I hope to share research, information, tips, and a little of my family history with others following the path to greater genealogical awareness. Let the search for enlightenment continue...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Over There!: My Grandfather and World War I


(Digital Images. Photographs and Postcard Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Over There! Poster in the public domain, available Wikipedia; Photographs, Postcard, and Text, Copyright (c) 2014 Cynthia Shenette) I've written a number of posts about my grandfather's service in World War I.  While I've enjoyed delving into my research for my various posts, it's easy to overlook the big picture in relation to individual parts.  For Bill West's Geneablogger's First World War Challenge I thought I'd put the pieces together and create a sort of timeline of events about my grandfather's time in the service to try to create a cohesive whole out of the many parts.

Adolf Szerejko, Augusta, GA

My grandfather, Adolf Szerejko was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1895.  He immigrated to the States in 1913 at age 18 to avoid conscription into the Russian army.  I've written about it before, but my grandfather's brother Wincenty was conscripted into the Russian army at a young age and neither my grandfather nor their parents ever saw Wincenty again.  To spare my grandfather and his brother Aleksander the same fate, their parents arranged for Adolf and Aleksander to immigrate to the United States.  The brothers arrived in the United States through Ellis Island, and my grandfather eventually settled in Worcester, MA.  While my grandfather was lucky enough to avoid conscription into the Russian army his immigration to the United States coincided with the start of the First World War.

Adolf Szerejko, Augusta, GA

According to his World War I draft card Adolf registered for the draft on 2 June 1917.  At that time he lived at 55 Lafayette St. in Worcester, MA.  He was born in Warsaw Poland and worked as a machinist at Babcock Printing Press Co. in New London, CT.  This fact has always confused me in that, as far as I've been aware my grandfather always lived in Worcester, other than living with a relative for a brief time in Webster, MA.  His name appears as Adolph Sharaiko, in the Worcester City Directories for the years 1914 and 1915, but he disappears for time in the directories until after the war.  His draft card lists him as single, Caucasian, of medium height and weight, with brown eyes and brown hair.  Interestingly, his card looks as if he registered in Ward 5, Precinct 1 in Worcester, but the card is signed by the assistant city clerk of New London, CT.

According to a record from Ancestry's U. S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 database, Adolf enlisted on 15 December 1917.  The application indicates he served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army Air Service, 2nd Company 3rd Regiment Air Service Mechanics.

The back of the first photo indicates that it was taken on 7 February 1918.  The back of the second more casual picture indicates the photo was taken on 17 February 1918. Both photos were taken at Camp Hancock, Augusta, GA.  I suspect that given that he enlisted in December of 1917 and was in Georgia by February of 1918 he was perhaps there for basic training before being sent overseas.

Camp Green Charlotte NC

My grandfather also spent some time at Camp Green in Charlotte, NC.  I have some wonderful candids from his time at Camp Green.  You can see them in my previous post here.  I don't know exactly when and how long he was at Camp Green, but my guess is probably sometime in the early spring of 1918.


Adolf Szerejko, Leaning Out Window

The photo above is one of my favorites.  The chalk writing on the train says, " Going to GET the Kaiser" "Scranton, PA US Aviation Section Regulars Going to Berlin via France."  The back of the photo says, "Taken at Rocky Mountain South Carolina Adolf"


My grandfather sent this post card to my grandmother after he arrived in France in September 1918.  According to the post card he left for France on 7 July 1918.  You can read my post on the post card here.


The text of the postcard reads:

September 1st 1918

My dear Antosia,
Tonight I received letter from you which I'm very thankful for. I was very pleased when I got it because I didn't have any news from you for over a month. You wrote that letter on July 7th and same night I was on the way. You may be impatient that you are not getting letters from me too often but you have to get use to it. Write to me as often as you can because letter is the thing [illegible]
I'm sending my regards to everyone.
Yours Adolf


My grandfather was an airplane mechanic for the duration of the war.  I have a large collection of World War I air plane photo post cards that were part of his collection.  You can see a sample of those post cards in a previous post here.

Adolf Szerejko, Far Right

I also have this photo in my collection.  The back of the photo indicates that it was taken in Orly Seine, Paris.  The soldiers are wearing what appear to be flu masks, so the photo was probably taken sometime in the fall of 1918 or the winter of 1919.  You can see my post about the photo here.


The image above is a scan of one of my favorite items in my collection.  It is a pass that says my grandfather had permission to be absent on 26 December 1918 between the hours of 9AM and 10 PM for the purpose of visiting Paris.  You can read my post about it here.

Antonina  (Bulak) Szerejko and Adolf Szerejko

I don't know exactly when the photo above was taken.  Knowing my grandmother she would never wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, so the photo was probably taken in the summer of 1918 or 1919. My grandfather left for France in the summer of 1918 and returned in the summer of 1919.  My grandparents were probably not yet engaged when the photograph was taken, because my grandmother is not wearing an engagement ring in the photo.

According to the U. S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 database on Ancestry my grandfather was discharged from the service on 11 July 1919...

Adolf Szerejko and Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko

...and my grandparents were married in February of 1920.  The Great War was over and their new life together was about to start.



Other Posts You Might Like:

Photo Story: Helping the Red Cross During World War I
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers
Picnic! - Wordless Wednesday
Visiting the Tenement Museum in NYC - Follow Friday