At Fold3, we’ve recently launched powerful new updates to our search engine. Our updates are designed to help you navigate through more than 500 million records with a series of filters including name, date, place, military (including branch, conflict, service number, etc.) and additional filters to help you quickly locate the records you’re looking for.
Search Techniques and Tips:
From the home page, click “Search” on the top
bar. Just start typing a name, date, place, or other search term in the search
box and see how it gives you hints to guide you along. For example, type a name
and select “Name” from the hint box that appears. To enter a date, type “Date”
and select the type of date you want to search on, then enter the date itself.
Multiple search terms can be added to narrow down your search, and you can
always edit the terms you have entered.
Start your search with broad perimeters, and
then narrow it down for the best results.
Notice that we also have a list of search
filters on the left-hand side of the screen. As you enter search terms this
list will shrink as it shows you what is available based upon your current
Keep in mind that many of our records are
scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) that converts images into
encoded text. That means when you perform a search, the highest probably
matches appear above a bar, while results less likely to match your search parameters
are found below the bar. You might be tempted to ignore the results below the
bar, but valuable search results might be available if you dig a little deeper.
To omit a certain publication from your search
results, click on the down arrow on the far right of one of these results and
click “Exclude all results from this publication.”
After you have located records, you’ll want to
keep them easily accessible. Consider creating a Memorial and attach your
records to that Memorial. As always, records and/or Memorials can be attached
to your Ancestry Tree.
To watch a video tutorial on our new search
here to access the Fold3 Training Center!
As a member of the Fold3 team, I’m always looking for ways
to personalize a story to show how our military records are much more than just
records. They represent lives, sacrifice, and service. When I started
researching this month’s blog post, I had no idea the personal angle I would
find would be my own. This is the story of how I learned that my grandfather
helped liberate Ohrdruf concentration camp.
On April 4, 1945, Ohrdruf concentration camp
became the first camp liberated by U.S. troops during WWII. Ohrdruf was a
subcamp of Buchenwald and was located near the town of Gotha, Germany. As the 4th
Armored Division and the 89th Infantry of the Third US Army
approached the gates at Ohrdruf, the sights that greeted soldiers shocked them
and defied description.
Don Timmer, an 18-year-old private in the
Infantry Division described his experience. “We drove in and between
the gate and the barracks were 30 dead…the blood still wet from departing German
guards.” Bodies were piled
in a shed and others
partially incinerated on pyres. Timmer had taken German in high
school and acted as an interpreter as prisoners shared tales of unspeakable
horror. General George
S. Patton arrived at Ohrdruf and was so sickened by what he saw that
he threw up. General Dwight D. Eisenhower flew
from Belgium to witness the carnage firsthand. According to Timmer, “Even Ike
looked pale, and he wasn’t a pale guy.”
The sights and smells of the camp left
indelible marks on the soldiers who were there. I know, because my grandfather
Norton was one of the liberators and his experiences were so
difficult to share, that most of the family wasn’t aware of this remarkable
fact. He was unable to talk about the war without his eyes brimming with tears.
LaMar served in the Fourth Armoured Division, Third Army, Company C, during the
Battle of the Bulge. He suffered from PTSD after the war and was known to duck
and cover during a clap of thunder or when a balloon popped. We knew he’d seen
atrocities, but he never shared the details, and everyone learned not to ask.
He passed away in 1996
leaving us with unanswered questions.
To honor his service, I’ve recently been curating content to
create a Memorial
for him on Fold3. I reached out to extended family asking for any photographs
or stories that could be included. At the same time, I was simultaneously
researching the liberation of Ohrdruf. One morning I woke to a message from a
second cousin. She had an old,
typed history of my grandfather’s service that his brother had compiled.
I anxiously read it and my heart skipped a beat when I came to the paragraph
where he described helping to liberate Ohrdruf. I suddenly realized that the
story I had spent hours researching, was my really my story and my history.
According to LaMar, the Americans could smell Ohrdruf before
they saw it. The approaching Army had prompted the Germans to flee, but not
before shooting as many prisoners as possible. When the Americans arrived, the
ground was still wet with blood. LaMar said there were 27
bodies out in the yard and a few more by the gate and at least one
body was that of an American. “This American pilot had been carried outside on
a stretcher and shot in the head,” he said. As US Soldiers tried to process
what they were seeing, military officials told them to leave everything
untouched. General Patton wanted the scene documented for possible future war
General Patton insisted that the mayor of the town of Ohrdruf
and his wife tour the camp to see for themselves the atrocities committed by
their countrymen. The next morning, they were both found
hanging from an apparent suicide. A note left nearby said, “We didn’t know. But
Do you have an ancestor that fought for the Confederacy
during the Civil War? Our Confederate Letters, 1861-1865, is a collection of
letters received in the Office of the Confederate Adjutant and Inspector
General from April 1861 – April 1865. The collection is organized first by date,
and then by the last name. The letters are 150-year-old manuscripts, but a
little digging can unearth historical gold!
For example, this
letter dated May 23, 1862, is from Samuel Morgan of Spartanburg,
South Carolina. He owned a tannery and was requesting that his employee, John
Barry, be excused from the mandatory conscription law. At the time, male
citizens between the ages of 18-35 were required to register. Said Morgan, “John
Barry is a Tanner by trade and is in my Employ at the head of an
extensive Tannery and cannot be sepperated from it without material Injury to
the success.” He further argued, “The
successful opperation of this yard is of great importance to the
country and especially to the army as a great many soldiers are now being
supplied.” The letter contained the signatures of nine additional men
certifying the truth of Morgan’s argument.
letter from Tallahassee, Florida, dated June 20, 1862, Capt. E. C.
Simpkins outlined charges against Maj.
John G. Barnwell for abandoning his post at New Smyrna, Georgia.
According to the charges, Barnwell sailed to New Smyrna aboard the steamers Kate and Cecile and ordered troops to leave their post. He then traveled
towards Tallahassee inviting everyone he saw to “Take
what they could carry off in their hands. That there were Splendid
Guns, Swords, and Pistols, Shoes, Blankets, which could be had for the taking…”
Interestingly, a newspaper
clipping from 1861, noted that Maj. Barnwell had “Devoted much of
his life to the artillery service, having commanded a volunteer corps in his
native parish for twenty odd years; he is a planter of great experience, and
enjoys the entire confidence of his section.” Barnwell must have been found
innocent because in a subsequent newspaper clipping
from 1864, Maj. Barnwell is working as an ordinance officer.
Braxton Bragg was a senior officer in the Confederate States
Army. In June 1862, he wrote
a letter to General Samuel Cooper expressing the urgent need to
complete a rail line between Meridian, Mississippi and Selma, Alabama. “That
connexion is one of such vital military necessity and so immediately
affecting military operations, in the Department entrusted to me, that I feel
it my duty to Communicate frankly my views, for the information and
Consideration of the Department,” Braxton wrote.
About two months before the war came to an end, letters show
the Confederate defense beginning
to unravel. In this
letter dated February 15, 1865, the mayor of Charlotte, North
Carolina, wrote to the Secretary of War asking that a group of paroled Union
soldiers be removed from their city. “We have now deposited here for safety
some millions of specie*, the property of the Gov’t., and the specie and money
of the Banks. A regt. of paroled Yankees called the Foreign Legion has been
quartered here and have to day pillaged several houses and committed robbery in
open day. Will you order them to be removed, or shall they destroy the public
property,” wrote Mayor S. A. Harris.
This collection of Confederate Letters between 1861-1865 is
a great way to research ancestors that served in the Confederacy and to
document the history of the Civil War. Start searching the collection
today on Fold3!
* Specie is money in the form of coins rather than notes.
Military records are a rich resource for genealogical and historical research. They are advanced records, meaning that unlike vital records that push the door wide open with a neatly packaged birth and death dates, military records sometimes require you enter through the side window! Once you find records, they provide a rich and powerful narrative of military service. At Fold3, we find similar questions posed repeatedly by researchers and hope to answer a few of them here:
Military Records for
Service After 1957: Due to the Privacy Act, these records are only
available to the veteran or next-of-kin from the National Personnel Records
Center (NPRC). On Fold3, we have selected records and photographs from recent
wars along with powerful content available on personal Memorials.
The 1973 Fire at the
NPRC: On July 12, 1973, a massive fire broke out at the NPRC in St. Louis,
MO. It burned for 22 hours and destroyed 16-18 million military files. Records
affected included 80% of Army files for Personnel discharged between November
1912 – January 1960; and 75% of Air Force files for Personnel discharged
September 1947 – January 1964. No duplicate copies of these records were ever
maintained. These lost records certainly present a roadblock, but other
available record sets can help you construct a military history.
For example, if you are searching for a WWII veteran, you
might search for records like Unit Histories, Missing Air Crew Reports, Draft
Registration Cards, WWII Diaries or Air Force photos. Keep in mind that until
1947, the US Air Force was part of the US Army (United States Army Air Force –
Navy Muster Rolls recorded the movements of troops on
transport ships even if they didn’t serve in Navy; and if you know the infantry
regiment or battalion your ancestor served in, that information can also open
Amazing records are available in our collections of Casualty Lists, European Theater Army Records or user-contributed information found on Memorial pages among others. In addition, soldiers were asked to file discharge documents in the county where they resided. Contacting county records departments might also unlock a roadblock. Good luck with your military records research! Fold3 has over five hundred million military records available online to help. Visit Fold3 today!
Do you have a Unit History or a military yearbook? At Fold3, we love to collect these records. They are a rich, detailed source of military service. If you have one, we can digitize it and return it to you intact. Please reach out to us at [email protected].
In 1941, Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of
Massachusetts introduced a bill to create the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps
(WAAC). Rogers had witnessed first-hand the contributions of women during WWI,
and the lack of government benefits available to them. She intended to create
legislation to change that.
Meanwhile, military leaders approached Oveta Culp
Hobby asking for suggestions on how the military might organize an
auxiliary branch for women. Hobby was busy with other responsibilities but
reluctantly agreed to prepare a potential organization chart. In December 1941,
the attack on Pearl Harbor brought a sense of urgency to the work of both women.
On May 14, 1942, the WAAC bill passed and Hobby was named WAAC director.
WAAC training center was established at Fort
Des Moines, Iowa. Anxious to serve, nearly 35,000 women applied for
1,000 open spots. Applicants were
required to be US citizens, between the ages of 21-45 without
dependents, at least 5-feet tall, and weighing a minimum of 100 lbs. WAACs were
an auxiliary of the Army, meaning they would receive living quarters, uniforms,
pay, and food, but would not receive overseas pay, life insurance, and death
benefits. WAACs immediately set about training to free
up positions held by male soldiers, enabling them to go overseas and
In 1943, Rep. Rogers introduced
legislation to convert the WAAC into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC),
making the WAC part of the regular Army. Women would receive a rank, pay, and
benefits equal to their male counterparts. The bill passed and Director Hobby received
a promotion to the rank of colonel.
When the war came to a close, most
WACs returned home, although a few stayed as part of the occupying
force. More than 150,000 WACs served during WWII and their contributions changed
the tides of history. To learn more about the WAC, search
Do you have a family member who was held POW during WWII? Throughout
the war, hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were captured and taken
Prisoner of War. They were held in POW camps in Europe and Asia. Some died
while being detained and others set free at the end of the war. This month
we’re highlighting our UK, Allied Prisoners of War collection.
This collection covers the years 1939-1945 and contains
information about WWII POWs, including where they were held and, in many cases,
what happened to them. You can search for a specific POW camp or search by
These records have either been created or collected by the
War Office. Here are just a few examples of what you might find in this
The POW camp Stalag Luft III, near the German town of Saga (now Żagań, Poland), became well known after the release of the movie “The Great Escape.” Royal Air Force pilot and prisoner Roger J. Bushell masterminded an escape plan from the camp. More than 600 prisoners dug tunnels in the sandy subsoil below the camp. They reinforced the tunnels with random pieces of wood they scavenged. On March 24th, 1944, 76 prisoners escaped; 73 of them were captured, and an infuriated Hitler ordered the execution of 50. The collection contains records on Stalag Luft III and other German POW prison camps.