Carnival of Genealogy: Family Wartime Stories

Welcome to the 32nd Carnival of Genealogy. The theme: Family Stories of Wartime. The entries span the Revolutionary War to the Korean Conflict.

On the same day I was reading through the submitted entries, I asked my SO to set the TiVo to record all seven episodes of Ken Burns’s The War (begins Sunday, 23 September on PBS), a 14+ hour documentary that tells the story of World War 2 through the eyes of ordinary people from four American communities. “In extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives.” We also watched a documentary that the TiVo recorded earlier this year: The Perilous Fight: WW2 in color. Color motion picture was accompanied by excerpts from diaries and letters written by those who lived it. It was a (mostly) sober couple of hours of non-Glenn Miller getting In The Mood (er, not that mood) for the Carnival, and for the upcoming Ken Burns documentary.

Ken Burns and PBS are promoting the The Veteran’s History Project (VHP), a nationwide oral history project to record and preserve the stories of Americans in wartime at the Library of Congress.

Pearl Harbor

The common theme of the documentaries, the VHP, and this carnival: Great historical events do not belong to the Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, War Secretaries and Generals, decision makers and strategists. When one nation fights another, the war is experienced from family to family, household to household. Whether victim, refugee, prisoner, laborer, soldier, the events of that war seep into every corner of a nation.

So here are some stories of war from the households of family (and neighbors) of the carnival partipants.

Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War-era maps and charts

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings tells us the story of Patriot Soldier, Isaac Buck, one of his favorite ancestors and his service and war pension. Good for Isaac Buck that he received a pension, and good for Randy that the records are there to tell him of his ancestor.


Randy’s story mentions Ticonderoga; Here’s a map of Ticonderoga with authentick informations, 1777, from Library of Congress Memory Project. (My grandfather’s 100th birthday party was in the Village of Ticonderoga, or “Ti” as we call it)

The Revolutionary War is also known as “the First Civil War,” according to Tim Abbot of Walking the Berkshires. His account about the Curries at the time of the American Revolution, A House Divided: The Tory in the Family. It’s the story of another relative in the Currie family, a story that he received thanks to his blog. “There was also a younger son, Ross Currie, and he followed a different path that I might never have known about, had not one of his descendants living in Canada found this blog and shared the story of the Tory in the family.”

Civil War, or The War Between the States


Mobile Bay, from the Civil War Maps at the Library of Congress

Let’s hear it for guest authors! Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi and Robin Linn presents Hiram C. Edge, Hill Country Confederate. Of this story, Terry says, “Writer Robin Linn has captured so much of the activity of this Hill Country CSA military unit’s early service in the Civil War (from military duties to playing marbles to swimming in the bay). Her words paint a picture of the volunteers time and work—- and the sadness of death by war or from disease. I appreciate Robin’s permission to post her copyrighted work at Hill Country and her permission to submit her piece to this carnival. Although not about one of the great World Wars, it is about war—- and how one Hill Country man, Hiram Edge, made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the service of his country.”

A late-harvest guest story! In The Carnival of Genealogy goes Wine-Tasting, I plucked a sun-ripened family story while tasting Zinfandels at Tom Dugan’s California Wine and Cheese here in Monrovia. We discussed word usage in tasting notes, then writing in general. Tom mentioned that about the only writing he does is for his genealogy. Ah ha! I told him of the carnival, and asked him if he had a war story. He sent me an email with a quick sketch about one Peter Whelan, born in Ireland, emigrated to the states age 10, enlisted at age 20 and fought in the Civil War.

The fine pairing of genealogy with writing: The Footnote Maven presents a chapter of the family chronicle in progress, The Campbells Enter the War Between the States. The story begins with the canny businessman father John Campbell, but focuses on the fate of his son Isaac in the highly divided are-you-with-us-or-against-us Missouri. This story has legs.*


Here are two stories of toughness and privation in World War 1.

War is tough. Supplies and sustenance dwindle. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when one needs to keep starvation at bay, one will invent ways to hold onto one’s food supply. This brief anecdote by Ralph Brandi at Geneablogy (and There Is No Cats) is a story his grandmother told him. When you read it, be sure to draw a mental picture of her family’s solution to the problem!

War is tough when your ally switches sides, mid-war, and your other ally takes what is yours and gives you lousy supplies.  Miriam Robbins Midkiff of AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors, says this is “the story of my great-grandfather’s experiences during a little-known war between the U.S. and Russia,” entitled A Polar Bear in North Russia.


In Europe, War is hell. Steve Danko remembers an ancestor from Poland in The Biography of Wiktor Dziurzyński.


Here’s our Mission, from the Library of Congress collection, American Memory, WW2, 1939-1945

In the air (and to the ground)… Becky Wiseman of kinexxions presents Dad and the 511th, about her father’s service in the Pacific in a parachute infantry regiment.

At sea…. Janice Brown at Cow Hampshire presents World War II: When My Dad Was a MoMM. Illustrated! Following Janice’s story, be sure to check out the comment left by Omnipotent Poohbah, which underscores the whole reason for the Veterans History project and probably The War documentary. The comment begins “I recently learned that my father may have been involved in one of the first captures…”  and ends “Amazing what you find out when you get the old fellas talking.” You’ll have to go there to read what’s in between.

(Both Dad and the 511th and My Dad Was a MoMM will introduce you to certain foreign currency whose style might look a leetle familiar.)

Correspondence from sea Jasia of Creative Gene “borrows” a friend’s relative to tell a story in eight parts. It begins with WWII, One Man’s Story, Part 1 of 8.

On “The Home Front,” the nation was busy busy busy with work to support the war effort. Lori Thornton of Smoky Mountain Family Historian describes the nearby Home Front efforts with her story, Gulf Ordnance Plant.


Precision work. From Library of Congress Rosie The Riveter has a National Park: The Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

They also serve who wait… and wait. The Home Front was filled with waiting.  Waiting and missing the one who is gone. Waiting and altering New Year’s traditions during the time he’s away. Terry Thornton‘s vivid memory of Curt and JoWill Thornton and the War (and how his Dad waited for Curt’s return) is his memory touchstone for this war:

“I was not quite two and one-half years old when Pearl Harbor meant that we were at war.  My memories of the early years of the war center about my first friends, Curt and JoWill and of Curt’s leaving for the military.  And then I remember clearly his arrival home safe and sound.  I can’t hear the phrase World War Two  without thinking of Curt and JoWill.  It is through them that I can put the war years into a time frame within my memory span.”

Long after the war, the VA hospital… and a mystery. Amy Crooks at Untangled Family Roots says, “This one really isn’t a war story, but a story about a man I never had the chance to know. I never heard his war stories. I have such a desire to know more about my mother’s father. Even she knows so little when it comes to his life before my grandmother. He died when I was two, so I never had the chance to ask him or hear any of his stories. All I do know is that he was a WWII Veteran. He died in 1971 in Modesto, CA, but spent a couple of his last years in a Veteran Hospital in Southern CA battling bone marrow cancer. Amy’s post is Untangled Family Roots: WWII Records, 1973 Fire.

Korean Conflict

Training and Skills for ships at sea. My Dad was in the Navy in the early 1950s, during the Korean War. I’ve interviewed him about youth and early Navy experience. (more interviews to come). In Father’s Oral History about, well, a digital tool, I transcribe a couple of stories about skills required for a Navy officer. 

Mail Call!

Remember to Write! Our final entry is not a story about a particular family member during a particular wartime, but a story of family and war and letters from war. Jennifer Jackson of Jacksbox4you appreciates letters. She knows their value. She says, my “blog entry includes a video link to Roots Television regarding a gentleman’s [Andrew Carroll] quest to preserve letters from those that have served in the war. It is wonderfully done and worth watching.”  Her carnival entry is War and Love Letters. Flash required. Just. go. see. it. It gave me chills, it made my boyfriend stop what he was doing and come to my computer monitor to watch.

I’m utterly stoked that she found this video and submitted it. because I’ve been reading Andrew Carroll’s book, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars. I just visited The Legacy Project’s site, at, and notice that there are more books listed than the one I’m reading. 

So go read… and remember to write!

…and, of course, remember to watch The War on PBS.

War Brides? Well, how about just Brides, then? And Grooms

Call for submissions! The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: Weddings! Is there a cultural or religious wedding tradition in your family? Do you have a funny family wedding story you’d care to share? Did your grandparents elope? Cousin marry cousin? Is there an especially touching wedding photo in your collection? Do you think your ancestor holds the record for the most times married? Write about a wedding(s) in your family and submit it for the next edition of the COG. The deadline for submissions is October 1st. You can submit your blog article for the next edition using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

But wait! There’s more!

In some alternative universe where everyone’s title is “mister” and all signs of respect are “sir,” Craig Manson and I might be having this conversation:

“Permission to blog freely, sir!”

“At ease, soldier.”

“Sir, request permission for inclusion in the carnival, sir! I had other duties that I faithfully carried out, sir!”

“Soldier, that’s an affirmative. … Oh, and soldier? Thanks. I shall call you sir.”

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 18, 2007 in • GenealogyHistoryOral History ProjectsVeterans History Project
7 CommentsPermalink

« Previous NY Times to open up old archives | Yessss! A Mention in the US News cover story!!! Next »


Unfortunately, Craig Manson was so busy compiling and writing his articles about and the Internet Biographical Collection that he missed THIS Carnival.

Both he, and his article, “A Missed Bus,” should receive special mention.


Janice Brown  on 09/18  at  01:47 PM


What a great looking Carnival!  Thanks for all your work in presenting these various looks at war from so many time periods in the USA.  I’m going to learn a lot reading all these.  Thanks.
Terry Thornton
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

Terry Thornton  on 09/18  at  01:47 PM


This is an absolutely fantastic edition of the carnival. I love all your extras and visuals.

Bravo and thank you!


P.S. I am putting together the materials for the Veterans History Project for my husband which will be video taped by Inventive Productions. They do this for free for the project here in Washington.

footnoteMaven  on 09/18  at  02:05 PM

I loved all the extra photos!  This has been a very interesting Carnival.

Lori Thornton  on 09/18  at  04:07 PM

Janice, thanks for that mention. So  worthy, so  deserving, so hilarious, so going to be included a mere minutes from now.

And thanks for the comments—esp about the visuals—Terry, fM and Lori. I figured that not only is there an amazing digital repository in the Library of Congress to help illustrate this post (and break up the text, ahem), but that each image is a link back to an area of their site where you can happily and profitably lose hours exploring in your own research. So: bonus!

fM, that. is. so. cool! I totally want to hear about your experiences w/ the Vets History Project.

Susan A. Kitchens  on 09/18  at  05:09 PM

What an amazing looking Carnival!  Thanks for all the work you have put into this.

Civil War  on 09/11  at  04:04 PM

All I can say is wow.Sounds you had an amazing carnival.
Really, really interesting.

Genealogy Search Resources  on 12/13  at  02:51 AM

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