Readers’ questions are always welcome. As I look for answers, I range into history, geography and specialized subjects that are new to me. Genealogists never stop learning!
This week, Mike Corwin (Albuquerque, New Mexico) asked:
Do you have any recommendations for tracing Jewish soldiers?
My grandfather, who had 110 first and second cousins, had a first cousin who held a Congressional Medal of Honor, and also used to speak about another cousin who rode with “Black Jack” Pershing, and who also fought in China.
My father, who has since passed away, had a photograph of him at the Yangtze River that the cousin had sent to him. However, my mother has been unable to find it.
At first glance, the history matches Sam Dreben [Dribben, Drebben], but my grandfather’s version was that the cousin was a pipefitter who ran afoul of the law and joined the military instead of going to jail, while Dreben was supposedly a tailor.
I would appreciate any suggestions or references you think would be helpful.
Unfortunately, my grandfather died more than 20 years ago and none of the relatives can think of this cousin’s name although we all remember the story.
For starters, I went to www.jewish-history.com, which offers many interesting articles and links to a surprising number of resources. It has a very detailed article on Dreben (click on the Wild West section), and links to several sites with information about Jewish servicemen and women.
I searched JewishGen’s discussion group archives and found some interesting leads.
A JewishGenner in Austin, Texas came up with information about Dreben, who fought in Mexico about 80 years after the Alamo, as well as Louis “Moses” Rose (1785-1850), a French soldier who was at the Alamo in 1836 with Jim Bowie, Davie Crockett and William Barrett Travis. Rose’s story was recorded in the Texas Almanac of 1873 by William Zuber, son of Abraham Zuber, to whose ranch Rose escaped. Rose, according to Leonard, had been a lieutenant, and had received a Legion of Honor medal from Napoleon’s army. There were two others among the 182 Alamo defenders who may have been Jews; one was named Wolf.
Another Jew at the Battle of Bexar with Rose in December 1835, before the Alamo, was Moses Albert Levy, Sam Houston’s surgeon general. Levy served in the Texas volunteer army and the Navy. Born in Amsterdam, he lived in Matagorda County, and married a non-Jewish woman. His family in Richmond disowned him and allegedly he committed suicide in 1848.
The National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington DC, operates under the auspices of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. According to the Web site, the museum’s archival collections contains substantial material from the Civil War to the present, including original photographs, letters, diaries, films, military documents, newspapers and manuscripts related to Jewish-American military history. It also has materials relating to the JWV (1896-present).
While there is a notice that individuals may make an appointment to conduct research, it also says that due to limited staff resources, the museum cannot undertake research requests for individuals. However, they may be able to recommend a private researcher.
As far as “Black Jack” Pershing, an entry at www.arlingtoncemetery.net relates that John Joseph Pershing was one of America’s most famous Army officers. Born in Missouri in 1860, he graduated from West Point and served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection, Mexican Expedition and was overall American Commander in Europe during World War I. After the war, he served as Army Chief of Staff.
In regard to the Yangtze Patrol and American Naval forces in China, there is interesting information at library.nps.navy.mil/home/bibs/yangtzeintro.htm, www.history.navy.mil/library/online/yangtze.html (Navy Department Library, Historical manuscripts and catalog), and www.geocities.com/songkhla.geo/YANGTZE.html, which offers pictures of the boats and other information.
It is possible that these sources may provide leads to crew lists, which might help in narrowing down the name of Mike's ancestor.
Once his name is known, Mike can check with the National Archives as to military records and pension records. Go to the online microfilm catalog, www.archives.gov/genealogy/military, which explains what resources are available dating from the Revolutionary War to the present, and offers a great deal of information on conducting searches.
Films may be borrowed via public library Interlibrary Loan at a public library or through a Mormon Family History Center.
Mike, please let Tracing the Tribe know if these resources have provided any answers.
And if anyone else has a lead for Mike, please post them here!