World War II Genealogy: More Than Soldiers

Filed in On The Hunt by on 7 March 2014 2 Comments

I’ve thought about digging deeper into World War II genealogy. (See “Who Hunter Must Reads: Generations by Jennifer Holik” for more on that idea.) As I work to clean up my personal research files as part of the BCG Certification adventure, I find myself drawn to the war stories of several relatives. But war is about more than the soldiers that fight it. The impact of war on the daily lives of the average person is also part of the story. I think that is why this newspaper ad printed 71 years ago today struck a chord with me.

world war ii genealogy

The ad is certainly part of Mr. William D. Pawley’s World War II genealogy and family story. As a Florence, South Carolina born, wealthy industrialist he is interesting in his own right. But I think, instead, about all the managers, clerks, bus drivers and mechanics. What did these transportation restrictions mean for them? Were Bus Drivers or office staff cut due to the restriction of routes? Were mechanics working longer hours to keep the limited buses on the road? If your ancestor was an employee of Miami Beach Railway during this time the ad represents a piece of their story too.

Google “Aid War Effort” and you’ll find article after article detailing how “Baseball Aids War Effort”, “Scouts Aid War Effort”, “Teachers Aid War Effort” and even “Convicts Aid War Effort”. What groups might your ancestors have been a  part of that aided the war effort in your community? What habits such as saving aluminum foil, developed through years of rationing, survived in your family beyond the war years? Have you ever even contemplated why grandma and grandpa were so pesky about saving certain things?

When researching your family history during war years, remember to think (and search!) broadly for more than the soldiers involved. No one was spared. Incorporating that context into your story will leave a fuller picture of these years for generations to come.

Happy Hunting

By Rorey Cathcart
The Who Hunter LLC

Copyright (c) 7 March 2014

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Rorey Cathcart, “World War II Genealogy: More Than Soldiers” posted 7 March 2014, The Who Hunter ( : accessed [DD Month YYYY])

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About the Author ()

Professional genealogist and lecturer. Located in Charleston County, SC. Special research interests in South Carolina, Southern States, Irish Heritage and Migratory Patterns. Researcher for Genealogy Roadshow on PBS seasons two and three.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jana Last says:


    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

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