Thank-you Grandpa for your service!

My grandfather, George Manfroid, served in France during WWI.  He died when I was eight years old so I never heard about his war experience in France.  All my father ever said was that his father was in France during WWI.  That was it the end of the story.  I did not think much about it until one day when I was reading his enlistment and discharge papers.  I was going to use these papers for a class that I was teaching.  I wanted to show an example of things that you might find in your possession or in the possession of a relative, and how they can be used to help you trace your ancestors.  I had read these papers before but all I really cared about back then was where he was born, date of birth, etc.  But since I knew all that I took a closer look and thought about what they said.  He was inducted on September 19, 1917 in Maywood, Illinois.  His vocation was a millwright, he was 25 years old, blue eyes, light complexion, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and single.  His character was excellent, his service honest and faithful.  He was part of the A.E.F. France, received no wounds, and was entitled to wear the Blue Service Chevron.  He was at Camp Grant, Illinois when discharged on January 19, 1919.

After studying the papers, I was curious as to what A.E.F. stood for and why he received the Blue Service Chevron.   I look up the A.E.F. and found it stood for American Expeditionary Forces, and the Blue Service Chevron was given to soldiers who served overseas.  I Googled my grandfather’s name and found his name in a book titled The Official History of the Eighty-Sixth Division.  He is listed as serving in 311th Trench Mortar Battery.  According to the book he left New York Harbor on September 17, 1918 aboard the Lapland for France.  He spent his time in Vitrey and Chauvirey-le-Chatel.  The 86th division was to be sent to the Lorraine Front on November 14, 1918 with other American Divisions and thirty French Divisions to capture the Metz.  The 86th was to participate in what the supreme war council had planned as the Allies’ mightiest endeavor of the war.  But on November 11, 1918 came the news of the signing of the Armistice.  He returned to the United States on January 9, 1919 aboard the Georgia.

The men prepared for a year to battle on front lines and for some this was a disappointment. I don’t know my grandfather’s feelings because nothing was ever said.  I think about the part fate played here.  If he fought and was killed, I would not be here.  We take for granted our lives and the lives of our ancestors.  But one little twist of fate could change everything.  Even though he never fought on the front lines, I am still proud that he served his country honorably and faithfully during this time.  Thank you Grandpa for your service to this country!

A Better Place Book Review

A Better Place:  Death and burial in nineteenth-century Ontario

Susan Smart

Copyright 2011

Published for the Ontario Genealogical Society by Dundurn Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

$19.00

ISBN 978-1-55488-899-3

The focus of this book is on the physical aftermath of death during the nineteenth century in Ontario, Canada.  It is not on the physical or spiritual aspects of dying.  It covers deaths and burials from the establishment of Upper Canada to the beginning of the funeral industry in the early twentieth century.

Part one deals with deaths and burials.  The author explains the attitudes that surrounded death and the physical handling of the body from death to burial.  She explains where the customs and terms we use today originated, and how some customs have changed over time.  The reader learns about the beginning of the coffin, hearse, death notices, cemeteries, tombstones, and tombstone inscriptions.

Part two covers the death and burial records that are available for the genealogist today and how to find them.  The author discusses the importance of history to the family historian.  Studying about the places and times our ancestor’s lived in gives background to the family story and helps bring our ancestors to life.  She also explains the importance of religion in finding death and burial records, and lists sources to help you find death and burial records both in print and online.

The author cites her sources for each chapter in the notes at the end of the book.  She included a bibliography of other books and Internet sources on the subject.  Though out the book there are pictures of churches, cemeteries, tombstones and other items of interest.

I read this book with interest because I have ancestors from Ontario, Canada.  I felt that it gave me a better understanding of their lives, customs, and religion.  I found it interesting how deaths and burials were handled back then, and it helped me to understand where and how the customs we use today originated.  I would recommend this book to anyone with ancestors from Ontario, Canada and to those who have an interest in funeral and burial customs from the nineteenth century.

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