Category Archives: Ancestors in the Military

Veteran Records Destroyed by Fire in 1973

21 June 2019, updated 17Jul2019

Vicki’s note – some information that I ran across today while trying to help my veteran sister by wading through the quagmire bureaucracy that is the Veteran Affairs:

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Veteran Records Destroyed by Fire in 1973

On July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army and Air Force.

Records Held for Army Veterans

The fire destroyed 80 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960.

Exceptions:  Records for retirees and reservists who were alive on July 12, 1973, were not involved in the fire.

Records Held for Air Force Veterans

The fire destroyed 75 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Air Force between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet.

Reconstructing Your Records

If your records were destroyed in the fire, there is a specific request that we submit to the NPRC for any additional service records.  This request provides information that allows the NPRC to research for other types of documents.  The NPRC can attempt to reconstruct portions of the service treatment records from the Surgeon General’s Office using unit records and morning reports, and by looking at extracts from military hospital admission records provided by the Surgeon General.


Updated 17Jul2019:

Towards Reconstruction:

As part of the reconstruction effort, the NPRC established a “B” registry file (or Burned File) to index the 6.5 million recovered records. So too, the NPRC established a separate temperature controlled “B” file area to protect and safeguard the damaged records. Later, in April 1974, the NPRC established the “R” registry file (or Reconstructed File) to further assist with reconstruction efforts. Since then, staffers have placed all newly reconstructed records into the “R” registry file and stored them in an area separate from the “B,” or burned, files.

In the months following the fire, the NPRC initiated several new records recovery and reconstruction efforts, including the establishment of a new branch to deal with damaged records issues. As many military personnel records had been partially or completely destroyed by the fire, the new branch’s central mission was to reconstruct records for those requesting service information from the NPRC. While some staffers sought to recover such information from documents and alternate sources outside of the NPRC, others searched through the center’s organizational files for records to supplement the destroyed OMPFs.

These alternate sources have played a vital role in the NPRC’s efforts to reconstruct service files. Some of the more important records used by the NPRC to supplement damage files include: Veterans Administration (VA) claims files, individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers (MPV) from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System (SSS) registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), as well as medical records from military hospitals, entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records. Many work hours were spent making these sources usable. Efforts included: the transfer of records to the NPRC, screening projects and securing access to VA computer records.

In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster. In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction effort took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today’s NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country’s military and civil servants.

Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana


Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana

5 June 2019

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

(Information and Photographs based on Crown Hill brochures, on-line web page ,,  Wikipedia, and my visit to Crown Hill Cemetery.  Un-credited quotes are from the Crown Hill Cemetery website or brochures.  Un-credited photographs are by me.)

Crown Hill Cemetery summit - Indainapolis IN

Crown Hill Cemetery summit was originally known as Strawberry Hill and was a favorite community picnic place of pioneers before it became a Cemetery.  The City of Indianapolis celebrated its semi-centennial at Crown Hill Picnic Grounds June 7, 1870.

Crown Hill Cemetery James Whitcomb Riley tomb

The tomb of Poet James Whitcomb Riley is on the crest of Crown Hill. It is the highest natural point in the old city limits of Indianapolis.  (photograph from Crown Hill Cemetery postcard.)

Crown Hill Cemetery                                                                                                                             700 West 38th Street
Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, 46208 USA


The funeral director explained to us that the Cemetery was begun by farmer Martin Williams burying his daughter on his farm and tree nursery in 1863 – Lucy Ann Seaton, aged thirty-three, a young mother who had died of consumption.

More land was added to make the huge facility.  The funeral director told us that there is enough space for the next 100 years of internment’s.

“1863 First 236 acres of land are purchased from three local farmers for $51,000.”


“Incorporated in 1863 and dedicated in 1864, Crown Hill soon became the area’s largest cemetery. While it aimed to provide burial space for the large number of war dead from Indiana, it also was made to serve the growing community of Indianapolis. Currently it is the third largest cemetery in the United States. It sits upon 555 acres and has roughly 25 miles of road within. Approximately 1500 burials occur each year…

Also on the same grounds is the historic Crown Hill National Cemetery. It is also identified as Sections 9 and 10, but is a separate cemetery. The land was purchased by the US Government on August 27, 1866.”

You can search for the Civil War and other War’s soldier’s names at:

“The national cemetery is comprised of 1.4 acres, and the property was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1866 for the purpose of reburying 707 Union soldiers from the City Cemetery. Those graves were originally marked by headboards, painted and lettered, which were later replaced with upright marble headstones. A bronze plaque on the grounds identifies the national cemetery and a commemorative monument stands within the Crown Hill National Cemetery section. There are 2,135 soldiers representing every war in which the United States has participated, with the last one being made in 1969 for Maj. Robert W. Hayes, an Air Force pilot killed in Vietnam. This cemetery is closed to new interments. However, space may be available in the same gravesite for eligible family members.”


“October 27, 1931
Confederate dead, numbering 1,616 prisoners of war who died at Camp Morton in the city, are reburied from Greenlawn.”

List of Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Who Died at Camp Morton and
Are Buried At Crown Hill Cemetery, Lot 32, Indianapolis, IN

See also:  



My first indication, of how large the Cemetery is, was my GPS showing we had a mile plus to go before we got to the entrance.  I looked up to realize that we were at the start of the Cemetery!  It was a good thing that the funeral director drove us around.  People get lost, even with maps, and a bold yellow line painted on the main road.  It is so big that one has to drive through an road underpass to get to the second part of the Cemetery.


Crown Hill Cemetery map

(Norton on-line map shows Crown Hill Cemetery in green above.)

Pioneer Hoosiers lived in primary growth forests so thick that they could not even see the next cabin from within the area that they would have to clear around their cabins.

The Endless Trees

“It’s hard to picture this part of the country as I first remember it.  Here and there was a cabin home with a little spot of clearing close by.  The rest of the country was just one great big woods and miles and miles in most every direction.  From your cabin you could see no farther than the wall of trees surrounding the clearing; not another cabin in sight.”  A Home in the Woods, Pioneer Life in Indiana, Oliver Johnson’s Reminiscences of Early Marion County as related by Howard Johnson.  Available in the History Market at the Indiana Historical Society.”

The 555 acres of the Cemetery includes a large forested area at the North end that will not be needed for graves.  A herd of deer live in those woods, and have free roam of the entire grounds.  The grave site policy calls for deer-proof plantings and flowers.

The grounds have many trees that make up a significant portion of Indianapolis’s urban forest.  It is hard to imagine how different the original forested landscapes were for the pioneers.  There are tours of the trees and a map that shows the 107 species, including the “Fifty Trees of Indiana” native to the state.  Trees are a fitting symbol:

“In its most general sense, the symbolism of the tree denotes the life of the cosmos: its consistence, growth, proliferation, generative and regenerative processes.  It stands for inexhaustible life, and is therefore equivalent to a symbol of immortally.”  A Dictionary of Symbols.”

For more about the history of the area see this List of other Indiana history books – click here .

“After the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the United States expanded its territory to the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Treaty of Paris (1783), which officially ended the war, significantly expanded U.S. boundaries. The native population did not participate in the treaty negotiations, and their interests were not considered, even though the new U.S. territory was on their traditional homelands.

In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, creating the Northwest Territory. This land included present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. This region was home to numerous native peoples, who now were threatened by settlers moving westward.”

(Hint – make sure of the history and the historic boundaries of the the location your ancestors lived in.)


The original Cemetery entrance was narrow Gothic arch – built in 1888, and now a National Historic Landmark.  It was very narrow for a car to go through, less so for a horse and carriage.

Crown Hill Cemetery Gothic arch

(Photograph from Crown Hill Cemetery postcard)

My husband and I were there to bury his father Loel’s ashes.  Loel loved art, architecture, and his residence in downtown of the big city of Chicago, .  This cemetery is the perfect reflection of those. It is huge, has many replicas of famous architectures as headstones and monuments (Greek temples, etc.) , and unique art works.  One monument is an oversized concrete picnic table and benches.  Loel had connections to this Cemetery only through his second wife’s family.  Below is the very interesting headstone/art beside their plot.  They probably picked that plot because of it.

(Hint – you never know where your ancestor will end up being buried.  Look at all of their connections to see possibilities.  Another Stateline Traveler.)

Hahn, Loel - headstone, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis IN


There are many infamous, and famous, people buried there.  Criminals, as well as Civil War Soldiers, several Congress people, Senators, 3 Vice Presidents, and the President Benjamin Harris.

John Herbert Dillinger JR, Criminal – born in Indianapolis Indiana, was gunned down by FBI in Chicago, IL.  He and his gang robbed banks, etc., killed many people, and lived  across Illinois, Ohio and Indiana, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as he was on the run. He frequently went back home to get help from his family, was known by a least two other names, married and had a common-law wife,  leader of gangs of other criminals including Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd.

(Hint – be open to searching for your ancestor in other locations, by other aliases, with more than one spouse, and by FAN – friends, associates, neighbors.)

Dillinger, John JR heastone - Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis IN

Several of Dillinger’s headstones were erected since 1934.  They have been stolen, or needed replacement, as souvenir hunters chipped them away until nothing was left. A 3 ft slab of reinforced concrete was poured over the grave to discourage robbers.

This photograph is from my visit on Halloween Day 2018.  You can see how the current headstone (laid flat and cemented in place) still has several pieces chipped out of it.  The funeral director told us that it is one of the most requested and visited sites in the Cemetery.  Visitors leave the coins on his headstone. I imagine that the headstone would get many visitors later that day!

See also   and

President Benjamin Harrison is another person, buried there, who is more worthy of our attention.  I took this photograph showing the family plot and monument.

Harris, Benjamin headstone, Crown Hill Cemtery, Indianapolis IN

See also , and

“23rd United States President, Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, US Senator. Born in North Bend, Ohio , he was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, and great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.”

And Vice Presidents Charles W. Fairbanks, Thomas A. Hendricks, and Thomas R. Marshall are also buried at Crown Hill.


Haunted and Historic Stateline – Genealogy of Haunted Houses


Haunted and Historic Stateline –

Genealogy of Haunted Houses


By Vicki Ruthe Hahn

SGS – self described Stateline Genealogy Sorter

Beloit Public Library hosted a Halloween Program October 29, 2018 with 54 attending.  I don’t even know how I have been assigned to host these programs every year, but it has given me insight into some angles of genealogy that I never considered before the last few years.  I really don’t like this aspect of Halloween, but attending and hosting the programs has been interesting.  You may have read my companion posting “Other Travelers – Part 1 – Genealogy Psychic Abilities and Me. Do Folks with Psychic Abilities Have an Easier Time Doing Genealogy?”

This year,  paranormal investigator and local historian Kathi Kresol, and spirit medium Sara Bowker joined us for local ghost stories:

2018 Oct 29 Haunted & Historic Stateline Sara Bowker, Vicki Hahn, Kathi Kresol

Sara Bowker, Vicki Ruthe Hahn, and Kathi Kresol

2018 Oct 29 Haunted & Historic Stateline Sara Bowker & Fans

Sara Bowker and some of her fans.


Kathi has written some books about the topic which we have at the Beloit Public Library to check out:

Cover image for Haunted Rockford, Illinois

133.109773 KRESOL

Cover image for Murder & mayhem in Rockford, Illinois
977.331 KRESOL

Kathi and Sara talked about many things that go bump in the night!  They explained that spiritual is tied to the land, and that Native American Indians had a lifestyle that honored that.  Spirits thus are found near Indian Mounds.  Other geographical features that influence the attraction of spirits are running water, and limestone.  Now, can you say “Rockton IL, Rockford IL, and Beloit WI?

Fear and charged emotions can feed spirits strong attraction to a location.  Historic war re-enactments can trigger spirits activity as well.  They mentioned that even a piece of antique furniture from a troubled situation, or a rock from Alcatraz Island Prison can be haunted.
Paranormal research groups have studied the Stephen Mack house in Macktown (Pecatonic) IL, Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford IL, and Hanchett-Bartlett Homestead (an 1857 Victorian farmstead house) in Beloit WI.  All three have been tested as having paranormal activity, and ghosts.
A trio of ghosts – presumed to be Stephen Mack, his wife Honnenegah, and their son who died young, have been sighted walking together by the Macktown house in the cemetery where they are buried.  Several young child ghosts have been sighted at the Beloit Homestead – one even having a mischievous personality that matches one of the families son who died early.
These ideas may spark some interesting insights on doing genealogical research on a house.  Even if you you are not “sensitive” to the presence of spirits, you may want to be aware that there are people who do feel that.
I am not, but even I could feel a profound sadness and something strongly while visiting the Battleground of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  So many thousands of men killed in War there in three days of battles.
At any rate, this is just one very small angle of “How to do the Genealogy of a House”, which will be the subject of the program  that I am researching for the Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library to present on December 13, 2019.  Be looking for the complete list of 2019 Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library Programs soon!

Fold3 Free July 1 – 15 for Fourth of July

Fold3 Free July 1 – 15 for Fourth of July

July 3, 2018

Note from Vicki – alerting you to this opportunity offered by Fold3.  Happy 4th of July!

Click on this link:


Fold3 free

Free Trial Access to Fold3 Until Midnight Saturday May 25, 2018

Free Trial Access to Fold3

Until Midnight Saturday May 25, 2018

May 24, 2018

Vicki’s note – You might want to make use of this limited free access to Fold3 sponsored by (which owns Fold3 now.)  Click on the link below:


Fold 3 FREE ACCESS* MAY 24 – MAY 26

Discover your family’s military past

I tried out the trial. You can get to the information about your veteran, but have to set up a free trial by registering with your email if you want to download, print, or save the resources you find.  I you don’t want to do that, your options are to hand copy the information, or save it to (your subscription paid membership) Family Tree site if you have one. 

Here is an example of how you can save a document from this Fold3 trial onto your Family Tree.  (I did find other military records for this relative.)  Click on the green “Save to Ancestry” button.:

Fold3 Trial

This will take you to your Family Tree, and give your the option to type in your Veteran Ancestor’s name to save to.

I experimented, and found that those page(s) that I saved  on my veteran ancestor’s “Gallery” were fuzzy and unreadable.  It does save the Source information, but you may want to make extensive notes about what each document says.  (Or ask for my advice in person for a different way to do this 🙂

It is always a good idea for you to save any documents/photographs onto your computer hard drive/USB as well.  Otherwise you will not be able to access your documents saved onto or Fold3 if your membership subscriptions lapse.

What a great way to honor our veteran ancestors on Memorial Day Weekend!

And a good chance to experiment with Fold3 and see if it is a database that you might want to subscribe to later.

Thanks and



Explore global military records on Fold3. Hurry, ends Saturday.
Search free
To honor Memorial Day, we’re proud to offer free access to all military records on Fold3—now through Saturday.

Search over 530 million records on Fold3, a historical military records-focused website. See how your family served our country and uncover unique personal details you won’t find anywhere else.

*Access to the records on Fold3 will be free until May 26, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET. After the free access period ends, you will be only able to view the records in the collections using an Ancestry All Access or Fold3 paid membership.


Creating Local History Community Archives, & Protecting Archives from Climate Change

Creating Local History Community Archives,

& Protecting Archives from Climate Change

5-31-2018 (updated)

by Vicki Hahn

SGS – Stateline Genealogy Sorter.

(Also see article from Pacific Standard Magazine on Protecting Archives from Climate Change below.)


We were very lucky at the Beloit Public Library that a recent major water leak did not affect our Genealogy/Local History Collection area.  As one Stateline Genealogy @ Beloit Public Library member said, “At least WE didn’t get any water damage.”  This water damage is not due to climate change, but a valid reminder of how vulnerable these archives are.

The recent prolific spring rains, and potential for flooding may be a good opportunity to pay attention to how you have your own personal valuable genealogy papers, artifacts, and books stored.  Years ago, the only things I cared about retrieving after a major house fire, were my purse and my photograph albums.  I have had items damaged by a furnace humidifier leaking, children recording over my Grandmother’s family history interview, dogs teething, etc.  Life happens – protect your history items.  Imagine anything happening.

The whole 1/4 of the Beloit Public Library, next to our Collection, was roped off for the month of April due to water damage from H-VACs leaking water overnight from the second floor.  The HVACs are not over the Genealogy/Local History Collection, but part of that was roped off also as the rehab crew worked.  The end of the Mystery Fiction Collection, and the Riverside Meeting Room were both inundated. The Library did lose 450 books from the Mystery Collection.  All of the furniture, carpet and ceiling in the Riverside Room had to be replaced, and some shelving ends. That being said, we were lucky.

And, I am continuing to add uniquely valuable items to our Local History Collection.

I have just gotten the go-ahead to start (retroactively to April 2015) get our Beloit Daily Newspapers microfilmed again, once we get funding from our Library FABL Friend at Beloit Library, or Foundation groups. The Beloit Daily News BDN cut paying for supplying the microfilms to Beloit Public Library and the Beloit College Archives Library at that time.  (This may take a few years.  It will include a request to purchase a second microfilm machine, as our old one has failed for good.)  I will also ask for the purchase of a third microfilm storage cabinet.  Sooner than that, we will move a third Local History lateral pamphlet file cabinet into our Genealogy/local History area.

Thanks to specialized Library Volunteers – we will soon have a complete Index to Book of Beloit (1 , 1836 – 1936) by  Linda Smith, which I will be getting into print.  (There has been an incomplete index available, but the new complete one will make searching so much more thorough.)  Linda also recently created a complete Index to Book of Beloit II, 1936 – 1986, which we have as a book in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.

The Beloit College Archives has a whole card catalog full of indexed cards to supplement the original Book of Beloit I.  I will have them compare our volunteer’s work to see if they have anything in addition (doubtful:) )  I will share the finished Index digitally with the other local history organizations – Beloit Historical Society, Rock County Historical Society, South Beloit Historical Society Wheeler House, Hedberg Public Library Janesville, and Beloit College Archives Library.

Phyllis DeGraff, another volunteer, has just finished creating an Index to, and digitally retyping a local history by Beloiter  “Woodrow Wilson Memoirs”.  This was from a typed manuscript that we received from Custom Book Binding (local publisher) . The manuscript is waiting my review, and later the publisher will give the Library some finished books once they are published.

Two other big local history collection additions are in the works (maybe done in a year?) Monette Bebow-Reinhard (a new volunteer) has started to transcribe the 1976 Beloit – Black Oral History CDs.  These are the interviews of several relatives/immigrants recruited from Pontotoc, Mississippi to work at Fairbanks Morse in Beloit Wisconsin.  These interviews have never been fully transcribed and will be a valuable printed resource on the important (local history) African American Up North Migration and Jim Crow experience.  The CDs can be checked out at the Library.  There are also on-line digital audio recordings that you can listen to on the WHS Wisconsin Historical Society website for free.

Fred Burwell, from Beloit College Archives Library, shared this:

“Here is a link to their main page on the oral histories:;view=reslist;subview=standard;didno=uw-whs-audi00637a

If you click on any name at the side, it will lead you to a table of contents for that particular recording and you can click on a further link to the actual sound.  For some of the people there are multiple links to more than one recording.

There’s also a transcript for the Rubie Bond recording, although my guess is that it is not a complete transcript:

I am glad to hear that you have a volunteer interested in transcribing these incredibly valuable recordings.  I would love to have the transcripts!  They would be really useful for students and other researchers.”

Another project in the works, is a coincidence of timing.  We will have the work of a veteran on Vietnam Veteran Obituaries (donated to the Hedberg Public Library) in our Beloit People and Families Bookcase under “Veterans”.  And our Library Page, Susan Park, has gathered cemetery information as part of her long efforts to honor fellow military veterans while doing general volunteering work for .  An excellent photographer, and thorough researcher, Susan is working on creating books of all military burials in the Rock County cemeteries. In awhile, she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Oakwood Cemetery” book completed for our collection.   Later she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Eastlawn Cemetery” book completed.

Susan recently won the award from a  local Rock County veterans group – Montford Point Marine Post.:

“This past Saturday I was presented the Homer Hempstead Humanitarian Service Award by the National Montford Point Marine Association, Chapter 41.  An Award for Veterans, presented to Veterans, for serving Veterans.  The award was based on all the cemetery work I have done in Veterans Sections of our cemeteries.  I have photographed and created Memorial Pages for over 782 Veterans graves.  I strongly feel no Veteran should be lost or forgotten. 

Freedom is not Free.

Simply put, it’s Veterans taking care of Veterans.”

(On left – Major General Anderson, on the right Susan Park.)

And finally, a new book on Beloit by Robert Burdick,  “Growing Up in Beloit” was donated to the Library.  These are stories based on the articles that he wrote for years in the Beloit Daily News, Savoy Section.  .  Bob has been coming to the Library for years to research aspects of his articles in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.


How to Protect Rare Books & Manuscripts From the Ravages of Climate Change

(Vicki’s note – on-line article from Pacific Standard magazine, thanks to Ron Zarnick.)

(Read the full article here:)

“Almost all American archives are at risk from disasters or changing temperatures. Community history will probably be the first to go…”
“Centuries of written history are at risk of being damaged by climate change. Yet archivists, the stewards of this history, have sometimes been slow to wake up to the danger.
This history, in the form of manuscripts, codices, printed books, and other material artifacts, is kept in expensive and well-ventilated university collections; it is tucked in crumpling cardboard boxes under the desks of local librarians; it sits crammed into the storage cupboards of city governments. Some documents attract scholars from around the world, while others hold scant interest beyond hobbyist historians. Many are irreplaceable.

Almost all are at risk of degradation caused by projected temperature changes, humidity, sea level rise, storm surges, and precipitation, according to new research on United States collections by a group of archivists and climate scientists.

…”The No. 1 thing you have to do to keep rare archival material from growing mildew or falling apart is to maintain a constant temperature and humidity,” Tansey says. “If the atmosphere outside is constantly hot one day, cold the next, that means you’re having to use that much more energy to keep your building at a consistent temperature for your collection, which is often contributing to climate change itself.” 

…There are measures that archivists can take to protect their collections, including identifying opportunities to relocate temporarily in the event of a disaster, or revamping storage facilities in light of local risks.”


Other Travelers Part 10 – Tracing the 1918 Flu Epidemic

(Part of an On-going Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

Have you gotten the flu this season?

Not the 24 hour stomach flu (which is bad enough), but the upper respiratory Influenza A or B?  Flu has hit this year especially hard, killing several children. But it is nothing close to the amount of deaths in the Pandemic of 1918.

Perhaps your ancestors were affected by that epidemic – one hundred years ago this year?  Whole families were wiped out.


flu 12

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Let’s get some insight:


From Standford Children’s Health:

“What are the different types of influenza?

Influenza viruses are divided into three types designated as A, B, and C:

  • Influenza types A and B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and often lead to increased rates of hospitalization and death. Public health efforts to control the impact of influenza focus on types A and B. One of the reasons the flu remains a problem is because the viruses actually change their structure regularly. This means that people are exposed to new types of the virus each year.
  • Influenza type C usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do….
  1. A person infected with an influenza virus develops antibodies against that virus.
  2. The virus changes.
  3. The “older” antibodies no longer recognizes the “newer” virus when the next flu season comes around.
  4. The person becomes infected again.

The older antibodies can, however, give some protection against getting the flu again. Currently, three different influenza viruses circulate worldwide: two type A viruses and one type B virus. Vaccines given each year to protect against the flu contain the influenza virus strain from each type that is expected to cause the flu that year.

What causes influenza?

An influenza virus is generally passed from person to person through the air. .. with infected person who sneezes or coughs. The virus can also live for a short time on objects …can get the flu virus by touching something that has been handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes.

People are generally the most contagious with the flu 24 hours before they start having symptoms  (emphasis mine) and during the time they have the most symptoms. That’s why it is hard to prevent the spread of the flu, especially among children, because they do not always know they are sick while they are still spreading the disease. The risk of infecting others usually stops around the seventh day of the infection.”


See the source image

Most entertainments, churches, social clubs, libraries, movie houses, etc. were eventually shut down.  But they tried wearing masks for awhile!

Officials Wearing Gauze Masks

Milkmen(?) braving the Flu to deliver milk to stores, and to people’s homes

flu 5

The Flu Epidemic rapidly made many children orphans, dependent on the care of others.

Many families died of neglect or starvation, remaining isolated in their homes, afraid to come out for supplies or medical attention.  Some neighbors were afraid to enter the homes of those who were sick.  So many medical doctors were in the War, ill, or overwhelmed.  anyone with medical training was asked to help, and some communities recruited  volunteers to care for the sick.

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From Standford University, by Molly Billings, June, 1997 modified RDS February, 2005:

“The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI) … It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe” the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster…

In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world’s population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice).

An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby). 1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace…

The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.   (Emphasis mine.)…

In 1918 children would skip rope to the rhyme (Crawford):


flu 2

History is reflected in children’s games, and in songs.

(“Ring-around-the Rosie” is NOT from the time of the Black Plaque!)

flu 1

The mandatory gauze masks were not always very effective.  There is the story of 4 women who wore masks while playing cards one evening.  By the next morning three of them were dead from Influenza.


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In an effort to boost the War effort, President Woodrow Wilson (and others) initially tried to ignore the pandemic, and suppress news about it.  How depressing that so many of those who survived the war, ended up dying of influenza.  Whole shiploads of military men were affected, some never making it to serve in the War.

The cause of most of the deaths in this pandemic was the secondary pneumonia.  There were no antibiotics.  Influenza frequently has secondary infections – strep throat, ear infections, Pink Eye, etc.  But this time it was more than that. (see explanation below.)

Be alert if you see several people in your ancestor’s family die suddenly, and within a few days of each other, especially if between September 1918 and about June 1919.  A death certificate may not mention flu/influenza, but pneumonia, etc. as cause of death.  Or there might not have been a police officer/medical person/undertaker/county recorder available to make any registration. (see explanation below.)  Some members of the family may have been buried in a mass grave with no records.

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The first wave of the 1918 pandemic occurred in the spring and was generally mild. The sick …experienced … typical flu symptoms….

However, a second, highly contagious wave of influenza appeared with a vengeance in the fall of that same year. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate….

Despite the fact that the 1918 flu wasn’t isolated to one place, it became known around the world as the Spanish flu, as Spain was hit hard by the disease and was not subject to the wartime news blackouts that affected other European countries. (Even Spain’s king, Alfonso XIII, reportedly contracted the flu.)

One unusual aspect of the 1918 flu was that it struck down many previously healthy, young people—a group normally resistant to this type of infectious illness—including a number of World War I servicemen…. Forty percent of the U.S. Navy was hit with the flu, while 36 percent of the Army became ill, and troops moving around the world in crowded ships and trains helped to spread the killer virus.

Although the death toll attributed to the Spanish flu is often estimated at 20 million to 50 million victims worldwide, other estimates run as high as 100 million victims. The exact numbers are impossible to know due to a lack of medical record-keeping in many places.

…Even President Woodrow Wilson reportedly contracted the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.

When the 1918 flu hit, doctors and scientists were unsure what caused it or how to treat it. Unlike today, there were no effective vaccines or antivirals, drugs that treat the flu. (The first licensed flu vaccine appeared in America in the 1940s….)

Complicating matters was the fact that World War I had left parts of America with a shortage of physicians and other health workers. And of the available medical personnel in the U.S., many came down with the flu themselves.

Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.

Officials in some communities imposed quarantines, ordered citizens to wear masks and shut down public places, including schools, churches and theaters. People were advised to avoid shaking hands and to stay indoors, libraries put a halt on lending books and regulations were passed banning spitting… the Sanitary Code.”

The flu took a heavy human toll, wiping out entire families and leaving countless widows and orphans in its wake. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed and bodies piled up. Many people had to dig graves for their own family members.

The flu was also detrimental to the economy. In the United States, businesses were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Basic services such as mail delivery and garbage collection were hindered due to flu-stricken workers.

In some places there weren’t enough farm workers to harvest crops. Even state and local health departments closed for business, hampering efforts to chronicle the spread of the 1918 flu and provide the public with answers about it.

By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.

Almost 90 years later, in 2008, researchers announced they’d discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: A group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a victim’s bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.

Since 1918, there have been several other influenza pandemics, although none as deadly.”


The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic was world wide:

flu 14


The ultimate “other Travelers” in this story are the viruses and bacteria that exploded throughout the world for those 15 months 1918 – 1919.

PBS has a very good “American Experience” documentary of the topic

Aired January 2, 2018

Influenza 1918


The American military in World War I and the influenza pandemic were closely connected. Influenza spread in The crowded conditions of military camps in the United States and in the trenches of the Western Front in Europe. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic military transit ships.  September – November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened many in the military at the height of the American military involvement in the war.  This affected the war.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Public Health Rep. 2010; 125(Suppl 3): 82–91.


(read the entire article by clicking the links above.)

“…the virus traveled west and south, arriving at Camp Grant, Illinois, on Saturday, September 21, 1918, with 70 hospital admissions. “So sudden and appalling was the visitation that it required the greatest energy and cooperation of every officer, every man, and every nurse to meet the emergency,” wrote one observer.4 (p. 749) Hospital admissions rose to 194, then 370, then 492, to a high of 788 admissions on September 29. Hospital officials summoned all officers on leave, converted barracks to hospital wards, and by “extreme effort” expanded the hospital capacity from “10 occupied beds to a capacity of 4,102 beds in six days.”4 (p.751)

Influenza still overwhelmed every department. The hospital laboratory resorted to local civilian facilities to perform specimen tests. Camp ophthalmologists saw patients with conjunctivitis, an influenza complication, and ear, nose, and throat specialists saw those with other dangerous secondary infections. As individuals became seriously ill, camp officials sent out “danger” or “death” telegrams to families and loved ones, but soon they received so many return calls, telegrams, and visitors, they had to set up a separate hospital tent as an information bureau. Medical personnel were not immune. Eleven of the 81 medical officers fell ill, and three civilian and three Army nurses died. The epidemic even caused the Medical Department to drop its prohibition on black nurses so that Camp Grant called African American nurses to care for patients. The women had to wait, however, until separate, segregated accommodations could be constructed.”


National Archives: World War I Centennial

As the largest repository of American World War I records, the National Archives invites you to browse the wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in this conflict, including photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.

Veteran’s Service Records:




CAGGNI Program -Tracing Your WWI Immigrant Ancestors in “Alien Papers”- Feb. 17, 2018

Vicki’s note – the latest CAGGNI Computer Assisted Genealogy Group in Northern Illinois program.


Upcoming event information:
Tracing Your WWI Immigrant Ancestors in “Alien Papers” Schaumburg Township District Library,
Date: 17 Feb 2018 10:30 AM CST

Tracing Your WWI Immigrant Ancestors in “Alien Papers”

by Debra Dudek

Learn what primary and secondary sources have become available and how to access them. Keep up to date on the constantly changing face of British Isles research by learning about recently released original records, new indexes, books and web sites.

Debra Dudek is head of Adult and Teen Services at the Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, IL.  Ms. Dudek specializes in British genealogy and technology topics.  She is currently pursuing a second masters degree in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

For more information: Tracing Your WWI Immigrant Ancestors in “Alien Papers”

Best regards,

2nd Lt. Redene Wayne Simenson U.S.A.A.F. of Beloit, Wisconsin


Re: 2nd Lt Redene Wayne Simenson U.S.A.A.F.

Hi Derek,

Your stories/facts just keep getting more and more interesting.

My knee is on the mend.

My Scots and Irish are unclear yet – Campbell, Arnold, Adams, and Muir (Moore).

I don’t know where my Scottish ancestors are from yet – too many other nationalities involved – United States  mix.

I am almost to the point in my genealogy research to be able to explore that.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying your history information below.

The Beloit WI Remember When Facebook group is also interested in hearing more about this hometown hero, so I am sharing this with them.

Hopefully we can get you some more information about the family, etc.

Beloit WI is about 37,000 and in some ways a small town with many knowing each other.

I possibly met Redene’s sister at the Library since her obituary says that she liked to read so much, but I don’t recognize her name.

His other siblings would be called teachers, or if they taught at the Beloit College, would be called professors lecturing to college students.

I looked up Sandy, Greg and Donna Thorpe on the public library’s AtoZ phone address directory in Wisconsin and Illinois.

I only saw some Thorpes (about 50 miles north).  If you think they are the right ones- here is the contact information –

I also found 19 pages of Simesons in  several states.

Beloit is right on the Illinois state line, and Redene was born in Durand Illinois.

I found the following information on a public family tree – “Olsen-Simenson-Woods Tree” on, and contacted the creator for more information or to connect you if he answers.  You can look at his family tree directly (many public libraries here have this database for free at tbe library building.)

Redene’s sister was Eleanor Thorpe –  a funeral collection said that she resided in Rockford Illinois at tbe time of her 2012 death and that her children are – Sandra Thorpe, Nancy (Mark) Bromhead and Julie (Jim) Barker. So Sandy is probably Sandra in this case.  (AtoZ is being balky right now – but can look later for contact.)

Redene was an identical twin to Eugene Raymond  Simenson ( who died in 1971.)  His children are:

Lawrence born 1938, Ronald born 1940, Randy born 1951 Michigan – now in Charlotte North Carolina ? , and Kim Gail Simenson born 1959 in Michigan now in Charlotte North Carolina?

Redene was married from 1937 – 1939 to a Doris.They lived on Vine ST in Beloit and he worked for the Freeman Shoe Corp. (1937 Beloit WI City Directory)

About 1943 Redene married Eileen (?) Simenson in England.  She was born abt 1921 in England, and their daughter Karen Simenson was born abt 1945 in England.

In application for military headstone – his date of birth is June 10 1917,

his date of death is listed as Dec. 21, 1944 (one day after his ferry asignment.)

He enlisted Nov. 28, 1940 (almost a year before the United States entered World War 2), and was in the 310 Ferrying Squadron.

A U.S. Army Enlistment Record shows his enlistment as Dec. 9, 1942, single withut dependents,and his height as 70 inches (5 foot 10 inches) and weight as 152 pounds.

A (Beloit Daily) Newspaper clipping dated Feb. 19, 1945 (?) shows the following information:    ( Derek – We will get you  a better copy and full citation than the source put on

Redene had been overseas 40 months without a visit back to the U.S. before dying in the  plane crash.

He joined Nov. 28, 1940 in the Royal Canadian Air Force after first being rejected by the U.S. Army Air Forces because he did not have college credits, Ten months later, he was assigned to overseas service, and was an instructor in England.  He asked to be transferred  to a fighting command where he piloted a torpedo bomber.

He tranferred to the Royal Air Force, and piloted a Spitfire for one year.

He asked to be transferred to the U.S. Army air Forces once the United States entered World War 2, and joined the Ferry Command taking airplanes for several months to Africa, Italy, Iceland, and then to France after the invasion of the continent.

His services to the Ferry Command were regarded highly because he was able to fly any type of plane. According to his letters home, there was not any type of plane made in the United States or England that he had not flown at one time or another.

Redene wrote to his brother Eugene that he had become a member of a test pilot squadron –

“If something happens to me, don’t be surprised. I am volunteering to go on missions that other fellows refuse to go on.”

He had two narrow escapes – in one he landed his Spitfire in flames and was hospitalized for a time, but did not say much about how serious his injuries were.

Redene meet (Beloiters) overseas:

Shortly before the Dieppe raid in August 1942, he and Captain Mason C Dobson, now a prisoner of war of the Germans, spent several days together in London.

He also met Major Jesse Davis by chance in a United States Army air base.


Vicki Hahn
Public Services Librarian
Beloit Public Library
Dear Derek Wands,
It’s nice to hear from your from “across the pond”.
I may get there myself some year as some of my ancestors are Scottish.
Yes I would be glad to help you find more information for the book on aviation history and about
2nd Lt. Redene Wayne Simenson U.S.A.A.F. of Beloit, Wisconsin if I can.
I am off work for three more weeks because of knee surgery.
I can look st our Beloit City Directories, etc. once I return.
Meanwhile I will put this in a posting for my
BLOG (which is probably where you heard about me?)
I will also post it on the closed Facebook group I belong to – Beloit Wisconsin Remember When.
Maybe someone else will know more about the family or person.
What date do you all need the information by?
Vicki Hahn
Public Services Librarian
Beloit Public Library 605 Eclipse BLVD. Beloit, WI 53511

What’s New at the NARA – United States National Archives and Records Administration?

Vicki’s note – mostly from the NARA site. 

Here is a NARA hint from our speaker Katherine Kemnitz, genealogist, from last weeks program on “Formating, Printing and Self-Publishing a Book”.

In her research on  NARA, Katherine noticed that she had a hard time finding her soldier ancestor Clem.  She discovered that between 1877 – 1900s that the NARA hired extra clerks to catalog all Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.  The clerks would combine several soldiers of various names into one folder with one name, if those soldiers were only short -term enlistments, and only on one pay record.  The only way to see the other soldier’s (names/information) was if someone looked into the folder.

There are so many free tools and resources at NARA.  Click on the links.:

October 16, 2017

What’s New at the NARA – United States National Archives and Records Administration?

What’s New?

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

October 25, 2017

On Wednesday, October 25, the National Archives will host the fifth virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast. Viewers can participate with the presenters and other family historians during the live event on YouTube.

All of the session videos and handouts will be available from             this web page free of charge. You can watch the sessions and download the materials at your convenience.

Are you going to miss the live broadcast? We have you covered! The video broadcasts and the presentation materials will continue to be available after the live event.

NARA is hosting its 5th annual Virtual Genealogy Fair on October 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The fair will be broadcast live from YouTube.

The Genealogy Fair is NARA’s biggest genealogy event of the year and will feature sessions that offer advice on family history research for all skill levels.

The topics include:

– Federal government documents on birth, childhood, and death

-Recently recovered military personnel files

-Japanese Americans during World War II

-19th century tax assessments

-A special presentation on taking care of your family heirlooms


Can I start my family history research by typing a name in the search box?

Our search box will not help you find information on a specific person.  However, we have many tools and resources that can lead you to information about our holdings.  Many of our records have been digitized and are made available by our Digitization Partners.