Find Your WWII Ancestors with these Military Research Gems

find your WWII ancestorsReady to research your WWII ancestors? We recommend these resources–and give you more from WWII author Rick Beyer, who recently appeared on the Genealogy Gems podcast. 

Recently author Rick Beyer joined me on the free Genealogy Gems podcast (episode 182) to talk about his fascinating book and PBS companion documentary, The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery. His stories have stayed in my mind ever since. I find myself wanting to learn more about my own family’s involvement in World War II–and wanting to hear more from Rick Beyer.

I did a little digging and found these titles:

finding your fathers war

Finding Your Father’s War Revised Edition: A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army by Jonathan Gawne. Now on its third printing, this popular guide helps readers navigate the records and repositories that can shed light on your Greatest Generation ancestors.


i thought my father was god


I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project, edited by Paul Auster. This collection of 180 personal stories ranks close to 5 stars by Amazon readers. It includes Rick Beyer’s story, “A Plate of Peas,” which he reads for us on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel (watch it below).


More Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 165 (listen for free!), about WWII records at the U.S. National Archives and tips for finding soldiers’ overseas travels.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online, which spotlights several European databases that have recently come online, including records that may mention your WWII ancestors.

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 46 (Premium membership required to access), which includes several online resources for color photographs from WWII.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsKnow anyone else who would love to know about these resources? Please share this post with them! And if you enjoy reading about history and family themes, check out the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We regularly interview best-selling and critically-acclaimed authors on our show: see why these are some of our most popular episodes!

WWII Dog Tag Finally Returns to Family: Orphaned Heirloom Rescue

stickman_holding_dogtags_800_wht_1897A 22-year year old man with a metal detector in France has brought a lot of joy to an 89-year widow in the U.S.

As reported in, Francois Blaizot found an American’s World War II dog tag in Normandy last year. Instead of keeping or selling it, he decided to try to reunite it with the soldier’s family. It took help from a local veteran’s affairs office for Francois to connect with the soldier’s widow, Catherine Wallace of Indianapolis, Indiana, US.

Francois sent a letter along with the dog tag to express his appreciation for U.S. military assistance to his country during World War II. As it turns out, the soldier did survive the war and continued home to serve his community as a firefighter. He passed away in 1997.

I don’t usually read the comments section of news article posts, but there are some nice responses to this article. I particularly like this one: “Man, talk about heart warming. We need more stories like this. And more metal detectors. LOL.”

Watch the story:

Did you know that there’s someone in our genealogy community who has made dog tag rescues her special priority? Lorine McGinnes Schulze of The Olive Tree Genealogy Blog coordinates efforts with volunteers who read her site postings and help her reunite these military artifacts with families. Click on the link to her blog to see a list of SOLVED cases along with OPEN cases that you could maybe help solve!


custom_text_present_14586We hear about orphaned heirloom rescues from time to time and I never get tired of them! Read more stories like this one by going to the Genealogy Gems home page and searching (on the lower left) under the category “heirloom.” If you’ve found an heirloom from someone else’s family, check out this post with advice on how to track down living relatives.

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