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World War I Begins:
July 28, 1914

July 1, 2014 by | 25 Comments

This July 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914.

WWI PosterA month before the war began, on June 28, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie had been assassinated during a trip to Bosnia. Initial outrage was strong, as were fears that this would be the instigating event for the European war that had been looming for years. But as the days and weeks passed without Austria-Hungary retaliating against Serbia (whom they believed to be behind the assassination plot), some began to breathe a sigh of relief.

But then, on July 23, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia with various demands regarding Serbia’s response to the assassination and the country’s future relationship with Austria-Hungary. Serbia accepted many of the demands but refused to allow Austria-Hungary to be involved in its judicial process for Serbians connected to the assassination. Thus rejected, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia on July 28.

Russia (a champion of Serbia and its Slavic population) began mobilization of its troops, which prompted Germany (an ally of Austria-Hungary) to declare war on Russia. In quick succession, the system of alliances (and territorial ambitions) within Europe led Germany to also declare war on France and Britain, Britain and France to declare war on Germany, and Russia to declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Within a week, five major countries in Europe were embroiled in a war they believed would be over in a matter of months. Many other nations would eventually join the conflict—including the isolationist United States, though not officially until 1917. The bloody war would last more than four years and result in upwards of 37 million dead, missing, or wounded soldiers.

Explore Fold3’s World War I collection to discover more about this conflict and the men who fought in it.

150th Anniversary (1864–2014) This Month in the Civil War: Battle of Fort Stevens

July 1, 2014 by | 8 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

On July 11–12, 1864, Confederate general Jubal Early led his troops in an attempt to take Washington DC. The beleaguered Robert E. Lee had sent Early north to create havoc that would draw Federal soldiers away from Petersburg and Richmond, thus relieving some of the pressure on those cities.

Early and his men traveled to the US capital, leaving mid-June and arriving July 11. They were delayed along the way by an engagement (the Battle of Monocacy) with Lew Wallace‘s troops. Though that battle was a Union loss, the delay it created proved critical, as it allowed extra time for Federal soldiers to arrive in DC to shore up the depleted ranks defending the city.

The Battle of Fort Stevens consisted mainly of skirmishes, with no major clashes, though casualties amounted to 874. The battle is most notable, however, for President Abraham Lincoln‘s attendance as he stood atop Fort Stevens to watch the action. He was advised to leave, however, when a sharpshooter‘s bullet hit a man standing nearby. The battle ended when Early decided an attempt on the capital would fail and so withdrew his men during the night of the 12th.

Revolutionary War Pension Files

June 20, 2014 by | 17 Comments

Jonathan Libby Revolutionary War Pension JacketIf you have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, Fold3’s Revolutionary War Pension Files can be a valuable resource for finding detailed information about them and their families. With roughly 80,000 files, this collection (via the National Archives) contains applications for veterans’ pensions, widows’ pensions, and bounty land warrants, organized by state and then by veteran surname.

In addition to details of a veteran’s military service, these types of applications are a rich source of genealogical information, such as a veteran’s age or date of birth, residence, birthplace, and even information about his wife (or widow) and children. Because veterans and their widows or heirs often submitted certain documents along with their pension or bounty land applications, within the Revolutionary War Pensions you may also find commissions, discharges, military orders, muster rolls, deeds, wills, receipts, diaries, journals, letters, marriage certificates, and newspaper clippings.

Let’s look at an example of one of these application files—that of Jonathan Libby—and see what kinds of things we can learn from it.

Jonathan Libby JournalAs we skim through the pages, we quickly find that this file contains three separate widow’s pension applications submitted by Jonathan’s widow, Abigail, over the course of about seven years. As we dig deeper into the file, we discover that although Jonathan was living in Scarborough, Maine, he enlisted in the Massachusetts Line in March 1777, with Richard Maybery (or Mayberry) as his company captain and Colonel Francis—and later Colonel Tupper— his regimental commander. While serving as a sergeant, ensign, lieutenant, and then captain, we learn from the journal included in his file that he participated in the battles of Hubbardton, Saratoga, White Marsh, Monmouth, and Stony Point before being discharged on 18 March 1780.

From the file, we also learn that Jonathan and Abigail were married on January 27, 1781 (or 1784) in Scarborough, Maine, and that Abigail’s maiden name was also Libby, being a “remote relative” to Jonathan. They had 10 children together, 3 of whom predeceased their parents. Jonathan died in Maine on March 21 (or 15), 1805, at the age of 52, and his wife never remarried. Abigail, who was 74 in August 1838, applied for a widow’s pension under the acts of 1838 and 1843 and received $269.33 per year, which was then increased under the 1844 act to $334.33.

That’s quite a bit of information from one file!

Find out what you can discover about your own Revolutionary War ancestors in Fold3’s Revolutionary War Pension Files.

Tip: Browse on Fold3

June 11, 2014 by | 55 Comments

Whether you’re browsing the records on Fold3 just to take a look around or browsing to find information on a specific person, this method of online exploration can broaden your understanding of a conflict period and give context to records about your ancestors.

The easiest way to access the browse menu is by selecting “Browse records” from the “Search” dropdown at the top of any page. Then choose a conflict period and record collection to look through. Each collection is organized differently based on the type of records it contains, but all are easy to navigate using the browse menu.

When you’ve navigated through the browse menu to its final pane, you’ll see thumbnail images of the records in that particular part of the collection. Looking at these thumbnails can give you a general overview of how much content there is in a particular record. You can also choose the information icon under a thumbnail to view the document information, like full publication title, content source, document type, a short description of the collection, and much more. Selecting any of the thumbnails will bring you to the full-size image in the Fold3 viewer.

Your browse isn’t over once you reach the viewer. From the viewer, you can open the “filmstrip” at the bottom of the page and quickly go to other images within the record. You can also use the “breadcrumbs” (the trail of links) at the top of the viewer to easily navigate to other parts of the collection without having to start your browse over from the beginning.

Another helpful feature is “Search within.” For example, if you’re looking for JEB Stuart in the 1860 Census, and you know he lived in Kansas at that time but aren’t sure which county to look in, select the 1860 census from the browse menu, then choose Kansas. Next, type “J E B Stuart” in the “Search within” box that’s located at the top of the pane and select “Go.” This will search within the Kansas 1860 Census and return a search result for JEB Stuart’s census record. From that, you’ll learn that he was living in Davis County, Kansas. (You can also begin a “search within” by selecting a breadcrumb from the top of the viewer and searching from there.)

For more information on how to browse on Fold3, view our helpful browse tutorial in the Training Center.

D-Day on the USS Quincy

June 1, 2014 by | 43 Comments

June 6 marks the day 70 years ago when Allied troops famously stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. On D-Day, more than 160,000 men went up against the Germans’ extensively fortified Atlantic Wall in northern France, breaking through to begin the invasion of German-occupied France. Offshore during this invasion, lending material and gunfire support, were 5,000 ships.

D-Day Invasion-War Theatre #12 (France)One of these ships was the USS Quincy, a heavy cruiser on which Lieutenant Commander John F. Latimer was serving as the assistant communications officer. The Quincy was offshore of Utah Beach during the D-Day landings, and from his position on board, Latimer participated in—and later described—the D-Day invasion.

According to Latimer (in the Personal Interviews section of Fold3’s World War II War Diaries), on D-Day the Quincy worked with spotting planes to fire on and destroy previously assigned targets on shore, mainly batteries. The Quincy also protected Shore Fire Control Parties (SFCP) from enemy fire, and as Latimer reported, the SFCP “sent us fervent thanks for saving their lives on several different occasions.” Although Latimer wasn’t sure how many shore batteries the Quincy engaged on D-Day, he estimated that by 8 o’clock that night, they had expended 70 percent of their approximately 1,000 8″ rounds and about the same amount of their 5″.

The day following D-Day, the Quincy only fired when requested to by SFCP planes, as the ship was low on ammunition. It also received about 20 men, some wounded and “all suffering from more or less exposure,” who had been rescued from the water by torpedo boats after their planes had gone down. The Quincy also retrieved a body from the water, but it was so decomposed it had to be buried at sea.

According to Latimer, the Quincy performed its D-Day mission with no major mistakes, and he attributed this partly to luck “but mostly to thorough preparation, consistent application to the task in hand, excellent leadership, and splendid cooperation.” Although the Quincy was lucky enough not to sustain any casualties on D-Day, this was not the case for others on the invasion force: more than nine thousand Allies were killed or wounded during the Normandy landings.

Search for your D-Day and other World War II heroes in Fold3’s WWII collection, and commemorate their service by creating or expanding a Memorial Page for them on the Honor Wall.

150th Anniversary (1864–2014) This Month in the Civil War: Battle of Cherbourg

June 1, 2014 by | 15 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

June 19, 1864, saw the most famous Confederate raider, the CSS Alabama, sent to the bottom of the ocean after a battle with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France. After two years of disrupting U.S. shipping all over the world—and sinking a Union warship in 1863—the Alabama’s captain, Raphael Semmes, took his ship to France for maintenance and repair.

The Kearsarge, captained by John Winslow, followed the Alabama and waited in Cherbourg’s harbor for the Alabama to reemerge. Semmes, aware that he was blockaded in the harbor, decided to challenge the Kearsarge to a ship-to-ship duel. Winslow accepted, and on June 19, a French ironclad escorted the Alabama to meet up with the Kearsarge in international waters.

The Battle of Cherbourg began about 11 a.m., with the Alabama firing the first shots, and lasted about an hour. The Alabama fired faster but less accurately, and its shells and powder were in poor condition. The Kearsarge, firing more deliberately, eventually struck the Alabama below the waterline, causing it to start to sink. Semmes surrendered, but he and some of his crew were rescued by a British yacht and escaped before they could be captured by the Federals.

Medal of Honor Recipients

May 22, 2014 by | 4 Comments

Medal of Honor Recipients by conflictThe Medal of Honor is the U.S. military’s highest award for valor. Discover more about this nation’s bravest heroes by exploring Fold3’s Medal of Honor Recipients title.

Compiled by congressional committee and originally spanning the years 1863 to 1978, Medal of Honor Recipients was recently expanded to include additional names from 1979 to 2013 for more than 3,400 entries on those who received the Medal of Honor.

The first volume (1863–1978) contains an in-depth history of the Medal of Honor. For instance, did you know that in 1917, 910 names were removed from the Medal of Honor Roll because the Board ruled their actions didn’t merit the award? 864 of them were from the same regiment. This first volume also lists recipients by conflict, recipients by state, foreign-born recipients, recipients in alphabetical order, and other (non-recipient) names mentioned in the citations.

Medal of Honor Recipiants listed alphabeticallyThe 1979–2013 addendum encompasses additions and changes to the earlier volume. It includes information on recent recipients, as well as information on those retroactively given the Medal of Honor (including 22 Asian Americans and 7 African Americans from World War II).

Information included—when available—for each Medal of Honor recipient is name and rank, organization (e.g., company and division), the date and place of their Medal of Honor action, their date and place of birth, and the citation text. Recipients come from all branches of service, and although early citations are often shorter, more descriptive citations are available from about World War I on.

Within the pages of Medal of Honor Recipients, each name preceding a citation is selectable. Selecting the name will bring up a box containing basic information pulled from the citation and the Honor Wall. Selecting the person’s name at the top of this box will take you to the person’s Honor Wall page, which you can explore or expand, depending on your preference.

As we approach Memorial Day, take some time to honor this nation’s heroes by learning more about them and their bravery in Fold3’s Medal of Honor Recipients and on the Honor Wall.