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Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category

Yearbooks and How They Can Be Used

Part of Newton Free Library’s Collection of Yearbooks

Most of us are familiar with high school yearbooks. We probably have at least one from our own senior year. They may be filled with signed comments from our fellow graduates, some funny, some not so much. … Going through them brings back all sorts of memories and can spark stories. You may have tucked graduation programs and other loose mementos into it that were important to you. Collections of high school yearbooks in public libraries are potent resources that are used often and for various purposes. They can be consulted by reporters for news stories, checked by people writing biographies, searched by people looking for pictures of their parents or grandparents or for birth parents whom they have never seen.

One Special Yearbook

The yearbook with its acid-free archival case.

What is it that sparks my current focus on yearbooks? A local high school is making available to our library whatever yearbooks we need or would like to add to our collections.  A member of our reference staff, Kim Hewitt, is working with materials in our Special Collections room. In this capacity she visited the high school library to take a look at what it has. When Kim checked a copy of one 1937 Newtonian yearbook for loose ephemera, she discovered something extraordinary. Someone had kept clippings about the graduates, especially those who served in World War II. On almost every page there were tipped-in newspaper articles about graduates pictured on that page, usually stories about their military service. Some described their current activities overseas. Some were death notices. The articles span events and battles over a number of years. Personal milestones, such as marriages, are the subject of other clippings. In short, it is a genealogist’s gold mine of information.

If something has been “tipped in,” it means you can lift the material and see what’s underneath.

This yearbook has now become a part of Newton’s Special Collections. If you have a relative who graduated from Newton High School in 1937, it’s worth a look. If you are interested, its catalog title is Newton High School Class of 1937 and World War II.” The call number is N 373.34 N38M.  Clicking on the preceding title will take you directly to its entry in our online catalog.  It does not circulate and must be used within the library.

Compact Shelving with one opening. If you want to get into the first bay on the far left, all the other bays have to be moved forward.

A Note about Compact Shelving and Viewing Material from Newton’s Special Collections

Since the 1937 yearbook mentioned above is so unique and also fragile, it will be kept in what is known as compact shelving, not on the open Special Collection shelving.   Using compact shelving saves a great deal of space but requires the movement of heavy shelving electronically. Newton’s compact shelving is run by machinery that is old and can be somewhat cranky.  It needs two people to open it to retrieve material kept there. If you are thinking of coming in to look at this item, or other collections from compact shelving, it would help if you let us know in advance. If we know when you are coming, we can pull material for you ahead of time.

Actually it’s always a good idea to plan ahead with any library you are visiting. Check in advance for any special restrictions or rules for viewing or copying fragile or unique material. What are the library’s hours? Do they change depending on the season? Will the library be closed due to construction or maintenance during the period you are planning on coming? Are all its collections on site or does it need time to retrieve them from offsite storage? Whenever you request an item from a library, having its name and call number will speed up the process. Any library should allow you to search its online catalog, no matter where you live.

You and Your Own Family’s Yearbooks

Do you know if your family members, especially aunts, uncles, and grandparents, have yearbooks they would be willing to show to you? They might even share memories of their high school years and their friends.  Don’t forget that many local libraries actively collect and also accept gifts of high school yearbooks. Each one that has been owned by a graduate has unique inscriptions by classmates and some may have the owner’s own notations. Public libraries located near where your relatives or ancestors lived may have their own such treasure troves from their local schools.  Some may even have been given to them by your relatives or their friends. It’s worth checking. While you’re at it, don’t forget to look in your own attic, basement, or bookcase. Do you have your parents’ or grandparents’ yearbooks?  You might want to take a closer look at them. You never know when you’ll strike unexpected gold. And if you find them in the basement or attic, you might want to move them to a bookcase on your main floor. They’ll last longer.

Good luck with your quest, wherever it takes you.

vea/13 June 2017
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net

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“U.S. troops go over the side of a Coast Guard manned combat transport to enter the landing barges at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, as the invasion gets under way.” November 1943. This picture is from the National Archives online.

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With Memorial Day almost upon us,  we remember family members who have been in the military, those who fought and those who died protecting the freedoms that we still enjoy. We regret that we don’t know more about them and what they went through.  Over the past few months I have been working on a guide to finding information on family members who fought in World War II.   It is in a relatively new software format known as a LibGuide.

Using LibGuides

This guide is divided into four sections represented by  four tabs to the left. You can move from one section to the other by clicking a tab. The guide, for now,  includes books and websites.  Eventually links to relevant blogs, blog postings, and articles may also be included.  Books are linked to the library’s online catalog.  Click on a specific title and you will find out whether or not it it available at Newton. It will also give you all the book’s bibliographic information. This will help you locate the book if  you belong to a library network other than Minuteman.  All website links listed are live links.  Just click on them and you are there.

Each highlighted heading that follows will bring you to the tab/page being discussed.

How to Do  Research, Find Records, and Get Help

When you first go into “Finding Family Members Who Fought in World War II”, you will find books to help you with your military research, two specifically dedicated to World War II.  You will also find links to various web sites, such as the military records section of the National Archives and indexes to other online resources.

Personal Narratives: A Rich Source of Information

Material reached by clicking the second tab will include two types of personal narratives.  The first is military narratives. There is a wealth of information that can be found in the writings of individuals who actually served during the war.  This type of work often lends added insight and background information to your own search,  not to mention some understanding of what these people went through, especially before, during, and after fighting. The books listed in these sections are just a tiny selection of what is available. If you click on a book of interest, the record that comes up will include subject headings.  You can click on a heading to bring up other books or use a heading as the basis for a keyword search.

The other type of personal narrative included here are those of family members who sought to find either additional information on individuals or to locate family members missing in action. The books contain specific information on the methods of a search and where relevant information was found. It might help you in your own search.

Histories of Military Branches, Regiments, Sqaudrons, Ships, Crews…

This section (the third tab) includes works written about regiments, divisions, and broader service histories, as well as smaller groups.  These are often overlooked sources of information that can be of tremendous help once you find in what part of the military your family member served.  It may give you additional sources of information when you come up against a brick wall in your search.  It also helps to put an individual’s service into a broader context.

The Difficulty of Remembering and Saving Wartime Memories

The last section provides information for veterans who are considering saving their personal military experiences before they are lost.  This  is often done so that their fellow combatants, their friends,  will not be forgotten.  The combat veteran faces a unique and difficult challenge.  “Do Bar Fights Count?,” written by a woman who helps veterans and runs writing workshops for them, explains the problem.  War is traumatic.  It forever changes a person who has been through battle. To write about it is to relive it as though it is happening now.  I had a cousin who was a young medic on Omaha Beach. He told me that you grow up quickly when you have your best friend die in your arms. Only the combat veteran who has gone through battle understands its deep, personal costs. They deserve nothing less than our gratitude, our understanding, and our deep respect.

vea/24 May 2012
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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