Monday, April 22, 2013

Of the Tribe? Casting a Wider Net for New Details

     The rate at which new information is being digitized and made available online sometimes leaves us scrambling to keep up.  I've developed the habit of checking and regularly for new record groups, as well as other online providers.  Another approach is to plug a name of interest into the home page search fields, and see what turns up.
     Recently, I did a double take, when the name of my relative, Jack C. Francis, appeared in an resource titled "U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947."  Now, "my" Jack had been a Catholic schoolboy in Chicago prior to joining the Army, so I thought it unlikely that this entry was for him.  However, the name is pretty specific, so I definitely wanted to have a look.  Imagine my surprise at seeing that the digitized card did indeed refer to the Jack C. Francis I'm related to.  His father is listed as next of kin, and there's a residence address I'm familiar with.
     Further reading about the data set indicates that these records were compiled by the National Jewish Welfare Board, as part of the Bureau of War Records.  This was an organization which documented the role of the Jewish-American service personnel.  The cards were made of information extracted from service files. They had a color-coded system:  the red strip on the card of Jack Francis indicates wounded.  The explanation states that the cards might even indicate whether the subject turned out not to be Jewish, although that isn't the case here.

     This, combined with the combat history book (a lot like a yearbook of his unit), gives us some excellent detail about Jack's time in the service, despite the loss of so many of the WWII personnel files in the fire of 1973.  Of particular interest is the date and page number on this card, and what other information they might lead to.
     Jack always said that the kind of religion you practiced didn't matter in a foxhole...apparently, he was right.
     Another example of casting the net wider for new information.