Did You Recall that Today is 6 June–D-Day 1944

I looked in vain today for television channels and other news media in my market area for programs celebrating D-Day. This evening, the History channel carried a visit to Normandy France and Omaha Beach by five surviving American soldiers who took part in the largest military invasion undertaken in history. These elderly veterans also visited the American Cemetery in Normandy where 9,387 casualties are interred. The cemetery overlooks beautiful and now peaceful Omaha Beach.

Then Public Television aired a documentary on the Dayton Codebreakers. In Building 26 and other parts of the NCR Corporate facilities in Dayton OH, Joseph Desch (1907-1987) and a top-secret corps of naval personnel designed and built code-breaking machines for the government to use in cracking the German ciphers.

In 1942 alone, the Allies lost some 1,664 ships in the Atlantic–1,160 were sunk by German U-Boats. The pressure to know what the Germans were planning was immense. And these personnel worked more than 15 hours per day to meet the challenge.

As I listened, I remembered a genealogy giant, P. William Filby (1911-2002), who spent six years with the British Intelligence Corps in England as a member of these cryptographic teams that broke the German ULTRA code. When the War was over, he married an American and moved to Baltimore MD to work as the Rare Book Librarian for the Maryland Historical Society.

Filby, and his first co-editor Mary K. Meyer (1918-1998), researched and edited the multi-volume Passenger and Immigration Lists Index published by Thomson-Gale of Farmington Hills MI. This massive reference indexes more than 4 million immigrant ancestors’ names which appear in printed volumes. And for more than 30 years, annual updates to the original 3-volume set have appeared. Check with your local genealogy library if you have not already searched these volumes for your immigrants mid-16th through mid-20th centuries.

I also recalled the seminar in Southern California where I spoke on tracing women. After the session was over, an elderly woman approached me. She told me how she wrote her autobiography to give her children and grandchildren for Christmas. They were all so excited to get their copy and to read through it. Then she said, “I did not tell them I had top-security clearance during the War and was sworn to secrecy even today. My family has no idea what job I did.” Like the codebreakers, she was unable to share these details with her family and friends.

It isn’t just the military that works for the common cause. Today we acknowledge our support for the troops around the world who stand between us and terror. Do we really think about what that means? Will we ever really know what that means?

As records are declassified, we can search them for names of interest to our family history. And as we have time to discover, transcribe or digitize, edit, and publish the data, we can know what our family members did in the War and for the War effort. And just as we identify ancestors who served in the military of their day, we can celebrate the lives of those relatives and friends we know and love.

Remember, unless your ancestors were exempt, they served. From age 16 through 45 in peacetime and age 16-60 in time of war, all males were expected to serve. They were also expected to supply their own horses, weapons, and ammunition. If uniforms were not supplied, they wore their own clothing. They were paid in vouchers and unclaimed lands. And sometimes, their wives and families were provided for by local governments if they could not support themselves. Sometimes they went hungry.

And records cover the majority who served, the majority of those exempted with their reasons for exemption, and the majority of claims eventually filled or laid to rest for inability of the government to pay. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

P.S. I already have a publication that lists numerous military records with checklists and bibliographies that cover American wars and rumors of wars. <http:www.arleneeakle.com> Click on Catalog on the left hand menu. Pay Pal is up and running or will be very shortly–so you can order American Military Records online.

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