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Access the Civil War Collection

April 1, 2016 by | 1 Comment

Gun squad at drill
Do you have ancestors who served in the Civil War? April 1–15, Fold3 will be allowing free access to our Civil War collection to remember the commencement of the Civil War and commemorate Confederate History Month.

With more than 85 million records, Fold3’s Civil War collection provides a wealth of information for both ancestral and historical research. Explore Civil War soldier records, photographs, original war maps, widows’ pension files, court investigations, slave records, Lincoln records, and more.

The collection includes dozens of titles pertaining to the Union and Confederacy, such as:

Join Fold3 during the month of April in paying tribute to those who fought in the bloody war—both North and South—and discover information about famous participants as well as your own Civil War ancestors through documents, photos, and images that capture the experiences of those involved in America’s deadliest conflict. Then commemorate your ancestors by creating or expanding Memorial Pages for them on Fold3’s Honor Wall.

Visit Fold3’s Civil War page for more detailed overview of the collection. Or get started searching or browsing the Civil War collection here.

British Army WWI Service Records

March 21, 2016 by | 6 Comments

Example of damaged service record
Do you have family members who fought with the British Army in World War I? If so, you might find them in Fold3’s new collection of British Army WWI Service Records (via the National Archives of the UK).

This collection has service records for non-commissioned officers and “other ranks” (soldiers below officer rank) of the World War I era British army. The soldiers in the collection are typically those who were discharged between 1914 and 1920, those who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease during that time, or those who were demobilized at the war’s end. Some of these soldiers may have enlisted as early as 1892. The records do not include those who served with armies from Commonwealth countries, nor those who continued to serve with the British army after 1920.

The range of service records available in this collection is limited by the fact that many of them were destroyed during a 1940 bombing, leaving behind only roughly 40 percent of the original number. However, despite this, Britain’s National Archives microfilmed all the surviving service records, and those records are what appear in this collection. Because of the bombing, some of the surviving service records are damaged, sometimes affecting their readability.

On Fold3, these records are organized by the soldier’s surname. Keep in mind that some names may have been misspelled in the records, and that some soldiers used initials or nicknames instead of their given first name.

The records include various forms, depending on the individual, such as attestation forms, medical history forms, casualty forms, disability statements, regimental conduct sheets, awards, proceedings on discharge, and others. From these records, you may find information like the soldier’s name, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status, regimental number, date of attestation, physical description, and more.

Examples of service record documents include:

Have you found any family members in the British Army WWI Service Records? Tell us about it! Or get started exploring this collection or other International records.

Women in WWII Photos

March 14, 2016 by | 33 Comments

Two nurses in the Admiralty Islands
One of Fold3’s popular World War II collections is the WWII US Air Force Photos (via the National Archives). Among other things, this collection is great for finding photos of American women who served in certain capacities during the war. Although women served in a wide variety of roles at home and abroad during WWII, the images of women in this particular collection of photos tend to focus on three types of American female war workers: Army nurses, WACs (members of the Women’s Army Corps), and Red Cross workers.

Below is a sampling of just a fraction of these types of images:

To find more images of women during WWII, try searching the WWII US Air Force Photos collection for terms related to their roles, such as “nurse,” “WAC,” or “Red Cross.” You can also search for terms like “women” and “girl.” Or use this pre-formatted search as a starting point.

Do you have women in your family who served during World War II or any other conflict? Tell us about them! You can also create or expand a Memorial Page to share their story.

The Battle of Hampton Roads: March 8–9, 1862

March 1, 2016 by | 110 Comments

Hampton Roads Map
On March 8–9, 1862, the ironclad CSS Virginia attacked the Union blockade squadron in Hampton Roads, Virginia, changing the course of naval warfare forever.

The CSS Virginia had formerly been the USS Merrimack, but when the Federals had been forced to abandon Gosport Shipyard (the modern-day Norfolk Naval Shipyard) in 1861, they had scuttled the steam frigate. However, it had only burned to the waterline, preserving the hull and engines. The Confederates refloated the hull and built a superstructure on top with sloping wooden sides covered in iron. They planned to use the newly christened Virginia to break the Union blockade.

Nearly simultaneously, the Union was building its own ironclad vessel, but from scratch. The iron steamer, named the USS Monitor, was nearly completely submerged in the water, except for its deck and revolving gun turret.

On the Virginia’s maiden voyage, it decided to attack the Federal ships in Hampton Roads, the Virginian waterway where three rivers converged before entering Chesapeake Bay. On March 8, the Virginia (along with the gunboats sailing with it) steamed into Hampton Roads and launched its attack, decimating some of the Union ships while sustaining only superficial damage itself, as its iron armor caused shots to more or less bounce off it.

Before it could take on the other Union ships, the tide forced the Virginia to retire for the night, and when it returned the following morning, it found that the USS Monitor had arrived in the night to protect the remaining Union ships. The Monitor and the Virginia dueled for about four hours, during which neither ship sustained serious damage, each protected by their iron plates.

USS Merrimack

Finally, the Monitor pulled away to assess the vessel’s damage, leading the Virginia to believe the other ship was leaving the battle. After the Virginia likewise departed, the Monitor returned only to find the Virginia gone. This confusion caused both sides to declare victory, though historians typically agree the battle was a draw.

Though the Battle of Hampton Roads prevented the Virginia from achieving its objective, the real significance of the battle was its demonstration that wooden ships stood no chance against ironclads, almost instantly outdating navies around the globe.

Do you have any ancestors who fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle by searching Fold3.

African-American Medal of Honor Recipients

February 19, 2016 by | 71 Comments

Air Force Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military decoration for valor. There are currently more than 3,400 recipients of this medal, stretching back to 1863 when it was first awarded. This Black History Month, let’s take a closer look at a few of the African-American recipients.

Robert Blake. Blake was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor, in 1864, for actions while serving with the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. William Harvey Carney is sometimes credited as the first African-American recipient since he performed his Medal of Honor action first. However, since Carney wasn’t awarded the medal until 1900, Blake was the first to physically receive it. Blake, an escaped slave, was awarded the medal for “[carrying] out his duties bravely” during an “engagement with the enemy on John’s Island.”

Robert Sweeney. Sweeney is the only African-American (out of 19 total servicemen) to receive the Medal of Honor twice, both for saving drowning shipmates during peacetime, in 1881 and 1883.

Vernon J. Baker. Baker received the Medal of Honor for his “fighting spirit and daring leadership” during a World War II battle in 1945 in Italy. Baker wasn’t awarded the medal until 1997, as part of a review that upgraded the Distinguished Service Crosses of seven African-American WWII veterans to Medals of Honor. Baker was the only one of the seven still alive to receive the honor in person.

Lawrence Joel. Joel was the first medic to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, for actions that occurred in 1965. During a 24-hour battle against the Viet Cong, Joel repeatedly risked his life saving wounded men, despite being shot twice himself.

James Anderson, Jr. Anderson was the first African-American U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the medal posthumously after being killed in action during the Vietnam War when he rolled on top of a grenade to save his fellow Marines.

These are just 5 of the 90 or so African-American Medal of Honor recipients. All Medal of Honor citations up through 2013 can be found in Fold’s collection “Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-2013.” You can also search the Honor Wall for pages about the recipients.

Black History Month 2016 – Access the Black History Records

February 4, 2016 by | Comments Off on Black History Month 2016 – Access the Black History Records

Black History Month

Recontruction and Jim Crow Laws

In honor of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February.

Whether you’re looking for your ancestors or doing broader research, the Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history:

Examples of interesting finds in the Black History collection include:

  • A letter from Thomas Jefferson to the governor of Georgia about slaves running away to Florida
  • An 1810 inventory for the estate of Joseph Morton, a “free black man”
  • An 1827 inventory for the estate of Thomas Drayton that lists his 160 slaves by family group
  • A Civil War—era photograph of black laborers
  • The service record of Christian A. Fleetwood of the US Colored Infantry, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War
  • Documents relating to the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery
  • A photograph of 3 members of the original black fighter squadron in WWII
  • A photograph of President Eisenhower meeting with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Get started searching Fold3’s Black History records here. Or look for individual collections by name here.

You can also check out two interesting posts about Martin Luther King, Jr., over on the blog: “The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” and “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

Stephen Decatur Burns the USS Philadelphia:
February 16, 1804

February 3, 2016 by | 100 Comments

Stephen Decatur short bio
On February 16, 1804, American naval lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a covert mission to burn the USS Philadelphia, an American ship that had fallen into Tripolitan hands, during the First Barbary War.

At the time, the Barbary states—Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli—made money through state-sponsored piracy in the Mediterranean, raiding merchant ships unless their governments paid huge sums to the Barbary leaders. In 1801, Tripoli had declared war on the United States, and President Thomas Jefferson sent the American Navy as a show of force against Tripoli (in present-day Libya).

Unfortunately, one of the two big American frigates that had been sent, the USS Philadelphia, ran aground on a reef off the shore of Tripoli in October 1803. The captain of the Philadelphia tried to dislodge the ship but was unable to do so before Tripolitan sailors arrived and captured the ship’s officers and crew and took them prisoner. Despite the Americans’ attempts to scuttle their ship, the Tripolitans were able to refloat it during a storm and move the Philadelphia to their harbor.

When the commodore of the American forces heard about the Philadelphia, a plan was formed wherein a group of Americans would sneak into the harbor at Tripoli and burn the Philadelphia so it couldn’t be used against them. Chosen to lead the mission was Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, a well-liked and respected officer.

Together with a crew of 84 men, Decatur sailed into the harbor aboard a previously captured Tripolitan boat, pretending to be a Maltese vessel that had lost its anchor. The Tripolitans aboard the Philadelphia agreed to let the “Maltese” boat tie up next to them for the night, but when the boat drew close enough, Decatur and his men stormed the Philadelphia and quickly dispatched the Tripolitan crew. Then the Americans set the ship ablaze and returned to their own boat and fled, barely escaping being caught in the flames themselves.

Decatur’s exploits made him an instant hero, and he was promoted to captain at the young age of 25. He would later go on to become one of America’s great naval heroes during the War of 1812 and the Second Barbary War.

Do you have any ancestors who fought in the Barbary Wars? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the conflicts by searching on Fold3.