Genealogists Helping Others

Many of the skills we pick up as genealogists, whether we are amateurs or professionals, in finding long-lost relatives from ages past can be used in a more contemporary manner.

Found and not Forgotten (Independent Record, Helena, Montana), written by Martin Kidston, details how the family of a crewman onboard a US Navy PBY Catalina that was shot down over Alaska during the Aleutian Island Campaign in 1942, was tracked down in 2005, with the aid of genealogists.

Shortly after Smith’s remains were positively identified by the JPAC lab in Hawaii, Sanchez began searching for the family. Eight months would pass before his search paid off.

“Mr. Smith was one of seven members onboard that aircraft,” Sanchez said. “He was the hardest to locate family for because of the commonality of his name.”

Armed with Smith’s original casualty report, which listed next of kin alive at that time, Sanchez began his search. As in many cases, his efforts turned to local newspapers and the Internet. Even that wasn’t enough to crack the case.

“I’ve got four others who help conduct these searches who are retired and who practice genealogy as a hobby,” Sanchez said. “The only reason I found Smith’s family — and it was looking like I wasn’t going to find them — is because one of those people pulled out a miracle.”

Another article, Genealogy buff finds elderly Katrina survivor’s kin, by Cindy Tumiel for the San Antonio Express-News (, details the efforts of Barbara Harrell, a genealogist living in San Antonio, to track down the relatives of a woman airlifted to San Antonio with nothing more than an ID wristband with a misspelled name. I came across this article while browsing The Genealogue and figured it was an interesting contrast to the first article.

The next time somebody scoffs about genealogists spending too much time looking for people long since dead, send them these two articles.

Leave a Comment