Finding Your Roots: Tuolumne County Veterans Military MuseumMar 15th, 2012 | By Isabelle MacLean Drown | Category: Safe, Sound and Savvy
The Tuolumne County Veterans Military Museum in Sonora is a great place to visit if your parents or grandparents served in the military. You won’t find genealogical records, but the museum’s treasures will help you understand their service experiences a bit better.
Curator Steve Wilson and volunteer Eric Olson treated me to a wonderful tour. They showed me men’s and women’s uniforms, weapons, photo albums, letters and more. Most of the items range from World War I to the Korean War, but I did see a picture album from the Civil War (under glass).
Particularly interesting were Korean War photos of veterans I know, including Glenn Morris, along with three generations of the Marquez family in uniform (each named Ernie) spanning the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars.
Olson is a World War II history buff and knows his stuff, which I learned the hard way. In a talk I gave, I said the Army had African-American combat soldiers in Belgium in 1943. He corrected me, saying that blacks served as truck drivers only, and in 1944.
Wilson set up all of the museum’s artifacts, and his knowledge of weapons and of WWII German history is extensive. Other volunteers include Jim Rucker, a WWII medical corpsman; Jerry David, a firearms expert; Bill Wilson, who served with the Canadian forces; and Dan O’Brien, a WWII vet and later mayor of Stockton. George Sanderson (the only former officer), Mario Salas and Ralph Lopez also share their knowledge.
The museum, at 9 North Washington St., is open 10am-2pm weekdays, 11am-3pm Saturdays; 533-0923. Wilson knows of other military collections held by private citizens locally and can refer researchers to them.
I always am amazed at the thousands of hours volunteers put into preserving local history – among them, Lynne Jerome, editor of Tuolumne City Memorial Museum’s newsletter. The Tuolumne museum has Summerville High yearbooks from 1913 to 1990, and class graduation photos from 1913 to 1960.
The museum regularly features pioneer families’ records and photos. Among those profiled: the Dahl, Baker, Duckwall, Ingalls, Johnson, Feriani, Malgesini, Ronten, Nelson, and Sullivan families. While on the ancestry trail, visit and take advantage of the museum’s research.
The museum has more than a half-century of no longer-published Tuolumne Prospector on microfiche (January 1901-August 1967). The paper’s value is in the everyday events recorded: engagements, baby showers, obituaries – the small-town news that people enjoyed reading and that genealogists are now seeking. The museum has random copies of the New Era from 1900-1918. What a find for genealogists, especially for those years when public records were not always kept.
Also at the museum: The single-page telephone directory from 1950, when old-style crank phones and party lines, on which your neighbor could listen in, were the rule. But things changed fast: By the late 1950s, with a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration, the Tuolumne Telephone Co. had installed the nation’s first direct-dial long distance system.
Visit the museum at 18663 Carter St., 1-4pm Saturday and Sunday; 928-3516. Visit online (tuolumnecity.wordpress.com) to see the museum’s collections, which include family bibles that came around the Horn or by covered wagon to California.
Hopefully, this will help you find your elusive ancestor. Until, next time – good luck with your research.
Sonora resident Isabelle Drown is a genealogical expert who recently completed a year-long sabbatical in Salt Lake City, Utah.
© 2012 Friends and Neighbors Magazine