This week on 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?
My family had a LOT of genealogy done before I ever came along. But I’ve always been fascinated by my grandfather Osborne who died 14 months before I was born. The little bit I knew was that he had been a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy, his nickname was “Oiseau” (“bird” in French), he retired from the Navy early, was called back into service for WWII, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was born in 1888 and died in 1956, and his wife was sixteen years his junior. She lived until 1988, but because of divorce, I really didn’t know that side of my family at all while growing up.
Eventually through genealogical research, I pieced together a much more detailed look at my grandfather: After graduation, he actually taught English, French, Latin and History for two years at his high school before attending the Naval Academy (he was appointed 3 August 1907 from Virginia) where he lettered in baseball, and accumulated demerits for smoking in his room. He started his naval service in 1912, and I have the complete list of ships he served on. From the 1930 census I learned they lived in San Diego where he was stationed, and you can still see the house they rented. In 1948 he was an alternate delegate to Democratic National Convention from Virginia.
Much of this came from a copy of his official military record, which actually begins with his education at the Naval Academy. It’s huge – two inches thick – and took a bit of prodding to get. The first time we requested the information, the envelope was only a few pages, and only documented his service during WWII, when he was recalled. So we wrote back, and explained that we knew he had been a cadet, and served on board, and mailed our letter. Six weeks later came the full report in two separate envelopes. It’s detailed – demerits at the Academy, time spent in the hospital, requests for leave, it’s ALL in this pair of envelopes! It took a while to get it all sorted into chronological order, but really worth it!
Why is this so valuable to me? I never knew my grandfather, but this has certainly given me lots of information and insight into his life! Genealogical details abound.