Soldiers learn how to search for family history
JC Jones | Herald staff writer | Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 4:30 am
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.