I Discovered My Grandfather’s Account of His WWI Service Thanks to a MyHeritage Record Match

I Discovered My Grandfather’s Account of His WWI Service Thanks to a MyHeritage Record Match

MyHeritage user Linda Schmidt of California has been researching her family history for 15 years. Last year, she received a Record Match on MyHeritage that led her to a stunningly detailed account of her grandfather’s experiences serving in the U.S. Army during World War I. Here is her story:

Up until last year, I knew just 3 things about my maternal grandfather’s World War l experience: that shortly after marrying my grandmother on May 26, 1918, he enlisted in the U.S. Army; that during World War l, he served in France; and that he was severely injured in action. In more than a decade of family history research, this was all I was able to discover.

Linda’s grandparents, Roy H. Evans and Jennie Finn Evans, in May of 1918

Linda’s grandparents, Roy H. Evans and Jennie Finn Evans, in May of 1918

Then, last year, I received a Record Match on MyHeritage that changed everything.

The match indicated that a historical book had been discovered with my grandfather’s name in it. I quickly followed the link and it took me to the MyHeritage website. The book highlighted on the page was titled The National in the World War and was published in 1920.

Photo of the cover of The National in the World War

Photo of the cover of The National in the World War

I began browsing the pages online, and yes — there was my grandfather, Roy Henry Evans!

The National Lamp Works of General Electric, the book’s publisher, created the book to honor those of its employees who had fought, and in so many cases given their lives, during service in World War l. Another purpose of the book was to recognize the awards that the company had received for their war efforts, including supplying lamps and helping in the development of the gas mask. I was delighted to discover that my grandfather, having worked for the Mahoning Ohio division of the company, had two pages dedicated to his service in the book, as well as a photo of him on another page.

Photo of Roy Henry Evans, Sr., Linda’s grandfather, in the book

Photo of Roy Henry Evans, Sr., Linda’s grandfather, in the book

Amazingly, part of the information included was my grandfather’s war experiences described in his own words.

On the first page, I found information on my grandfather’s enlistment, his basic training in the U.S., his further training in Great Britain, and details about the boat trip that took him and the rest of the company from England to France. Also, there was a description of his march through France to their destination below Verdun, France for the upcoming St. Mihiel-Argonne offensive. The book then went on to describe how he and his company spent many weeks of instruction throwing bombs and hand grenades, and in bayonet and gas drills, giving Roy his first taste of trench life in the Argonne Forest. Then came the day the soldiers went “over the top.”

“At 5:00 am, the first faint signs of dawn began creeping through the mist and fog that hung low over the ground, and at 5:15 am, we were ordered to stand to,” wrote my grandfather. “We lined up in the trench, made the straps on our light packs more secure, adjusted our equipment, pulled in our belts a couple of notches, and waited for the zero hour… At last, the zero hour had come. At a given command, we all scrambled up and out and over the top, yelling like madmen.  Forward we went — it was a sight to carry with you to the grave — swarming like a multitude of bees from a great hive. Out and on and over the top we went…”

He continued: “We kept pushing ahead for the next two days over hills, through wee small towns and through woods and ravines. Day and night, long lines of prisoners and of stretcher bearers carrying wounded filed to the rear. Airplanes fought overhead and crashed to earth. Observation balloons came down in flames. Machine-guns spit and artillery roared. At times, we literally had to hack our way through the jungle of wood growths. At times, it was like playing hide and seek, as very few Jerries could be seen… always with an eye on you — but you couldn’t see them.”

Sadly, during this time, my grandfather was shot in the thigh by a machine-gun bullet, fired by one of those “Jerries” that he described as concealed here, there, and everywhere. He then endured a horrible 18-hour ride over muddy, pot-holed roads before reaching an evacuation hospital. Roy spent the next 23 days in 3 different French hospitals, then was returned to the U.S., spending more hospital time in Virginia, before being honorably discharged February 3, 1919.

Though he walked with a slight limp after that, Roy lived on to give his 6 grandchildren cherished memories, and to experience the thrill of having 2 great-grandbabies.

Linda with her grandfather Roy on an outing in San Francisco, 1952

Linda with her grandfather Roy on an outing in San Francisco, 1952

Fortunately, I was able to find two 2012 reprints of the book for myself and my sister (my family genealogy partner).

Linda (right) and her sister Deanie Honsinger at a genealogy conference

Linda (right) and her sister Deanie Honsinger at a genealogy conference

This is amazing family history that I would never have discovered without the MyHeritage Record Match. These books and the information in them are definitely family treasures! Thank you, MyHeritage!

Many thanks to Linda for sharing her story! You can search the historical record collection where this book was found here: Historical Books – Index of Authors and People Mentioned, 1811–2003. You can also sign up for a MyHeritage account and receive Record Matches from all 15.1 billion records on MyHeritage straight to your inbox.