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Tips to Save Fold3 Military Records to Ancestry

February 15, 2019 by | 0 comments

For more Fold3 tips, search our Fold3 Training Center.

Did you find a military record that pieces together the story of your ancestor? It’s easy to attach Fold3 records to your Ancestry Tree. Just follow these steps:

  1. Click the green Save to Ancestry button in the Viewer toolbar or from a Fold3 memorial page
  2. You will be prompted to log into Ancestry (if you are already logged in, this step will be skipped)
  3. Select the Tree you would like to attach your document to
  4. Select the Person would like to attach the link to
  5. Click the green Save button

February 1839: The Amistad Rebellion

February 1, 2019 by | 92 Comments

In February 1839, slave hunters abducted a group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba to be sold as slaves. Their kidnappings violated all treaties then in existence. When they arrived in Cuba, two Spanish plantation owners, Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz, purchased 53 slaves to work their Caribbean plantation. They loaded the slaves aboard the Cuban schooner Amistad. On July 1, while sailing through the Caribbean, the captured slaves organized a mutiny. One of the slaves, Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinque), freed himself and loosed others. They killed the captain and the ship’s cook, seized the ship, and ordered Montes and Ruiz to sail to Africa.

Under the guise of heading towards Africa, Montes and Ruiz sailed the ship north instead. The Amistad zigzagged up the east coast for nearly two months. On August 26, 1839, it dropped anchor off the tip of Long Island and a few of the men went ashore for fresh water. Soon, the US Navy brig Washington sailed into view. Thomas R. Gedney, commanding officer of the Washington, assumed those on board were pirates. He ordered his men to disarm the Africans and capture everyone including those who had gone ashore for water. They were all transported to Connecticut where officials freed the Spaniards but charged the Africans with murder upon the high seas.

Amistad Memorial
New Haven, Connecticut

The murder charges were eventually dismissed, but the Africans remained imprisoned and their case sent to Federal District Court in Connecticut. The plantation owners, the government of Spain, and Gedney all claimed some sort of compensation. The plantation owners wanted their slaves back, the Spanish government wanted the slaves returned to Cuba where they would likely be put to death, and Thomas Gedney felt he was entitled to compensation under maritime law that allowed salvage rights when saving a ship or its cargo from impending loss.   

The district court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction. The ruling was appealed, and the case sent to the Supreme Court. Former president John Quincy Adams argued on behalf of the Africans. He said they were innocent because international laws found the slave trade was illegal. Thus, anyone who escaped should be considered free under American law.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans and ordered their immediate release. Abolitionists who had supported their cause raised funds to return them to Africa. On November 26, 1841, nearly three years after their abduction, the Africans departed New York City bound for home. Only 35 of them made it back. The others died at sea or while in custody.

The original 19th-century manuscripts from the Amistad case and our entire Black History collection are available to search for free this month on Fold3!

War of 1812 Pension Files Update

January 16, 2019 by | 24 Comments

“P” is for Pension File…and patience! We’re almost through digitizing the P’s in our 1812 Pension Files (can’t wait for Q-Z) and we’re excited about our growing War of 1812 Pension Files collection.

Pension files are a rich source for military and genealogical research. In 1813 and 1816, Congress approved a military pension for soldiers who served between 1812 and 1815 and suffered a disability or death.

In 1871 and 1878, Congress expanded the pensions to include more veterans. The 1871 act allowed men who had served at least 60 days during the war to draw a pension. Their widows were eligible as long as the marriage had taken place before the end of the war. The 1878 act expanded the pensions further to apply to veterans who had served 14 days in the war or any engagement, and to their widows, regardless of when the marriage occurred.

A veteran’s pension often includes his rank, place of residence, age or date of birth, and time of service. A widow’s application usually includes her place of residence, her maiden name, date, and place of marriage, circumstances of her husband’s death, and the names of children under 16.

In a few instances, the files even contain a tintype photograph of the veteran. Such is the case with William Perry. His file is 55 pages long and contains a gold mine of information including pages from his family bible showing births and deaths, and even a summons to appear before the Justice of the Peace for failure to pay a debt of $1.50.

In contrast, Malinda Hadley filed for a widow’s pension 25 years after the death of her husband Simeon. Her file is just six pages long and includes her rejected application because no record of Simeon’s purported militia group existed.

Our War of 1812 Pension Files collection are organized by state or organization, and then by the soldier’s surname and given name. The process for digitizing the pension files is painstaking and time-consuming. We will keep adding to the collection until it is complete. If you don’t see your ancestor’s pension file, keep checking back!

Get started searching our War of 1812 Pension Files on Fold3 today!

January 17, 1944: The Battle of Monte Cassino Begins

January 1, 2019 by | 152 Comments

In January 1944, one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Italian Campaign of WWII began at Monte Cassino. Monte Cassino was an ancient Benedictine abbey that towered over the city of Cassino. Sometimes referred to as the Battle of Rome, the Battle of Monte Cassino consisted of a series of four assaults by Allied forces against the defensive German Gustav Line. Before German troops retreated, the conflict claimed the lives of 55,000 Allied soldiers and destroyed the cultural treasure of Monte Cassino.

Allied forces landed in the Italian peninsula in September 1943. The Apennine Mountains divided the peninsula and Allied troops split and advanced on both sides. They took control of Naples and continued the push towards Rome.

Monte Cassino was the gateway to Rome, about 80 miles away. It provided unobstructed views of the area. German troops occupied lookouts on the hillside but agreed to stay out of the abbey because of its historical importance. The precious manuscripts and antiquities housed in the abbey had been removed to Vatican City for safekeeping (although some works of art were stolen by German troops and transported north).

The first phase of the operation began on January 17th with an Allied attack on German positions. Thomas E. McCall, a farm boy from Indiana, found himself in the crosshairs of the battle. On January 22, 1944, during heavy fighting, he was accidentally struck by friendly fire. Presumed dead, McCall was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Unbeknownst to his unit, McCall was alive but wounded. He became a German POW and spent the next 18 months in makeshift hospitals. “They didn’t even have an aspirin to give you,” he said. “There were no pain-killing drugs for either the Germans or us. The surgeon had a handful of tools and two or three other guys would hold you down while he operated on you.” McCall was eventually liberated and earned the distinction of being one of the few posthumous Medal of Honor recipients that lived to tell about it.

By early February, Allies reached a hill just below the abbey. Some reports suggested Germany might be using the abbey as an artillery observation point, resulting in a controversial decision to destroy the abbey. On February 15th, 1,150 tons of bombs rained down on the abbey reducing it to rubble. German forces quickly took up position in the ruins, utilizing its vantage point to prevent Allies from advancing.

A third offensive began in March with heavy attacks in the town of Cassino, but tenacious German forces held their position. The fourth and final assault, known as Operation Diadem, began on May 11th and included attacks from US troops with help from British, French, and Polish Allies. On May 18th, Polish forces captured Monte Cassino. Soon after, on June 4, 1944, Allied forces liberated Rome.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Monte Cassino and see more photographs, search our archives on

WWII Draft Registration Card Collection update

December 10, 2018 by | 11 Comments

Fold3 has added four new states to our collection of U.S. WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection now contains cards from Montana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. The cards in this collection are registration cards for the draft and do not necessarily indicate that the individual served in the military.WWII Draft Registration Card Collection

There were seven draft registration periods in the United States for World War II service. The first draft registration was held on October 16, 1940—before the United States had entered the war. Men ages 21–36 were required to register at their local draft board. The second draft registration was also held prior to the American entrance into the war, on July 1, 1941. This registration was for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration date nine months earlier.

The third (February 16, 1942) and fifth (June 30, 1942) registration periods expanded the ages required to register; the age ranges for the third were extended to 20–21 and 35–44, while the fifth extended them to ages 18–20. The sixth registration (December 10–31, 1942) was for men who had turned 18 since the fifth registration six months prior. There was also a seventh registration, known as the “Extra Registration,” from November 16 to December 31, 1943, which was for American men ages 18–44 who were living abroad. The cards from the fourth registration (April 27, 1942; for men ages 45–64) are not included in the WWII Draft Registration Cards but in Fold3’s WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards collection.

Information on the WWII Draft Registration Cards may include the man’s name, address, telephone number, age, place of birth, country of citizenship, name and address of the person who will always know the registrant’s address, employer’s name, place of employment, and a physical description of the registrant.

Get started searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards on Fold3!

Christmas in a War Zone

December 10, 2018 by | 88 Comments

We all want to be home for the holidays, but for those serving in the military that isn’t always possible. Here’s how a few of our troops have celebrated in seasons past.

World War I: During WWI, members of the Expeditionary Force spent Christmas on the Western Front. Kirkland H. Day wrote home to say that he and the other American soldiers raised $200 dollars to provide gifts and food for families in a French village. “Some of the cases we found were too pitiful for words,” wrote Day. “One mother with 11 children – father killed in war – had absolutely nothing, not even shoes,” he said. The soldiers found the Christmas spirit through service. “Yes, it was a real Christmas, made so by doing for others. I hope your Christmas was as real as ours in France,” Day wrote. Read his entire letter here.

Sergeant Victor E. Chapman graduated from Harvard and moved to Paris to study architecture. When the war began, he immediately joined the French Foreign Legion alongside fellow American, Phil Rader. Both men hoped to become aviators. Rader was a newspaper reporter and sent home vivid descriptions of life along the Western Front.

Rader and Chapman were part of the Christmas truce of WWI. Rader wrote of peeking out of his trench on Christmas morning, “Thoughtlessly I raised my head. Other men did the same. We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air. What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered. There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels. The terror of No-man’s land fell away.”

The soldiers all shook hands and posed for photographs with one another. “The hatred of war had been suddenly withdrawn and it left a vacuum in which we human beings rushed into contact with each other. The awfulness of war had not filled the corners of our hearts where love and Christmas live,” wrote Rader. The following morning a soldier hopped out of the trench, eager to continue the comradery experienced the night before. The crack of a rifle rang out and the man fell dead. The truce was over – but none there would ever forget the Christmas when for just a day, the war ended.

Vietnam: It didn’t feel like Christmas in the hot and steamy jungles of Vietnam. Troops still decorated trees like this one and enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Jewish soldiers celebrated Hanukkah, and many received cards and gifts from home. Entertainer Bob Hope made yearly visits to Vietnam to boost morale with his USO Christmas show for troops.

Major Hershel C. Gordon was serving in Can-To when he noticed a Vietnamese orphanage overflowing with children. He teamed up with friends in Lubbock, Texas to gather holiday gifts and supplies for the children. The 619th TAC Control Squadron painted the orphanage and cleaned up the grounds. Military doctors provided the children with medical care. Similarly, other GIs rendered service in orphanages across Vietnam.

How did you or your family member celebrate the holidays while serving in the military? Tell us about it and search our archives for other holiday military photos.


The Battle of Stones River – Civil War

December 1, 2018 by | 179 Comments

On December 31, 1862, the Confederate Army of Tennessee led by General Braxton Bragg and the Union Army of the Cumberland under General William Rosecrans faced off in the Battle of Stones River, also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, in Tennessee. The bloody battle, fought December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863, resulted in nearly 24,000 casualties – or nearly one-third of the battle’s participants. Although the battle was indecisive, it was a psychological victory for Union forces.

Earlier in December, the Union Army had suffered defeat at Fredericksburg. They desperately needed a victory to bolster morale and increase support for President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that was to take effect on January 1st.

The Confederates were also coming off a defeat at Perryville, Kentucky. General Bragg’s forces retreated and reorganized in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They hoped to drive Union forces out of Tennessee.

On December 26th, Rosecrans left Nashville to confront the Confederates 30 miles away. The weather was miserable and slowed the advance. The rain turned roads into muddy quagmires that froze when the temperatures dropped at night. Union forces reached Murfreesboro on December 30th and set up camp across from Confederate lines. As both sides bedded down for the night, the two military bands played within earshot of one another. They alternated songs and at one point both bands joined together and the soldiers sang Home Sweet Home. As night fell, everyone awaited the imminent battle.

At dawn on December 31st, the Confederate forces were the first to strike. They launched an assault on the Union right flank, intending to encircle Union troops from behind and drive them to Stones River. Meanwhile, Rosecrans’ battle plan was nearly identical. He hoped to place Union forces in between the Confederate Army and their supplies at Murfreesboro.

Initially, Confederate troops held the advantage, driving Union forces back towards the Nashville Pike. Union forces set up a defensive line and intense fighting resulted in horrendous casualties on both sides. One area became known as the Slaughter Pen because of the carnage.

Bragg’s troops launched four separate attacks in an attempt to splinter Union forces. A Union brigade led by Colonel William B. Hazen, held the line. A monument built in 1863 to honor Hazen’s Brigade is the oldest American Civil War monument still standing in its original location.

There was little fighting on January 1st. The lull gave General Rosecrans a chance to strategize and send for fresh supplies and ammunition from Nashville. Both sides cared for their wounded. On January 2nd, Bragg launched another attack on the Union left. Rosecrans counterattacked and drove the Confederates back with heavy artillery. The Confederates retreated and Union forces declared victory.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Stones River, or other Civil War battles, search our archives at Fold3!