100th Anniversary of World War I

The past few weeks I have had the first world war on my mind. I checked through my personal genealogy library, which includes a substantial number of volumes on all wars that affected our American ancestors. I found only five titles that dealt with this very important war which was called The Great War. What a shock!

First the bibliography, then the blog.
Carter, Miranda. The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires, and the Road to World War One. New York: Penguin Group, 2009. pp. 568. Some excellent photo albums showing the interaction of the cousins during their pre-war lives.

Current, Richard N., et. al. American History: A Survey. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. American History textbook used at the University of Utah, pp.639-679, with useful maps, charts and graphs, and photographs. (See chart: U.S.. Army, WWI.)

Toland, John. No Man’s Land: 1918–the Last Year of the Great War. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1980. pp. 626. Thorough coverage of the entrance of the United States into the war and the ultimate outcome, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toland.

U.S. Army Strength, WWI

The Great War and its Impact on your Genealogy
11 November 1918 was Armistice Day. It ended the war triggered by the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Kingdom and waged by three cousins who headed Russia, Great Britain, and Germany. The royal families of Europe were intermarried to ensure that their interests were so intertwined that war would not be an option.

These considerations had direct impact on your ancestors:

  1. Huge number of casualties wiped out a full generation of young men across Europe–1,385,000 French died, 73% of their military; 900,000 British died, 36% of their military.
  2. 112,000 Americans died, 7% of their military. Mothers and wives were taken by government officials to visit the cemeteries in Europe where their young sons and husbands were interred. See Arlene Eakle’s Virginia Scrapbook, Volume 1 for the Virginia list and directions to finding your state of interest.
  3. Europe was re-mapped, changing the boundary lines of almost all countries. These changes were designed by social scientists who believed that if ethnic groups were lumped together with matching languages and cultures, they would be less likely to war against each other. This re-mapping, however, ensured that war would come again to reinstate the historical and traditional boundaries.
  4. Spanish Influenza became a pandemic, with waves of illness peaking in July and October 1918. Returning soldiers brought the flu home with them–across Europe and into the United States. Entire communities were at risk and new cemeteries cropped up all over the world to hold the more than 27 million dead; over 500,000 alone in the continental United States. And flu victims that were buried in the hoare frost of the East, have been found to carry live organisms. Scientists are currently studying them to build a cure.
  5. A little-known source for Expeditionary American troops was the bonus promised and claimed in 1932. If you haven’t searched these files for your ancestor, check them. Payments were made on application only.

Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Some casualty lists and other war sources can be found online. Check the FamilySearch WIKI as a starting point.


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