Out on a Limb: War Stories

Out on a Limb: War Stories

This year, America celebrates the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Genealogy gives us a way to make the events of that long-ago conflict tangible. Discovering your ancestors who played a part in the war brings the history to life. You can uncover your clan’s War of 1812 connections...

This year, America celebrates the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Genealogy gives us a way to make the events of that long-ago conflict tangible. Discovering your ancestors who played a part in the war brings the history to life. You can uncover your clan’s War of 1812 connections with our guide.

As our nation commemorates the conflicts of centuries past, I’m reminded that genealogists have another duty: to ensure that the stories of our living veterans aren’t forgotten.

Like so many families, mine has a service record spanning the generations. My grandfather Ralph Stacy fought in World War II. My uncle Jeff Stober served in Vietnam. My cousin Matt Milisits is stationed in Afghanistan now.

Two hundred years from now, I hope our descendants—and yours—won’t have to learn about their forebears’ service from government records alone. Instead, I hope we’ll all capture our veterans’ recollections today for them to enjoy tomorrow.

Here are two ways you can honor and preserve military stories, even if you don’t have a living servicemember in your family:

  • Interview a veteran. The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project is collecting stories, letters and photos from both soldiers and civilians involved in America’s war efforts. Find an interview kit here.
  • Sponsor or nominate a veteran to experience an Honor Flight—a program that flies WWII veterans to Washington, DC to visit their memorial. My grandpa’s Honor Flight moved him to open up about wartime experiences he’d never discussed before. 
For every veteran’s story we preserve, we give posterity another tangible bit of history to celebrate during the bicentennials of America’s 20th- and 21st-century wars.
 
Allison’s Top Tips from the July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine
1. When you inherit ephemera from a relative, consult the checklist on page 24 to decide what to keep and toss.
2. Need help tracing roots abroad? Turn to this year’s list of the top 40 genealogy blogs for international research tips.
3. Look beyond federal records for War of 1812 ancestors—some state archives maintain their own collections of documents about soldiers from their states.
 
From the July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine 

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