World War I Genealogy: Next of Kin and Roll of Honor Reports

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak searches old newspapers to find WWI casualty lists that tell us about our military ancestors – and their next of kin. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

As many have observed, I like to test the limits of queries at GenealogyBank – so today I entered “Next of Kin” to see what was out there. One result reminded me to look for other keywords including “Roll of Honor.”

Photo: “The Greatest Mother in the World” – Red Cross Christmas roll call
Photo: “The Greatest Mother in the World” – Red Cross Christmas roll call. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Eureka – I got back some very interesting returns, particularly in regards to American Casualty Lists. They exist for several military events, but World War I seems the most common for extensive lists.

WWI Next of Kin Newspaper Reports

This next of kin report from the Omaha Daily Bee shows Nebraskans and Iowans named in the casualty list given out by the government on 1 December 1918. The list includes:

  • First Name, Middle Initial and Surname
  • Next of Kin
  • City and State
A WWI casualty list, Omaha Daily Bee newspaper article 1 December 1918
Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska), 1 December 1918, page 11

It’s startling to see all of the casualties — but very helpful to family historians to see who was named as the next of kin by the troops.

In the report, we see various descriptions of their passing, including changes in previously reported statuses:

  • Died of Accident
  • Died of Disease
  • Killed in Action
  • Killed in Action: Previously Reported Missing in Action
  • Missing in Action
  • Slightly Wounded
  • Wounded in Action: Degree Undetermined
  • Wounded: Degree Undetermined
  • Wounded: Degree Undetermined, Previously Reported Missing in Action
  • Wounded Severely

WWI Roll of Honor Newspaper Reports

In the Jersey Journal, they took the reports one step further. In this example from 13 July 1918, we see:

  • Person’s Name
  • Rank and Division
  • Home Address
  • Next of Kin Reported, Not by Name, but by Relationship
A WWI honor roll, Jersey Journal newspaper article 13 July 1918
Jersey Journal (Jersey City, New Jersey), 13 July 1918, page 6

The Next Step

After finding a next of kin list, look for corresponding proofs such as:

  • Obituaries in hometown newspapers
  • Obituaries in newspapers of the next of kin

Did You Find Your Military Next of Kin?

If you found family casualties using GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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10 thoughts on “World War I Genealogy: Next of Kin and Roll of Honor Reports

  1. I found my first cousin, twice removed, Philip Manning, in the New Orleans Times Picayune obit section. I was researching my surname, McAuliffe, and found Bridget McAuliffe. I knew she was my great grandfather’s sister so I looked at the obit and it said “killed in action.” I knew Bridget had not been killed in action and as I read the obit I discovered her son, Pvt. Philip Manning, son of Bridget McAuliffe and the late Timothy Manning, had been killed in France on 14 Oct. 1918. Naturally, I continued researching this “new” family info using GenealogyBank, Ancestry.com and Fed. Govt. websites. Philip is buried at the Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France. This is the largest American Cemetery in Europe.

    To make a long story short, I found a New Orleans-based historical tour company and made a trip over to France and Belgium; I visited Philip’s grave on 10 Nov. 2018 and on 11 Nov. 2018 I was at the WWI 100th anniversary ceremonies in Paris, France.

    1. Mary Ellen,

      Thank you for sharing your story and how you took the time to visit Pvt. Philip Manning’s grave. That was a wonderful thing to do.

      Mary

  2. Thank you so much for posting your World War I genealogy article. For some time now I’ve been trying to find my grandfather. My father was illegitimate and was given very little information concerning his father. What was passed down was his name (only due to the fact that his name was listed on my father’s birth certificate), and that my grandfather died in World War I and was killed in Meuse, France. That’s it, that’s what I have to work with. Using your article as a guide, hopefully I will once and for all be able to find Grandfather.

  3. My great grandfather Walter Jordan Sr. served in the War and his son Walter Jordan Jr. was in World War II and the Vietnam War; his grandsons Terris Tatum and Charles Bone Milton Bone both served, as did great great grandson Gerald Tatum. Generation after generation has served their country!

    1. Patrina,

      Thank you for sharing how so many generations in your family have served their country.

      Mary

  4. I am not sure where to type in the next of kin. I get “next of kin” highlighted, or each of the words highlighted. Can you give me some guidance please?

    1. Hi Rita,

      When you are on the GenealogyBank site, the search boxes may be limited to just “First Name: and “Last Name” or they may show more options. If you don’t see additional fields, look under “Search” and select “Advanced Search” by clicking on it.

      You should now see additional fields pertaining to specific date ranges or dates, keywords, location, specific newspapers and collections.

      Click next to “Keywords” and type in “next of kin” by surrounding it with quotations. Add any additional search items and select “Search” to continue. When through, you can return to “Simple Search”, although you may find it convenient to leave it with Advanced Search” selected. Hope this helps you find who you are looking for — and thank you for letting me know this tip from my blog needed to be clarified.

      Mary

      Mary

  5. Debbie,

    You’re welcome. Hope you find more about your grandfather. You might also try contacting the Department of Veteran Affairs (also known as the VA) to see if a DD-214 form is available or if a pension was ever paid to a survivor. I would also search court records for child support documents.

    Mary

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