Finding Granddad’s WWII Records

This post is a shameless plug. But, it’s the real deal. So, stick with me.

This past year, I wanted to find my grandfather, Robert H. Dickson, Jr’s World War II service record. I had sent away for his packet some years back and discovered that it was not available. You might remember there was a terrible fire in St. Louis in 1973 at the records center housing many of the personnel records from the Army and the Marines. I thought that was probably the end of that.

Then, I was watching the live stream from RootsTech last year had heard Jennifer Holik speak. She talked about the fact that, while individuals’ records might have been lost, they could often be reconstructed. The payroll records and unit daily reports, and many others, were still available. She said not to give up. She said that you very likely could find a lot more than you realized. She talked about exactly how to go about searching and reconstructing those records. It sounded really promising to me. (By the way, you can watch her presentation from RootsTech here.)

However, much of this work has to be done on-site in St. Louis, Missouri and then in College Park, Maryland. Maybe not the most convenient, with my crazy travel schedule.

So, I contacted Jennifer at the WWII Research and Writing Center and contracted with her. She is a professional genealogist specializing in military records. She writes, teaches, researches, and councils with people searching for records or, more importantly, the stories of those that served.

Jennifer was able to find the records that detailed exactly where my grandfather was nearly every day for his time in the Army in the Philippines. This came from the unit records, payroll records, and other sorts of records that mentioned Granddad in the St. Louis archives. Then, she combined that with the broader histories and narratives from the units that Granddad served in. This really filled out the story and the experiences that he would have faced while in the field.

The result was an awesome report! I added photos to the report, then had it, the photos, and the unit histories bound and gave a copy to Dad. He was thrilled with this. He said over and over how much Granddad would have loved to have seen it.

Title Page – Robert H. Dickson, Jr’s World War II Service Report

So, my recommendation: if you are curious about your ancestor’s WWII records (or records from WWI, Korea, or Vietnam) and are serious about finding more about their experience, get in touch with Jennifer. Take one of her online classes. Go to one of her talks. Contract with her as a researcher if you feel like it’s out of your depth, or like me, you can’t get to the records. She’s a great resource and writer!

You can find her at Be sure to take a look.


Author: Scott Dickson

I've been doing family history research since the late 1980s. Almost all of my family came into the southern colonies and worked there way across the South. Lately, I've started to look at my wife's New England, Irish, and French Canadian ancestry. My tree is online at

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