Soldiers learn how to search for family history – Fort Hood Herald: Homefront

Soldiers learn how to search for family history – Fort Hood Herald: Homefront

Soldiers learn how to search for family history

JC Jones | Herald staff writer | Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 4:30 am

Jim_scott_oas_pic

Family history search

Jim Scott, president of the Alexander Hamilton, chapter 66 of the Sons of the American Revolution, assists Maj. Wayne Williamson, Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Unit, in finding his family history through Operation Ancestor Search. The program offers free monthly genealogy training to wounded warriors and their families through Military Adaptive Sports and Programs.                                                                                          For some soldiers in transition, discovering links to their past has become a new hobby through Operation Ancestor Search.                                                                            Hosted by the Sons of the American Revolution, the program teaches soldiers how to locate information about their family history through ancestry.com, as well and similar websites.                                                                                                                             The monthly classes at Fort Hood are offered through Military Adaptive Sports and Programs, one of many opportunities for wounded, ill and injured service members in the Warrior Transition Unit.                                                                                             “Mentally, I think it helps. It gets them distracted so they’re not worrying about all the appointments they have and what’s going on at home and everything else,” said Staff Sgt. Shawntiasha Hughes with adaptive sports programs. “They can take the time to sit down, relax and get some good information.”                                                                    Volunteers from Texas chapters of Sons of the American Revolution teach soldiers how to operate the different websites during the training sessions, but Jeffrey Gammon, genealogist and registrar for Austin’s Patrick Henry Chapter, said it’s something they enjoy doing individually, as well.                                                                                           “A lot of them work on their own. Once we get them started and show them how, a lot of guys will work from their barracks or home,” Gammon said.                                     Through the searches, he said many discover fascinating information they never knew, which helps connect them to relatives.                                                                                 “A lot of them find ancestors that have been in the military … and they go back and find out their family has been fighting wars in America for 300 years,” he said.                             Second-time attendee Maj. Wayne Williamson, Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Unit, came to Operation Ancestor Search to seek missing information about his father and grandfather.                                                                                                                        “I’ve never really had a clear picture of my family tree. To have the opportunity to have someone help you walk through it was intriguing to me,” he said.                                   After spending most of his adult life away from home, Williamson said he missed out on finding out about family members, including the grandfather who adopted him and his brother.                                                                                                                         Through Operation Ancestor Search, he was able to discover his grandfather’s birth date.                                                                                                                                      “It’s just nice to know more about the people who raised you,” he said. “In minutes, I have info that I haven’t had all my life.”                                                                                 Hughes said the classes, like all of their programs, are available to soldiers’ spouses, who she encourages to attend.                                                                                           “It’s definitely a great support for the soldier,” she said.

Information about upcoming ancestor classes will be included in the Military Adaptive Sports and Programs monthly newsletter.                                                                         The program came to Fort Hood last year, and Gammon said they hope to increase the number of classes offered soon. “By March it’ll be twice a month, I believe. Our goal was two, and we’ll be there in a couple of months,” he said.

New Awards Page

While at an Estate Sale recently I happened upon a scrapbook from another Hereditary Society that was being sold.  In it were several years of history from that society – pictures, awards, documents, ribbons, basically all of the happenings and notable news from a very dedicated group of people.  The scrapbook was also obviously held in high-esteem as it was very well made and very well cared for, but due to the passing of its owner, a person displaced from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it was many miles away from a potential chapter member that would know what to do with it.  I left it where I found it, and as walked through the house looking at other items I felt a strong pull to go back and purchase that scrapbook hoping to return it to its former chapter and its rightful owners.

So that the important items documenting our chapter are not lost and with the responsibility of being our chapter’s current Historian, I’m creating a “Chapter Awards” page under “Our Chapter” to hold scanned copies all of our chapter awards and… whatever’s.

Ken Tooke – 03/2015

Operation Ancestor Search Looks Ahead to Long-Term Sustainability

by Rick Kincaid, OAS Program Director

The Operation Ancestor Search program is embarking on a new chapter in its history as we approach the expiration of our three-year program grant from Ancestry.com this coming August 31.  We now are actively seeking additional sources of funding to replace the annual grant from Ancestry.  We also are developing a strategic plan to help guide us in reaching financial sustainability for future growth.

We appreciate the support that Ancestry.com has given to the OAS program since its inception, both financially with its cash grant of $180,000 over the past three years and in-kind by providing the online Ancestry.com accounts for the program participants.  Ancestry will continue to provide free access to its online accounts for the participants, which guarantees future access to its family of databases (including Fold3.com and Newspapers.com), Family Tree Maker software and related support materials.

Operation Ancestor Search seeks replacement funding for the program grant as it moves toward long-term financial self-sufficiency.  The OAS leadership is in the process of developing a strategic plan outlining the program’s operations, finances, marketing, public relations, and community outreach.  This strategic plan builds on the program’s growth, addresses the challenges facing the program in the future, and strategically lays out the direction and plan of action for others to join with the SAR and ensure the OAS program’s sustainability.

The Ancestry.com grant has enabled the SAR to hire a full-time OAS Program Director at its national headquarters in Louisville and has super-charged the expansion of the program.  Since OAS Program Director Rick Kincaid started in April, 2013, the number of program facilities has grown from four to the 21 current locations, and more on the drawing board or in various stages of development.

The changing nature of U.S. military combat action fortunately has resulted in a decline in the number of injured military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a result, the population centers of wounded warriors is changing as the injured service members and their families transition from major military medical centers to dispersed military, veteran and civilian medical facilities.  When wounded warriors return to service, they are reassigned to Warrior Transition Brigade units or they separate or retire from the military.  While their location and status change, there remains a long (and often permanent) process of medical treatment and recovery.

OAS will address this challenge by gradually shifting its primary target locations from the major treatment facilities (although these will remain a big part of the program) to other medical facilities that continue to treat veterans and wounded warriors.  In addition, OAS will look to engage other facilities that support injured or ill service members, e.g., VA medical facilities, Fisher Houses, veteran retirement homes, etc.  OAS leaders at all levels also will work to maintain and develop relationships with other organizations that may provide additional resources, volunteers and support for the program.

OAS must ensure that it remains a priority program within the SAR.  Continued support within the national, state and local leadership is necessary for continued success.  Throughout the SAR, OAS is considered one of the most worthwhile and exciting programs that the organization offers to support veterans and advance our mission of patriotism.  A continued presence at national, regional, state and local meetings and conferences will ensure that OAS remains a prominent part of the NSSAR’s program offerings.

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For additional information about Operation Ancestor Search, contact Program Director Rick Kincaid at rkincaid@sar.org or (502) 588-6147.