The Drive-in Movie has to be one of the best ideas ever. Did you know the first Drive-In Movie Theater opened June 6, 1933? I grew up not too far from the Malta Drive-In and for as long as I can remember it was a quintessential part of my summer. You'd call up your friends and neighbors, windex the car windshield, get your lawn chairs and blankets, and head down route 9 for a summer night under the stars. Looking back, I probably thought everyone had a drive-in theater. It was such a normal thing. But was it?? You tell me! Did you have a drive in movie theater? Do you know when and where the first Drive in Movie Theater opened?
"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Entries in new jersey (10)
* researching my grandfather's ww2 experience from the European Theater of Operations, 324th Infantry, 44th Division
Colonel Joseph Kirkbride Wright, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division.
My grandfather, Joseph K Wright, served our country during WWII. He passed away in 2004 and I sooo regret that I never talked to him about the war. It's too late to hear the stories directly from him, but items he saved and stories he told my dad have helped pass down pieces of his legacy. I don't have many records or documentation from the Army, but I do have pictures, a typed Itinerary of his tour in Europe, and his military decorations.
Joseph was born February 1916 in Camden, NJ to Joseph K Wright and Mary Nolen. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1939 and then in 1943 he was stationed in Olympia, Washington when he married my grandmother Marjorie Middleton. His unit was scheduled for deployment and departed NYC September 4, 1944 on the USS WH Gordon and arrived 11 days later in Cherbourg, France. A typed out itinerary of dates, locations, and details from my grandfather's tour with the 3rd Battalion, 324th Infantry was found amongst the family pictures. I believe this document was typed by Joseph, he LOVED his typewriter. I have compared many of his notes with information provided by other WWII veterans and their family members and it matches up so well! This document has tons of interesting details and has lead to a ton of side research. Which is why this post has taken forever to put together, I keep getting sidetracked with all this crazy information!
I'm not sure who/where/when the group picture to the upper left was taken, no label! Joseph is not in the picture to the upper right, but the note on the back says "Typical meeting- everybody is mad. Ruette, Austria". According to Joseph's Itinerary, he was in Reutte, Austria around April 30-May 4, 1945.
Joseph's 4 brothers (Thomas, Jack, Vince, & Jerry) also served in the war, making his mother, Mary Nolen Wright, a 5 star mother.
Joseph's oldest brother Thomas is all the way to the left, in the middle his youngest brother Jerry, and younger brother Jack on the right. I am told by my Great Aunt that she remembers someone showing her a newspaper article with a picture of Mary Wright with the Mayor of Camden where he was giving thanks to their family sacrifice. Haven't had any luck finding this article just yet...
Medals and Military Decorations
I just found out this past weekend that my parents have Joseph's WWII medals and ribbon bars. SO HAPPY. I haven't been able to check them out in person just yet, but I can't waiiittt! There is so much information here I will save the bulk of the information for a later post, but I want to share a few goodies that make me so proud.
D. Broze Star (V pin for Valor and Silver Oak Leaf denoting 5 bronze stars- see on matching ribbon bar)
E. Purple Heart - The story as told to me by my dad. "Joseph was sitting on the floor in a house or building with his head in front of a window. He had taken off his helmet and a bullet came through the window and just grazed his head. WOW. What a precious few inches.
F. Silver Star- 3rd highest Military Award that can be given to any branch of the Military.
Use Google Maps to trace your soldier's route!
I love making google maps. I use this free tool all the time for plotting out where my ancestors lived. I've used it to make a private custom map of Joseph's route through Europe. I took the information from the typed itinerary and placed markers for each town on my custom map. I've writen a HOW TO post for this! See how easy it is to make a custom google map!
A snapshot of my custom google map tracing Joseph K Wright's tour in Europe during WWII.
He made his was way from the port of Cherbourg to Luneville, France. A few weeks moving through Western France and by mid March they arrived at the Rhine River and were almost into Germany. He was in Germany from the end of March 1945 until the very end of April, when he was moved to Ruette and later Nauders, Austria.
July 5, 1945 he embarked for the US at Le Havre, France- first making a stop at Southampton, England. Then he boarded the "Queen Elizabeth" in Greenoch, Scotland on July 15, 1945 arriving in NY 5 days later at 11:30pm July 20, 1945.
I can't wait to learn and to share my finds. It really puts things into a different perspective. I am so thankful and awed by all of our soldiers and veterans. Thank you for your dedication to our freedom and our country. Your sacrifice and memories will be remembered.
If you have any experience or research tips for researching a WWII veteran, pleeease share your stories and tips!
Want to start researching a WW II veteran?
To find out more about my grandfather's military history, I completed an online records request with the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records. In 3 short weeks I found a thick envelope in my mailbox- see how!
Spend a few extra minutes examining your family pictures. Look closer at the background details (location, buildings, furniture, etc). You might discover new details leading you to solve a mystery or better understand the significance of a picture. In the case of this flowery picture, it was a mystery! A label on the back gave me some clues, but for the longest time I couldn't make a connection with anyone in my tree. The back of the picture tells me this is Alice and Frank Robinson, they lived in Livingston NJ, and they were cousins of my great grandfather Wentworth Middleton. After months away from looking at this picture I randomly realized I had all of the information right in front of me!
After going through all of my old family pictures, I organized them by family and was left with a pile of unknown mystery pictures. These pictures have no labels or snippets of information. It was easy to put them into the back of my photo album and focus my time on scanning and attaching the known faces to a name. After working with the labeled pictures I had more information and clues to help me when examining the mystery pictures. These pictures have been passed down by many generations and my thoughtful ancestors added whatever information they had about the picture's location or their own personal relationship to the individual. ANY clues are a luck find, but it can be very frustrating when can't identify unknown faces! I'd love the opportunity to share a picture of someones ancestor with them!
5 mystery pictures...
Mystery Photo #1. "Santa Rosa"
On the back of this picture it simply says "Santa Rosa", what does that mean????? I know this is a Shaw Family portrait with my great great grandmother Ann, great grandmother Edith, and my grandmother Marjorie. A few of the others I am able to identify from other labeled Shaw pictures, but most are just guesses or completely unknown. The only clues in this picture are the ages of Ann and Marjorie, Ann died in 1939 and Marjorie was born in 1917. That tells me the picture was taken on or before 1939 and from the looks of Marjorie she is about 15-20? So I am guessing this picture was taken sometime between 1932-1939.
Mystery Photo #2. Woman and baby Tintype
This mystery may never be solved, I think it's likely that this could be one of the few, if not the only, picture of this woman. I believe this picture is a tintype and from what I've read the usage of Tintype photography spans the years of 1856-1900ish. I have a few daguerreotypes from the Franks family, maybe this is a Franks woman? Any suggestions on how to find out who this is?
Mystery Picture #3- Shaw Women
Again I know this is the Shaw Family and the 3 women in the front row: (from right) Marjorie, Edith, and Ann. No description or markings on the back! To me they look a LITTLE bit older than mystery picture #1, so maybe it was taken 1933-1939?
Mystery Picture #4. Co L 3rd Infantry , 1st Sgt. Lester D. May...?
This picture is from one of the first pages of an old black construction paper photo album. After looking through the album MANY times I have linked similar jewelry and settings with other labeled Shaw pictures, so I am lead to believe there are Shaw women in this album, but for most part I have NO IDEA who the individuals are. This album will soon have it's own post!
I was able to remove the picture from the paper (VERY VERY GENTLY, I don't recommend!) and realized there was writing on the back!
1st Sgt. Lester D. May...
Co L 3rd Inf. C.A.
Any ideas what year this picture might be from??
Mystery Picture #5. Postcard to my Great Grandmother Mary Nolen from Lula?
7 July 1908, Rochester, NY- "This is one Ray took of me at Palmers Glen. I will send you more as soon as.."
..."he gets them done. Hope you are feeling well these hot days. Ans soon. Yours, Lula."
I don't know who Lula is! I don't have any leads to Rochester or anyone named Lula...The date of the postcard and the usage of my great grandmothers maiden name give me some sort of time line as to when Mary married my great grandfather. I don't know when they married but Mary Nolen would have been about 20 when she got this postcard in 1908 and she had their first child abt 1914, so they were most likely married between July 1908-1914. But I'm still on the lookout for Lula and Ray....
The message here: don't let mystery pictures slip through the cracks! There are many different types of clues you can get from pictures that will help you identify pictures and create a time line of your ancestors life. I've never tried any face recognition software...should that be a next step??
Clues to look for in pictures: clothing, jewelry, furniture, backgrounds, location, labels, markings from the photo processor, photographer name/location, shape, size, paper type, and photography type...to list a few!
How have you identified pictures? Do you have unknown family pictures in your albums? Are they hanging on your wall? I'd love to hear your stories!