28 May 2018

Message for Memorial Day and In Memoriam, Joe Preston

(Thanks to Fran Behrman for guest writing this week's blog, just in time to remember our ancestors who served in the military.) 

Just going through the boxes of items that have been saved over the years and came upon the items from my husband’s uncle Frank. Frank never married and lived a quiet life after returning from Europe where he had served in WWI in the United States Army.  In one box is the letter and accompanying handkerchief which Frank sent to his niece (my husband’s mother) in 1918 for her birthday. The hanky depicts the American flag with flowers around it with the words “Souvenir De France” embroidered underneath.

On this Memorial Day, one hundred years later, I reflect on the men and women who have fought for freedom in the past, who currently serve and those who will so in the future. I am blessed to have records of family members who served and hope you do also. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries alone we have two worldwide wars and countless conflicts among other nations. The military forces of the United States and other countries stay deployed throughout the world today preserving the freedoms we enjoy.

Here are some online resources you can check for military records:
Cyndi’s List—U.S. Military: www.cyndislist.com/military.htm
Family Search: www.familysearch.org/
Fold3: www.fold3.com (subscription site but access it for free with a St. Louis County Library card)
National Archives: www.archives.gov
Joe Beine's Guide to Online Military Indexes and Records: www.militaryindexes.com/

Aside from the handkerchief, I am proud to possess other memorabilia and records from family members who have also served. I hope that each of us can take time this Memorial Day to reflect upon and honor those who have and continue to choose military service. After all, one of the reasons we do genealogy is to discover the roles our ancestors have played in the history of the world.

Have a safe and memorable Memorial Day!
Fran Behrman

In Memoriam: Joe Preston 

Joseph A. Preston, an avid genealogist and photographer, served as president of St. Louis
Genealogical Society in 1990 and 1991. He passed away on 29 April 2018, in Greenville, South Carolina, at the age of ninety-two. Before becoming president of StLGS, Joe and his wife Jeannine both served on the society's board of directors and taught genealogy classes for the St. Louis Parks Extension Service.

 Joe grew up in southwest Missouri and lived there until he was drafted in World War II. He served in Europe, then returned to the U.S., where he completed a law degree at the University of Missouri. Several current society volunteers remember Joe as having a "quirky" sense of humor and always being generous with legal advice for the society whenever he was needed. He was very active in a number of lineage and genealogy societies in addition to StLGS. He belonged to the Sons of the American Revolution, for which he was a Missouri president, and he served as president of the Missouri State Genealogical Association.

We send our condolences to Joe's wife, Jeannine, his daughters Alice Jo and Cynthia Lee, their spouses and children, and Joe's brother Smith and his wife Jane.

21 May 2018

St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds Office

The staff at the St. Louis (City) Recorder of Deeds office met with StLGS volunteers last week to reaffirm their willingness to assist genealogists with St. Louis records. Theirs is a fee-based service, but those fees are used to further records preservation and provide staff to assist the public.

What you will find in the Recorder of Deeds Office:
  • Marriage Records from 1766 to 1931: These consist of applications and licenses from 1881 to 1931, a register from 1877 to 1880, registers from 1808 to 1876 (the year the city split from the county), and some marriage contracts and prenuptial agreements from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. 
    • There is a $3.00 fee for each uncertified copy of application, license, or register entry and a $12.00 fee for certified copies.
    • An additional fee for searching may be levied if exact information is not provided.
  • Land Deeds: St. Louis County from 1766 to 1876 (pre-split); St. Louis City, 1877 through 1920
    • $3.00 fee for first page, uncertified copy; $5.00 certified; $2.00 for each additional page of the same record.
    • Search fees apply, if necessary.
Additional records include:
  • Deeds of Adoption, 1880 through 1916 ($5.00 uncertified copy; $7.00 certified)
  • Incorporation Records ($3.00 uncertified first page; $5.00 certified; $2.00 each additional page of same record)
  • House of Refuge Orphanage from 1854 through 1909 ($5.00 per copy of index or minute book page)
  • Nurse Registrations, 1910 through 1937 ($3.00 per copy of license or index page)
  • Trademarks, 1865 through 1930 ($5.00 per black and white copy)
The Recorder of Deeds office is located in City Hall at 1200 Market Street, St. Louis, Mo. 63103. The Land Records are in Room 126 and the Archives Department is in Room 129. The office is open from Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (Archives Dept.) and 5:00 p.m. (Land Records). More information and an online search capability for land records and a limited number of marriage records at www.stlouiscityrecorder.org.

14 May 2018

Classes and Lectures in May

Our friends at the Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis County Library have several classes and lectures to offer this month that will be of interest to many family historians.

Missouri History Museum in Forest Park

Wednesday, 16 May: "Underground Panoramas: Urban Archaeology and Unearthing St. Louis History at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Site," presented by Joe Harl, principal investigator of the NGA site dig and an archaeologist with the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis. Mr. Harl will share what the excavations on the site are revealing about the German and Irish immigrants that once resided in this north St. Louis neighborhood.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

Thursday, 17 May: "If It Looks Like a Man––Gender Identity, Female Soldiers, and 'Lady Bushwhackers' in the Civil War," presented by historian, Diane Eickhoff. Explore how and why some women were able to throw off their cultural restrictions and participate in the Civil War.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

Sunday, 20 May: Battle of Fort San Carlos Commemoration, featuring author Stephen L. Kling Jr., who will speak on "Personalities and Stories from the Battle of St. Louis." His talk will include some materials from his book plus additional findings from further research.
2:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium, free, no registration required.

Thursday, 31 May: "An American Soldier: Asian American Service in the U.S. Military," panel discussion following a debut of An American Soldier by the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

St. Louis County Library

Monday, 21 May: "Identifying Ancestral Military Veterans," presented by Larry Franke, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Explore sources for learning more about your ancestors who served in the military. Prerequisites for this class: "Census Basics" and "Basics for Genealogical Research."
10:00 a.m., Cliff Cave Branch Computer Classroom; free, advance registration required; click here.

Thursday, 24 May: "Advanced Techniques for African American Research," presented by Dan Lilienkamp, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Dan will present case studies to illustrate how to fill in gaps in missing information. Prerequisite for this class: "Tracing Your African American Ancestors."
6:30 p.m., Lewis and Clark Branch, Meeting Room 1; free, advance registration required; click here.

Thursday, 31 May: "Census Basics for Genealogical Research," presented by Larry Franke, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Learn how to search census records by using Ancestry Library Edition and other online databases.
2:00 p.m., Headquarters Computer Classroom; free, advance registration required; click here.

The library has free computer and technology classes available as well. Check out their  calendar for May by clicking here.

07 May 2018

Email We Know, But V-Mail . . .?

The StLGS monthly meeting for May is this coming Saturday, the 12th. "The Homefront: V-Mail to Email" is the topic, and it should be of interest to all, as its focus will be World War II. St. Louis County Historian, Danny Gonzales, who was to have been our speaker, has moved back to his home state of Indiana, and the talk will instead be presented by Mike Venso, the curator of museums for the county.

Mike will take a look at all the ways in which World War II impacted American society. The title of his talk stems from a unique method of communication used during that war to save cargo space on ships. As genealogists, we certainly know how heavy piles of paper can get, and the cargo space on ships needed to be reserved as much as possible for war-related materials and not personal correspondence. Yet, staying in touch with family was very important for morale of the troops so writing was encouraged.

V-Mail was an abbreviation for Victory Mail and it was modeled on a system started in England. The idea was that you would write your letter on a special V-Mail letter sheet, one that contained both space to write and an envelope (see the photo). Once a V-Mail letter was mailed, it was funneled to a special station where the contents were microfilmed and reduced to a much smaller size. "The rolls of film were sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the addressee."* The letter-sheets were then reproduced on paper again, but still in smaller size, and sent on to the people to whom they were addressed. Not surprisingly, this system was also called "Photomail," but some called it "Tiny Mail" or "Funny Mail" because of the miniaturized size of the final copy.

The launch of the new system was on 15 June 1942; the first of the overseas V-Mail stations run by the U.S. Army opened in April 1943 in Casablanca. Between June of 1942 and April 1945, more than 556 million pieces of V-Mail were mailed from the U.S. to military post offices and more than 510 million pieces were received from military personnel abroad.*

To learn more about V-Mail, you might like to read the articles on the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum website at https://postalmuseum.si.edu/victorymail/

*Smithsonian National Postal Museum https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/past/the-art-of-cards-and-letters/mail-call/v-mail.html