Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Military History and a New Resource from Ancestry.com

Every so often, I browse through the new searchable resources available on Ancestry.com.  The majority of my research these days is done on the local level, or using free sites such as FamilySearch.org, Castle Garden (for immigrants arriving in New York before 1890), newspaper archive sites such as Genealogybank.com and Newspapers.com, and Fold3.com for military information.  I still pay pay a monthly subscription (begrudgingly!) to Ancestry because of my DNA testing and results; also, I occasionally use the local search features by state or county. 

This week, I noticed a GREAT new resource for anyone with veteran ancestors who served in the US Navy - "Registers of Patients at Naval Hospitals from 1812-1934".  My husband is the one in our household with family members who served in the US Navy (he's doing his job to keep that tradition alive!).  Since our surname - Melvey - is very uncommon, I always start there when searching a new database.  Never know what you might discover!

A while back, I wrote a Memorial Day post about Ernest Melvey, my husband's paternal great-uncle.  While not a direct ancestor (I usually focus my research on directs only), we were both captivated by his story of survival from WWI.  According to a news article published in the Aberdeen American in South Dakota (1 January 1919), Melvey's ship - the USS Westover - was blown out of the water en route to Europe by a German submarine.  Eleven of the ninety-three crew members were killed.  The remaining crew managed to swim their way to three freed rescue boats, including the captain, who brilliantly tossed his officer's coat for a seaman's uniform.  When a group of Germans approached the rescue boats "demanding surrender of the captain", the crew "told the [Germans] he had been killed when the torpedo struck" (Aberdeen American, 1 January 1919). 

After four days of floating in open water, the survivors were rescued by a French fisherman and brought to Brest, France.  Ernest Melvey sustained a hip injury in the accident and spent some time in the Naval Hospital 5 in Brest.  Using the new database on Ancestry.com, I located his entry in the hospital register:
9 October 1818

22 November 1918
30 November 1918
 What a neat snippet of history to add to the news stories about his ordeal!  According to other news articles I located, his parents - Paul's great grandparents Nels N. Melvey and Ingeborg (Johannesdatter) Melvey - did not hear about their son's accident until weeks after it occurred.  I can only imagine their shock and worry. 

Very thankful for these digital resources that enable us to add a little color to our research!




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