Starting WWII Research: Tips from Jennifer Holik

World War II research can be challenging, even for people who have been doing genealogy research for some time. Here are some tips you can use to get started researching a US serviceman (or woman) from WWII.

Starting WWII Research


Jennifer Holik is the founder of the World War II Research and Writing Center and is a noted expert in WWII research. In this short video, Jennifer shares her tips for getting started. (Click the Play arrow to get started.)


  • You might have more clues than you realize with sources you already have (letters, etc.)
  • Keep the envelopes! (Jennifer explains why.)
  • It was rare for soldiers to serve in only one unit
  • Yes, there was a horrible fire at the National Archives facility in St. Louis in 1973. Jennifer explains what was lost and how the National Archives is working to recover some of it.
  • The National Archives won't search for some specific records; you need to go in person or hire a researcher. 


(Note: the link to Jennifer's books on Amazon is an affiliate link, which means that I could be paid a commission when someone purchases through that link.)

Posted: May 23, 2018.

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  • Excellent interview and one that is so important. I have been very lucky as all four of my older brother and one brother-in-law served in the Navy during WWII and all of them lived long enough to tell of their service. I have one brother still living at age 97 who is a Pearl Harbor Survivor. I have at least 10 tapes recording of him describing his military service throughout the South Pacific from 1941 until 1945. They are not the best quality, but I am going to transcribe them and have a written copy as well.

  • Hi Amy,
    I read your blog regularly and love the tips and information. However, I am disappointed to see you posting a link to a video-only item from Jennifer Holik. I live in an area where the internet service is so poor that I cannot view videos like this. Since my dad was a WWII veteran, I would really like to “read” Jennifer’s suggestions, especially the one about saving envelopes from letters. Is it possible to also post a link for a transcript?

  • Thank you my father was in the third marine division in World war II (Iow Jima,
    Guam only ten men from his company made it back. I am looking for boot camp pictures of is unit at Paris Island. I have the rosters from IOW Jima for the unit.

  • I enjoyed reading this topic. Thank you for your suggestions! Just this past week I located documents (formerly unknown to me) with respect to my father’s WW2 service. With those newly found documents, Veterans’ Admin documents I had ordered (what little they had), internet research of his battalion, plus a few postcards between my parents (with return addresses!), I have been able to make a time line of my father’s service. This has been an exciting discovery for me as my parents divorced when I was 18 mos old, so I never really knew him. Secondly, I have a charcoal portrait of my mother that I was told was drawn by a German POW. Using the postcard return addresses, I learned that three of the military camps where my father was stationed before he went overseas were German POW camps! The last name of the artist is on the portrait. I’d be interested to know what became of him following the war. So far I’ve searched the last name online as a German POW but to date have had no luck locating any information.

  • I have a question about US Army morning reports. My Dad was out of the country for just over 3 years in WWII (Pacific Theater). So that is a lot of morning reports. Are they indexed by name? In other words, how does one narrow the search request if one needs to hire someone like Jennifer to find them? Are all of the US Army morning reports at St. Louis or are some at other NARA sites? Thanks for any info!

      • Hi Becky,
        Search “US Army Morning Reports” in a search engine:
        From Wikipedia:
        “In the United States Army, the ‘morning report’ was a document produced every morning for every basic unit of the Army, by the unit clerk, detailing personnel changes for the previous day. … The morning report detailed changes in the status of soldiers in the unit on the day the change occurred, including for example, transfers to or from the unit, temporarily assignment elsewhere (TDY), on leave, promotion or demotion, and other such events.”

    • Hi, Susie. The captions are there now. You might need to refresh your browser to see the option to view the captions. Thanks!