Monday, April 4, 2016

Oh, the advantages of having my family tree online at my blog!

Yours Truly at the Pima Air and Space Museum
Tucson, Arizon

Oh, the advantages of having my family tree online at my blog!

Some folks have their family tree online at Ancestry or Family Search, and these are accessible by apps on any smart phone or tablet.  If you are on the road you have access to your charts and information.  Other people have lots of photos available to them on their phones, or stored in the cloud at websites they can access on the fly if they need an image.  These are all handy if you are visiting relatives, or at a genealogical repository or archive and find the need to refer to your family tree.

There are other times that I find that I need more than basic dates, charts or photos.  This is when I’m so very grateful that I have a genealogy blog.  As I discover stories and detailed information on my family members, ancestors and relatives I like to blog about those discoveries.  And then these files are always available through my blog posts wherever I am in the world.  I’ve pulled up blog posts in Spain while interviewing my husband’s family for oral histories, and I’ve pulled up blog posts with letters written to Boston in the 1840s in Honolulu- while we were in Hawaii.  You never know when you might need those detailed stories.

This happened to me on a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona to visit friends.  I had no idea that I would need to access my Uncle’s World War II service information while on vacation.  It never would have occurred to me to bring that along on paper.  But we decided to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum because Vincent is an aerospace engineer, and he loves these kinds of museums.  I had no idea that I would find something wonderful at this museum.

We toured the museum like other tourists.  We were with friends, and we spent the entire day there on foot seeing the exhibits, and by tour bus seeing the “boneyard” where air craft is mothballed for future use.  It’s a huge museum, with many outbuildings (former hangars) used as exhibit space.   I was exhausted part of the way through the day, and decided to sit on a bench and watch the scenery while the rest of our group visited a few more buildings.  They came back to me at lunchtime all excited.  Vincent knew my uncle, Stanley Allen, Jr.,  flew in a B-29 during World War II, and they found one on display.  I promised I would go see it before we left for the day.

A B-29 Superfortress, just like the one my Uncle Stanley Allen, Jr. flew in during World War II

Well, at the very end of the day I found time to make my way over to the building where the B-29 Superfortress was displayed, and I’m very glad I did!  While I was posing in front of the  plane for a photo I noticed that there was a big display on the wall behind it.   I could see the words “Northwest Field Guam”.    A few years ago I had written up a big blog post about my Uncle Al’s service at Northwest Field, and how his squadron participated in the Bombing of Tokyo at the end of World War II.  We hurried over to see the display up close.

Well, as you can see in the photos, the display was all about the 21st Bomber Command under General Curtis Emerson LeMay.  There were separate display boards for different Bomb Groups, including one on the 501st showing all the different planes in the squadron.   I knew this because  I pulled up the blog post that told me he was in the 501st group.   The blog post had the photo of his plane “Orpen’s Orphans”, showing the guys in the plane and the nose art.   I quickly scanned the board for the 501st and found not just a matching photo, but the same photo

Well, this museum copy of the photo wasn’t exactly the same because it was labeled with names and each name had a letter next to it like TG for tailgunner, or P for Pilot.  Next to my uncle’s name, Stanley Allen, was the letter S.   I had no idea what that letter represented.  

We found a docent who told me that there were two scanners on each plane.  They were not bombers or tail gunners, but scanners who ran a complicated piece of high technology for World War II.  Each B-29 Superfortress was pressurized, so they could not have gunners aiming out of the belly of the plane.  The scanners sat inside the plane using cameras and computers to aim at the targets, and the computerized guns fired on their own. That was very interesting technology for 1945!  But also something that my uncle never talked about (like so many other World War II veterans). 




You can see my uncle's name on the bottom row,  "Stanley Allen" with the letter S

There he is. Stanley Allen!  Bottom row, second to the right. So young!

I was excited to find out what his job was during the Bombing of Tokyo, and also thrilled to see his photo and name on display at an important Air and Space museum!  Anyone visiting this museum can read all about the B-29s and the importance of the Northwest Air Field in Guam for bringing the end of World War II  to a close.

This is the window that held the computerized camera
 in the belly of the B-29

Two or three docents were very excited to give me a tour of the
Superfortress to show me where my uncle sat, and what his job was on board.


You can see my earlier 2010 blog post here:

Without this blog post I wouldn’t have been able to verify that this was the squadron my uncle served in during the war, and I certainly wouldn’t have remembered all the numbers like 21st Bomber Command and the 501st bomber group.   Having that information at the tips of my fingers was invaluable.  And the museum staff was excited when I showed them how the photo on my phone matched the one on the museum wall.  I was very happy to see my uncle's WWII service honored on the walls of the Pima Air and Space Museum.  



For the truly curious:

Pima Air and Space Museum   http://www.pimaair.org/

The 315th Bombardment Wing, Northwest Field Guam   http://www.315bw.org/


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Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Oh, the advantages of having my family tree online at my blog!", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 4, 2016 (  http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2016/04/oh-advantages-of-having-my-family-tree.html: accessed [access date]). 

10 comments:

  1. What an incredible experience! And you gave those docents a day they won't soon forget as well.

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  2. What a great adventure - glad you had the information with you!

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  3. The one to the right of your uncle looks like he belongs in jr high. The person who built a cottage across the street from our cottage in Rye (Wallis Sands Beach) joined the army when he was a junior in high school. I can't imagine giving permission for my son to have joined the army when he was a junior in high school. Those were different times.

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    1. Hi Dorothy! My mom just read this blog post and rang me up to tell me more about her brother. She said that he was in high school and wanted to join up right after graduation, but my grandparents wouldn't sign the paperwork because he was only 17. They made him wait until the following February when he turned 18. He was only 20 when the war ended. I can't imagine sending a son off to that war, but it was a different time back then!

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  4. I have had a similar experience, and one that went the other way. While visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC a number of years ago, I discovered an exhibit about Great Lakes shipbuilders, which featured a noted shipwreck. Although the shipbuilder was not my ancestor, Frederick Dillazone Ketchum, it was one of his partners, which I was able to confirm through my blog. The exhibit gave a fascinating view into their world, even if "great-grandpa" was not mentioned by name!
    After seeing a post about that same ancestor on my blog, someone from the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo OH reached out to me to let me know Capt Ketchum was featured in one of the exhibits there, which I probably would not have known about otherwise and duly went to see.
    Here's a link to my blog, if anyone wants to learn more about Ketchum and shipbuilding:
    http://robtsfamily.blogspot.com/2013/06/of-builders-and-steerers-of-ships.html

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    1. Great story, Rob't! I had a simiar experience at the Smithsonian when I found an ancestor's house from Ipswich had been deconstructed and moved to the American History museum. What a mind blowing thing, to find his house in the Smithsonian. I'm glad that you got to see the museum in Toledo, too!

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  5. I'm jealous! I was in Tucson several times and never saw this museum!

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  6. Heather,


    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-8-2016.html

    Have a great weekend!

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  7. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Tucson
    and the Air and Space Museum and Boneyard. I had never seen anything like it until I moved to Tucson. Next time visit the Titan Museum as well. You may not find a relative but it's very different.

    MaryAnn

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    1. We did visit the Titan Museum, too! Thanks for the suggestion. My favorite Tucson visit was the Desert Museum. It was fantastic! Nothing like it here in New Hampshire.

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