Thursday, March 07, 2013

Women's History Month 2013: Women in the Military, Part 2

Resources for Researching Your Female Ancestor, Day # 7

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Today we continue to look at resources for researching women in the military. Yesterday we looked at a few resources for the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. 

Modern Conflicts

World War I saw an increase in women’s role in the military as nurses.  According to Women Veterans:Past, Present and Future , by the end of World War I over 34,000 women were serving as nurses in the military. By the end of World War II, our of 350,000 women had served our of a military force of 12 million.

Researching a female ancestor who served in the military covertly may be difficult.  These women used aliases and may or may not have been discovered.  While you could try accessing military records for Revolutionary War or Civil War service the standard way, it may be more prudent to start by researching family legends and  history books about women who served in these wars.

Researching women who served during more modern times, World War I through present should involve the same type of research done for male veterans.  Techniques include accessing military records, histories of units, and other resources like obituaries, newspapers, family histories, stories, and local histories.

When researching any ancestor it is vital to learn about the time period and what life was like under those circumstances.  Some websites that might give you a perspective about women’s service include:  Military Women Veterans: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow which includes information on stories of women who have served from Revolutionary War to the present.  Also included is a memorial for women who have been killed in the war in Iraq.  Experiencing War: Women at War is a project of the Veteran’s History Project.  Twelve women’s stories are available on  video and audio to download.  These twelve  interviews represent civilian and military women serving during World War II to the Persian Gulf.  A link on the site provides a comprehensive list, by surname or theme of all veterans’ stories that are part of the project.

Some general military websites that may help you research military ancestors include,  NARA’sVeteran Service Records and the  Department of Veterans Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

Women have filled all types of roles during war time. From cooking and doing laundry, nursing the injured, to raising much needed funds, and even fighting as soldiers. While women’s roles during war time have not been documented to the extent men’s have, don’t forget that women have also answered the call of their nation. Search in histories, manuscript collections and oral histories for information about your woman veteran’s service.


Mariann Regan said...

Really interesting! I did not know that women used aliases when serving in wars earlier than WWI -- although I have seen those pictures of women who disguised themselves as men to fight during the Civil War. I find it astounding that any records can be recovered from so long ago. I'm going to copy the website you so generously offer about Military Women Veterans. Thank you!

Gena Philibert-Ortega said...

It is an interesting topic. I hope the websites help you. Feel free to share any you find and I will post them.

Thanks for commenting Mariann!