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Genealogy Reconnaissance

The first national celebration of the Memorial Day Holiday took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. It was originally known as Decoration Day.

As we honor our fallen heroes in the present age, we can use military records as a great source of info about our ancestors. Did you know most states did not keep birth and death records until the 1900's? At that time most births in the US were "home births." You didn't need a birth certificate until later, when you applied for Social Security or a passport after World War I. Then people then filed "Delayed Birth Certificates."

The Military Registration cards for both WWI and WWII can provide a number of clues about our family history, including birth date, birth place, residence, and occupation. You can click on the image below to expand it.

WWI Draft Registration Card

We can see that Thomas Grover Collins lived in Goodlett, Hardeman County, TX when he registered for the Draft on June 5, 1917. He lists his birthday as Feb. 10, 1890 and his place of birth as Decatur, Wise County, TX. He is single and a farmer working on his own account. What a goldmine in one record! Sorry, Genealogy nerd mode kicked in!

Draft Registration WWII card

Thomas G. Collins also registered for the Draft in World War II. This is page one of a two sided document. Thomas is now married, and farming in Arlington, Tarrant County, TX. The flip side of the card reveals that he has had a broken left leg which is slightly crooked.

Looking further through the Military records, we find the application for his headstone after his death on September 27, 1954 filed by his wife, Ida Mae, who was living in Fort Worth, TX. We also learn that he served in the #Navy as a Fireman First Class on the U.S.S. Indiana. He was discharged on May 3, 1919.

Military Headstone Application 1954

So, on this third record we have learned the name of his wife, his date of death, his military #serice, his wife's residence in 1954, and reconfirmed his birth date.

You can find free military records online at:

or this NationalArchives link has MORE records available

Often, offers free military research on Memorial Day weekend. That link will take you to the available search categories.

My Heritage offers a free trial membership (as does Ancestry), and military record specialty site (a subsidiary of Ancestry)does too, and they also offer military records from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.


Don't forget Google is a great site for searching too. I searched for "U.S.S. Indiana World War 1" and

found pictures and the history of the ship! What a rabbit hole Genealogy can be for the history buff!

Enjoy the holiday, and honor the sacrifice.

I'm here to help if you get stuck or confused. Drop me a line and let's start a conversation!

Thank you for stopping by,



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