A Memorial Day Tribute

By Maureen A. Taylor

Today we equate Memorial Day with the start of summer, but it’s important to recognize it as a somber occasion as well.

A few years ago I wrote about the roots of the holiday in Decoration Day 1868.

First Decoration Day.jpg

This stereograph from the Library of Congress shows the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

Create A Memorial Day Tribute
One of my favorite parts of the website in their Honor Wall. It’s a simple concept with a powerful impact. Upload a photo of an ancestor who served then add a biography of the person, records that mention them, stories about them and personal details. You’ve created an online memorial for your men or women in uniform. Click the green button at the bottom of the screen to link the profile you’ve created to

Before starting a new memorial search the site to make sure someone hasn’t already created one for your ancestor. Search by name or narrow by war/conflict first.

Search for Photos
My family has been lucky. A number of our ancestors served in the military from the Civil War to today, but they all came home safely. I have images of the men in my family that served from World War II to the present, but lack pictures from earlier conflicts. Here’s a few strategies I use to try to find those missing pics.

  • Know where my ancestor was living at the time he (or she) served. This allows me to check local and state archives for documents and records.
  • Find proof of service. Whether it’s a book that lists Civil War soldiers or a pension record, knowing the name of the regiment in which they served is helpful.
  • Search. Service details provide specific detail that allow you to search on Google for images taken of that regiment/unit, search auction catalogs online or find re-enactment groups. Amazing items turn up at auction including an album of every member of a Maine regiment. (Still wonder who bought THAT!) Members of re-enactment groups often research the men that served in the group they are recreating. This can lead to new information and perhaps a photo.
  • If at first you don’t succeed try again… About once a year I run all the names of the people I’m looking for through databases like, do another Google search and try local historical societies again. Why? New material turns up everyday so it’s worth a second look.

I’m still hoping to find a picture of the red haired ancestor described in a pension record who served in the Civil War.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now