Of Monuments and Men – The National World War II Memorial Turns Ten

world war II memorialOne of the epic events in American and world history – the second World War – has been dedicated in the National World War II Memorial which opened to the public on April 29, 2004. In the ten years since the opening, over 40 million have visited the site commemorating those killed in the war and dedicated to honoring all who served.
To mark the tenth anniversary, the Friends of the World War II Memorial will hold a commemoration over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in Washington, DC. But what of these “living monuments” that are approachable each and every day and that live among us?

The Fading of The Greatest Generation
Those who fought in World War II are part of what has been called The Greatest Generation and as time progresses, almost 600 veterans of this war die each and every day. With over 16 million serving in the war, there are now approximately 1 million vets from World War II still alive today. The Saving Memories Forever app is the perfect tool to capture the stories of those who served as well as those at home who waited for their return.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a collection of oral history interviews which should serve as an inspiration to conduct your own interviews with family members. The Library of Congress offers a Veterans History Project Field Kit (http://www.loc.gov/vets/kit.html) to help you get started.
And don’t forget those who remained on the Home Front during the war! Their interviews are just as important to give a full perspective on World War II and its impact. The Minnesota Historical Society has a list of Suggested Questions for Civilians (http://www.mnhs.org/people/mngg/stories/oh_civilian.htm) that can help structure your interviews.

Search the Family Archives for World War II Artifacts
Besides oral history interviews, look for photos, letters, documents and more that may be tucked away in the family archives. Compared to the first World War, there are many more digital media items available from World War II: cameras were affordable to own and those in service took photos of their regiments, their friends as well as battle locations. In addition, some service men made recordings sent back home in the form of a “record” to be played for family members.
Look for these items as well as medals, patches and more. Scan them, document them through written narrative and even use them as “props” during recorded interviews.

Family History and World War II
Many of us have a family member who served in World War II or lived during the war – all have stories to share. In addition to what you can gain through personal interviews, you may want to extend your research to World War II related resources:
· World War 2 Family History (http://www.wikitree.com/articles/World-War-2.html)
WikiTree has a special project set up to share resources and advice as well a list of interview questions (http://www.wikitree.com/printable/World-War-2-interview-questions.html).
· World War II (1941-1945) Military Records (http://www.ancestry.com/cs/us/worldwar2records)
Ancestry.com’s collection contains more than 15 million names and over 11 million images. Note: Ancestry is a paid subscription site; if you don’t have a subscription, check for “free” days such as Memorial Day Weekend when military records are open to the public.
· FamilySearch Wiki – World War II (https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/World_War_II_United_States_Military_Records,_1941_to_1945)
The FamilySearch wiki offers background information on World War II and can help you access different military record sets available for research.
· Pritzker Museum & Library (http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/)

The number of resources available both online and in-person are overwhelming. Of special note is the Holt Oral History Program (http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/whats_on/holt-oral-history-program/) which seeks to preserve “stories of service” from World War II and other conflicts.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.


A Girl Scout in the Family

girl scouts at the white house

On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Scout meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia when Juliette Gordon Low brought 18 young women together to form a troop. Low’s focus was to provide opportunities to young women and ensure their physical, mental and spiritual development.

The vision that Low had, starting with that first meeting, was an organization that was “girl-centered.” What started with just 18 girls has grown to an organization with over 3.2 million girls and adults. According to the Girl Scouts of America, there are over 59 million women in the United States today who can be claimed as Girls Scouts alumnae.

The Girl Scouts of America was patterned after the popular Girl Guides organization in Britain, but by 1920 had developed its own distinct uniform, handbook and organizational structure. By then, there were 70,000 girl scouts across the country.

During the Great Depression, many troops focused on community service including food drives and providing meals to those in need. Also in the 1930s, with a focus on age appropriate activities, Girl Scouts were split into divisions including the Brownies. And did you know that ithe first Girl Scout cookies were commercially baked in the 1930s?

With the arrival of World War II, community service included scrap metal drives, learning how to grow Victory Gardens as well as how to handle blackouts and air raid drills.

The 1950s and 1960s is when the organization saw its largest growth, thanks to the post-war Baby Boom. As the Girl Scouts continued to grow towards the end of the 20th century, activities included computers and developing technology skills for young women. And now in the 21st century, new badges such as Global Awareness and Environmental Health reflect the challenges women, and all of us, will face in the coming decades.

Did the Girl Scouts Play a Role in Your Family?

For many families, the Girl Scouts were a big part of “growing up” in the United States. More and more family historians are discovering that memories of being a Girl Scout and participating in activities make for great family stories.

Here are some interview questions, writing/journaling prompts and project ideas:

  • Which of your ancestors were members of the Girl Scouts? What is the earliest instance you can find of a family member participating in Girl Scouts?
  • Do you have a current family member who was or is involved in the Girl Scouts? Consider interviewing your older relatives (using Saving Memories Forever, of course) and ask them what it was like to be a Girl Scout as they grew up. Discuss the skills they developed.
  • Have you inherited a box of Girl Scout items such as sashes, uniforms, handbooks and more? Contact your local troop and ask if they would be interested in the items for their archives. If not, create a video or slide show describing the items and who in your family owned them.
  • Were you a Girl Scout? Record your own memories in a variety of formats including audio, digital images and in writing.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. He is a frequent guest blogger for SavingMemoriesForever.com. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.