Going Sherlock – Genealogy Tips

With the proliferation of free and fee-based genealogy services online, it’s easier than ever to locate and learn more about your ancestors. The Going Sherlock section of this blog will periodically profile the best of genealogical and general historical tools to help you find new clues about the most mysterious of those who came before you. Try one and you just might become the next Sherlock Holmes.  –  The Contemplative Genealogist ©™


Flanders Field. The Somme. The Battle of the Bulge. North Africa. Normandy. The final resting places of so many young boys who never made it home after giving the last full measure of devotion for community and country.

With continuing advancements in information technology, it’s fairly simple for the nieces, nephews and grandchildren of the fallen to locate and learn more about their long lost ancestors thanks to websites created by those responsible for managing the cemeteries where America’s veterans now rest. Here are several which have user-friendly search tools to help you remember and honor your loved ones:

Nationwide Gravesite Locator, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

This Veterans Affairs database enables family historians and professional genealogists to search for the final resting places of veterans and their family interred in national, state and Department of Interior cemeteries, as well as many of those who were issued government grave markers when interred privately (since 1997). While the amount of information can vary significantly from one veteran to the next and the database does not contain the name of every veteran who ever served, this locator tool is still an information rich resource, and continues to be updated daily as new data is uncovered.

American Battle Monuments Commission

As the agency responsible for oversight of 24 of the nation’s cemeteries located on foreign soil, ABMC has created a website with helpful tools for locating veterans who lost their lives or were declared as missing in action, along with information about the cemeteries where they were interred.

Although the databases are not comprehensive (the World War I database contains just roughly 34,000 records for America’s nearly 117,000 casualties, for example), they do enable family members and researchers to search for individuals by conflict (World War I, World War II, Korea), as well as for those Vietnam veterans missing in action memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial, and some veterans and war dead from the Mexican, Spanish-American, and Civil Wars.


The Library of Congress has built, and is continuing to expand, a powerful tool for all who are engaged in researching, or just simply enjoy, American history. Chronicling America provides teachers, students, history buffs, corporate researchers, government officials, and professional historians and genealogists with a searchable database of many of the historical newspapers that documented America’s history from 1836 to 1922.

With a few clicks of a mouse, it’s easy to browse through small town newspapers to find out what was happening on a specific day during the Civil War era or even in the early 1900s.

Even more impressive? Family history buffs are often able to locate a newspaper’s mention of a particular ancestor just by entering that long-dead relative’s name into the site’s easy-to-use newspaper text search tool. (Tip: To narrow your search, try placing your ancestor’s name between quotes – “John Doe” rather than John Doe. To narrow further, select the name of the newspaper for the town where your ancestor would most likely have resided, and then search on your ancestor’s name – between quotes.)

The Chronicling America collection also includes high quality photographs documenting not only key moments in U.S. history, but daily life in small town America. In addition to being able to browse Matthew Brady’s famous Civil War photos, researchers may find period images of local town bridges and buildings – and even old elementary school class pictures.

Even if you don’t uncover a gem on your first trip, keep coming back. Plug in the latest data that you’ve obtained from your ongoing research as search terms, and you might just strike gold.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s