Tag: WWI


The other day I happened to run across the Digital Collections of the Milwaukee Public Library. As any genealogist does, I got lost in it for an hour or so. I then found their WWI Military Portrait collection and searched for “Zalewski.”

I found entries for my great-grandfather, Joseph Frank Zalewski. While it did not have an actual portrait for him, it did have a war service document from the “War Mothers of America.” Most of the information on his document wasn’t new, though it did mention that he participated in no major battles during the war.

There was another Joseph Zalewski listed, which I correctly assumed was my great-grandfather’s cousin, son of Jacob Zalewski. His information was also pretty familiar. He did participate in a battle, the Château-Thierry Vesle Offensive. The part of his document that caught my eye was under the field titled Next of kin. He listed Joseph Goralski. I have been trying to figure out the connection between the Zalewski, Goralski, and Gwiazdowski families for years now.

Joseph Zalewski, Next of Kin

There are many instances of these families crossing into each other, but I just can’t confirm anything. My hope is that connecting them may finally allow me to break down this old Zalewski brick wall. Though, this is the first time that Joseph Goralski is specifically mentioned as “kin” even though that may not really mean blood relation. More mysteries, indeed.

I have a bunch of military documents, so I thought I’d put up some posts in the Military Monday theme.

This the WWI Draft Registration for my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski, who did end up participating in the war overseas.

Joseph registered on (I think it says) June 5, 1917 at the Ward 13, 2nd Precint draft office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the time, he was 24 years old, having been born on 21 May 1893 in Milwaukee. He was living at 900 Fratney Street, which is where his parents also lived. His occupation at the time was a “Shoe Maker” at Weyenberg Shoe Co. in Milwaukee. He was not yet married. According to the document, he had “gray” eyes and “light brown” hair.

Joseph Zalewski WWI Registration
"World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 March 2008), Joseph Zalewski, order no. 286, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, NARA microfilm publication number M1509; roll 1674886.

One of the big mysteries I am trying to solve in my genealogy is to find more information on my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski’s, military history. According to a previous family researcher, all of his military files were burned in the extremely destructive 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire. So, all the information I had was that he served in World War I, possibly in France at some point. By sheer luck, during a random Google Books search, I found him listed in a book about the 86th Division headquartered at Camp Grant in Illinois. From there I was able to determine that they were shipped to France in 1918, but never saw combat due to the Armistice. Though, it did mention that a lot of the division was broken apart and used in other divisions at the time. I did a more in-depth post about this find about a year ago.

In this huge collection of photos and documents that I currently have from my grandmother, there are some documents about my great-grandfather including a military record. It looks to be his “Honorable Discharge” papers. About half-way down on the “Enlistment Record” side it has a hand-written line that says:

5th Co. 161 Depot Brigade. Last assignment to 323rd Machine Gun Bn.

Unfortunately, it looks as though the previous line may be missing, but I do now have more information on where he may have went after the 86th Division broke apart. I have yet to find much information on the 323rd Machine Gun Battalion, which looked to be part of the 83rd Division. I mostly find information on Ohio, since it looked to be originally stationed there.

Here are the two documents. Click the for larger versions.