Illinois Ancestors: It's been 70 years since D-Day

Illinois Ancestors: It's been 70 years since D-Day

June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II. The anniversary will be commemorated with parades, concerts and firework displays at Normandy, France and remembered here in the U.S. as well. Many genealogists have veterans in their families who participated in World War II. What are their memories of that day? Do other family members remember that day? A record of their thoughts should be part of any family history. There are fewer and fewer of those veterans still living and able to tell of their wartime memories. Family researchers need to find records of the family's World War II veterans so their stories may be preserved.

FamilySearch has provided a website, "World War II United States Military Records, 1941 to 1945," at, with some interesting and helpful information and links, especially the link found on the toolbar on the left, Finding Vet Records.

Further down on the FamilySearch website there is a link to Dad's War: Finding and Telling Your Father's World War II Story, which shows how Wesley Johnston recorded his father's story. He also provides information and helpful links so that others can do likewise, from finding your Dad's buddies and identifying his unit to finding his records. Johnston's website should be bookmarked for continued reference.

The World War II Memorial's website at allows one to search the World War II Registry for names of Americans whose names are taken from four World War II databases. One of these databases, the Registry of Remembrances, is an unofficial compilation to which anyone may contribute.

Include your family's D-day memories in your family history and, perhaps, add your World War II veteran's name to the Registry of Remembrances.

Civil War records online

In addition to the World War II records mentioned above, FamilySearch now has a new online collection of Civil War records. Described by Paul G. Nauta at, the collection "will continue to grow as additional military records for the Civil War ... are digitized and indexed."

The Civil War website at enables one to search records by state for such records as service records, pensions, soldiers home applications, widows pension applications, headstone records, and Freedmen's Bureau records. There are also links to a few states' census records to help locate veterans before and after the Civil War.

These collections "can reveal fascinating records and information about the 3 million soldiers who fought in the Civil War and the estimated 620,000 who died."

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. It is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Orphan train children

During the 1850s charitable institutions in New York City began sending some 250,000 orphans on trains to western states where they could find and live with new families and have better lives. The Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS) has published a book "Children of Orphan Trains from NY to IL and beyond," compiled by Janet M. Coble, and consisting of a master list of names of children sent to Illinois from the New York Juvenile Asylum from 1853 to 1898. That books sells for $12 from ISGS ( and may also be available at some libraries.

A portion of that book's data, pertaining to those children who continued on to Iowa, is available on the Internet at This list consists of an alphabetical list of names, along with birth year, year of trip, age, name of new family, and Iowa location — information that provides valuable clues for further research, especially in census records.

The National Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kan., organized "to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the orphan trains and the children and agents who rode them," has a helpful website at The museum's annual Celebration and Depot Days will be June 6 and 7. Phone 785-243-4471 for more information.

Cyndi's List at provides links to additional related websites. For example, the Orphan Train Bibliographies is a most extensive list of books, magazines, videos and newspaper articles on this subject.

Queries and genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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