Navy service from NARA with no luck.  The consensus was his records were destroyed in the 1973 fire which destroyed so many of nation's veterans military records.  Dead end?

Maybe not.

Since the recent announcement that the NARA folks at the St Louis facility where the fire was have been trying to reconstruct some of the files, my interest resurfaced.  I have even had word that two people I know did ask a second time and their grandfather's records were rescued, restored, marked with a "B" for burn file and delivered.  Could I get this lucky?

I pulled up his draft card again just yesterday and realized that something was off.  The draft card was signed in 1917 and indicates he had already served four years as a Seaman.  So, he wasn't in World War I?  He served before that time.

Read closer and now I see something else.  Notice the branch.  It says Navy Militia?  What was that?

Militia groups formed by states in our nation's early days are not new.  I just didn't realize that the practice was common in the early 1900s.  Before and during the Spanish-American War, South Carolina reactivated the use of a Naval Militia in 1892 to guard its coast.  Apparently, this group of volunteers stayed active as the last group was mustered in, May 1907.

What jumps off this page is the mention of Lieut. SB MCCLAREY.  He was the older brother-in-law of my grandfather.  Bingo.  It makes sense.

Grandpa, a young impressionable late teen, was impressed with his more worldly brother-in-law, who had served in the Spanish-American War, probably jumped at the chance to join up with the Militia as one of the 172 elite men.  

The Naval Militia was disbanded at the beginning of World War I as our nation started its own Naval Reserves.  On a sidenote, the Militia was reestablished in 2003 and is now recognized at the Federal level.

Now, I just need to find the names of the enlisted volunteers to prove this.  I suspect the records may be at the South Carolina Archives.

Ahh genealogy.  Isn't it a grand day for a voyage!


©2017  AS Eldredge

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Remembering Pittsburgh Boys of World War I

As we stop and think about Veteran's Day and what it means to all of our brave men and women who have fought and who are fighting for this wonderful country of ours, perhaps now is a good time to read some articles from the past.  How can it be that it has been 100 years since America entered World War I?

These articles were printed in the Gazette Times, one of Pittsburgh's newspapers, and authored by Charles J Doyle.  The articles have been transcribed and can be seen on the Pittsburgh Old Newspaper Project.

Take some time and catch a glimpse of what these brave soldiers did for us.

Here's just a snippet to get you thirsty for more...

Lieut. Lewis Describes a Bayonet Clash – Small Yank Kills Giant Hun.

Washington, Pa., Oct. 19. – Buried alive half an hour in a trench along the Marne River and alive to tell the tale is but one of the thrilling experiences of Lieut. James A. “Pud” Lewis, of Elizabeth, Pa., and former Washington and Jefferson college student, recently returned from the French battle front.
Lieut. Lewis left college in his senior year at the declaration of war in April, 1917, and enlisted as a private with Company H of the old Tenth Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard.  In his company he was promoted to corporal, sergeant and mess sergeant.  He was then sent to the officers’ training school, won a second lieutenancy, and was assigned to Company B of the One Hundred and Ninth Infantry, a Philadelphia regiment, with which he has won high honor and promotion to first lieutenancy.  He tells a story of a marvelous bayonet fight.......

And another snippet....


Members of Three Hundred Nineteenth Infantry Glad to Pose for Photo


Headquarters, Eightieth Division, Jan. 18. – (By Mail) – Although the plucky members of the Eightieth Division had their full share of the hard fighting that marked the last days of the great war there were in such excellent condition that they recuperated quickly when they reached rest billets. A few days after the signing of the armistice a camera man of the Signal Corps, A. E. F., United States Army, visited Florent, an Argonne Forest town, and Nineteenth Infantry was stationed, and made the accompanying photograph for me.

The eagerness with which the Western Pennsylvania doughboys gathered when it was noised about that a picture was to be taken for publication “back home” proved that they were as full of “pep” as ever. They had completed a march of approximately 26 miles just a short time before, but nobody who heard about the photographer’s visit in time failed to “get in the bunch.” They had been out of line only a short time, but every looked snappy and happy. A French officer and some of the village women were asked to pose to give local color.

Pasted Graphic
Here are the names of the home boys in the picture. Pick ‘em out yourself......

Ahh, genealogy.  How many names.  How much suffering. And continuing prayers from a grateful nation.

©2017  AS Eldredge

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Irma and Me

Watching the forecast being refined as the mainland United States awaits the arrival of Hurricane Irma is stimulating.  Whether you are in the path or close to the projected path of the largest recorded hurricane in history, the eyes of the country are watching and leaving us all pretty much wordless as we just recently witnessed the arrival of Harvey.

I have only known one Irma in my life and that was my second cousin, once removed.  Irma M WENZEL was the daughter of William Henry WENZEL(1870-1951) and Sadie Emma SIMMONS(1872-1944.)  The WENZEL family had a farm on Wenzel Rd in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA.  I guess I should say it is closer to the Mt Lebanon area.  Anyway, they had a farm and older cousins would relay tales of stopping by and grabbing fruit off the trees, even if they didn't go up to the house to see cousin William and Sadie.  As expected from those who know my heart and roots, both William and Sadie are buried at my family cemetery, the St Clair Cemetery, on Scott Rd in Mt Lebanon, Allegheny, PA.

Seeing the name Hurricane Irma brought memories of my Irma back to me.  Irma was born in May 1904 and died in Sept. 1987.  I only met her a couple of times when we would make the trek up to Pittsburgh to see my dad's aunt.  When we would visit, my sweet great-aunt would throw open the doors and tons (or so it seemed to me) of cousins would appear for various dinners.

Irma and her husband, Robert F ALGEO, would be two of the many guests dining on food, family lore and memories of the past.  I remember Irma and Robert well.  Robert was a salesman for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco to you and me) and was considered to be a big joker.  He loved to tease and he loved to tease me.  He told me one time he would give me a nickel if I would get him more tea.  I replied that I thought the Yankees would be big spenders and that didn't qualify as one in my world.  Many roars of laughter erupted that day!

Irma was a typist, played piano and had horses and a big Eskimo type dog.  Sweet Irma.

Robert and Irma had no children.  Her one sister, Margaret Emma WENZEL, did not marry to my knowledge.  So that line is gone.  In fact, I lose track of Margaret after the 1940 census where is still single and living with sister Irma and brother-in-law Robert.

Ahhh, genealogy.  The winds of the past are swirling in my head.  Rest sweetly Irma.

©2017  AS Eldredge

Friday, August 25, 2017

Death in Homestead Cemetery in Allegheny County, PA

It's a sad day.  I just saw a news report from Pittsburgh, PA, that the Homestead Cemetery in Munhall is dead.  No owner. No burials. Just a very sad forgotten 34 acre burial site of long ago Allegheny County.

My heartfelt thanks to the volunteers who have taken the time out to try and take care of the grounds. If I was in the area, I would be there as well.

Before the cemetery is forced to completely die and its fate decided by the powers that be, I call upon the genealogy groups in the Western PA area to document as much as you can.  Currently, the records that still exist can be found at the West Mifflin Historical Society.  Unless it has changed, the records are not available to the public.  Can this be changed?

According to FindaGrave, about 44% of the gravestones have been photographed and over 7000 graves are identified.

I am sure there are more.  Wish I could dig them up before the information is lost forever.

Ahh, genealogy. Such a sad day for a death.

Read more here:

©2017  AS Eldredge

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The Examiner of the Past

Learning about the genealogy of the family and then learning what some of the old folks accomplished during their time has resulted in me learning much more about our country and its early politics.

We all studied the basics in school about bank failures, who was President and what their main accomplishments were, the wars, states rights and so much more we have forgotten.  For me, seeing the early history of our land in context with my family has me digging for more knowledge.

So, on this very cold Wednesday which is also the birth date of President Andrew JACKSON, allow me to sit and read how cousin Condy RAGUET connected with him in the politics of the past.

It gets quite wordy in The Examiner, and Journal of Political Economy; Devoted to the Advancement of the Cause of State Rights and Free Trade edited by RAGUET.  Some of the issues can be read online.  So enjoy!

President Andrew Jackson declares war against South Carolina in 1834

Ah, genealogy. States rights, bank failures and free trade disagreements.  Still in heated discussions after over two hundred years of American history.

©2017  AS Eldredge