Genealogy: KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

I am now officially a member of the KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society!  I paid my dues Tuesday night and it is official.  It is a very exciting thing for me because, up until now, the VAST majority of my research has been online or through family resources.  KYOWVA has resources for a handful of counties in which my ancestors lived/worked.  I am hoping to find time (in my schedule and that of the library’s) that I am able to go, sit and read through the volumes of information for those counties and hope to find treasure.

Included in my membership is a quarterly newsletter that will be mailed to my house.  I was given the last four newsletter and they are very well done.  A lot of care goes into this Society, a lot of great work for people (like me) who want to chip away at the mysteries of who our ancestors were and what their lives were like.

I was fortunate that on Tuesday there was a guest speaker.  Per the Herald Dispatch regarding our young speaker:

In the 1920s, around the time the U.S. was celebrating its first Veterans Day, which was known at that time as Armistice Day, 91 trees were planted in honor of the soldiers from Cabell County who gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.  The trees start near the Memorial Boulevard intersection with 14th Street West in Old Central City and go east all the way to 12th Avenue.  To mark those trees, a metal cross was placed at the foot of the tree. To further honor these soldiers, a limestone arch was erected nearby in 1929, in what is now knows as Memorial Park.  While the Veterans Memorial Arch still stands today, the metal crosses are long gone, having been melted down in the 1930s to aid with World War II manufacturing.  With no permanent marking signifying the importance of these trees, most pass by them unaware of their significance.  For Veterans Day last year, and for first time in decades, the Buford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) finally gave notice to these trees by wrapping them with ribbons and placing signs naming the Cabell County soldiers who served in World War I.

Having read about these efforts, Benjamin Woodard, a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 62 in Huntington, was struck by the feeling that more could be done to permanently mark these trees and their significance.  This notion would eventually lead Woodard on a nearly 10-month project that consisted of hundreds of hours of research as well as help from the several organizations near and far.  As a Boy Scout, Woodard, 14, turned this venture into his Eagle Scout project.  When he started the project in January 2017, Woodard was given a list of names from the local DAR and not much else.  From there he spent months researching their names using online databases. To further his research, he also enlisted the help of Nancy Von Behren, a regent at the St. Louis-Jefferson Chapter DAR in Missouri.  Woodard tasked Von Behren with helping him acquire information from the National Personal Records Center in St. Louis, which also contains military personnel records.  Von Behren, whose father was a World War I veteran, said she went to the National Archives for Woodard three times to collect info on dozens of soldiers. After roughly 500 hours of research, scouring hundreds of documents, Woodard had more than enough information to bring his project to life.

After his presentation, he took questions for those of us in attendance.  I asked about his studies in history and he noted that he had previously enjoyed the history of WWII, so learning about WWI was a new appreciation.  He mentioned that one might think the soldier he was able to get the most information on would be his favorite, however, the ones he had to work hardest to find information on became the ones he appreciated most.  During his presentation, he kept saying “my soldiers”.  What a great thing, to be honored through remembering.  I commend this young man for his efforts to honor those fallen soldiers.  What a joy to listen to him speak!

At the end of the evening, he passed out a reference sheet and I offer it here, in the event that others who research their West Virginia family line (and who have WV soldiers in that line) might find some use in it.

After the meeting adjourned, Renau and I drove to the Memorial Arch and we admired (best we could as it was nighttime and dark) the tree lined street .  This area, just below Ritter Park, is a run course for most 5k races that start in Ritter Park.  I had seen the arches numerous times but I had no idea of the story behind the trees next to it.

Going forward, I hope to have regular posts about my personal family tree finds and any resources I use that might be useful to others.  If you have links that you find interesting, I would love to discuss!  Do you research your family genealogy?  Are there references you find useful?  I would be interested in hearing about them!  Let me know in the comments below!

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