Thursday, August 7, 2014

How did you get started doing Genealogy?

It was about 2 weeks before my wedding in 1997 and the next day I was to get on an airplane for the next 30+ hours to fly to Australia to move there and to get married - all in one month. My mother turns to me and hands me a silver pair of US Air Force wings and tells me these are mine, but to cherish them forever. I look at them and at her and ask her who are they from and all she would say was "They were the last thing my cousin Jimmy gave me before he died." and then turns away and doesn't speak to me again about it.

1943 James J Sherman wings
Among everything else going on, it didn't hit me completely until right before the wedding day when one of the people in the wedding party asked me about the old "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". I told her the something new was the dress (as is tradition), something borrowed was a necklace a girlfriend from Canada let me borrow, something blue was within my bouquet and the something old was the World War 2 Air Force wings from my mother's cousin Jimmy. Everyone loved the thought of all the trinkets and the wedding happened. However, afterwards, the questions in my mind started - why were they the last thing given? Who was Jimmy? What happened to him?

Anyhow, it was a few years before life settled down and we moved into our house. Then I started asking questions and doing searches throughout the internet. I knew my husband's aunt had done some genealogy work and ask her about how I go about it, and she said she'd check in with some of her contacts to help.

Within a few months, I found out who Jimmy was - Staff Sergeant James J Sherman from the 745th Bomber Squadron 456th Bomber in the Air Force. He died in World War 2 when his plane went down on a training mission.

Upon finding out this information, I emailed the US Air Force library in Florida and upon the correspondence found letters, some pictures and other items which were his mother's things that were found at a book shop in NY. However, they would not allow them to either be copied for forwarded to me as they wanted them kept. I was told I was able to go to Florida and view them with prior warning. To date, we have not been able to visit.

The wings Jimmy or James received before heading into World War 2 and he gave them to my mother, so she could keep them for him. Only he never returned as he was listed as Missing in Action for years. It was only in 2009, I was able to show her what happened to him via reports (above) from a few others that were still alive then. 

I was proud to find he served his country the best he could. I did ask and get an answer from my mother about why he signed up for duty. She said he wanted his mother to feel safe at home and to do that he had to serve his country. In the end he did serve his country - with his life. He now has a tablet in Florence, Italy with his name on it as his body was never recovered in the ocean. I plan on visiting here and putting a wreath on his tablet in honor of the whole family.
The US cemetery in Florence, Italy where Jimmy's tablet is

After finding out this information, it made me start asking other questions about other relatives and want to find out answers. The researching but has definately hit and its not slowing down. In fact, if anything its growing with my husband starting to research his families genealogy background and now he's even deeper than me.

This year, 2014, we decided to take DNA tests through myFTDNA to see if we could get any information on other relatives. It has helped my husband, in narrowing the factions of which Fitzgerald clan he comes from, but its all theory at the moment. I have the DNA on my to do list to figure it out - if I can.