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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