I started by searching for any Perkinsons in the database. The only family name shown was that of my Grand Uncle Ernest Vaughn Perkinson. Side 1 of Ernest's service card showed the date of his appointment as an officer as well as a list of the various places he had been stationed. Side 2 provided some new information, the fact that he had been inducted at Washington, DC. All this time I thought that Ernest had been back in Cherokee County, Georgia.
|Georgia, World War I Service Card for Ernest V Perkinson, side 2|
The Service Card showed that Ernest was inducted into the Army on 29 Jul 1918, appointed Sergeant First Class on 6 Aug 1918, then honorably discharged on 6 Oct 1918 to accept a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He remained with the 472 Engineers until he was finally discharged on 2 Jun 1919, six months after the war had ended. The Service Card had provided a clear timeline of Ernest's military service.
But what brought Ernest to Washington, DC to enlist, especially as his residence was listed as Woodstock, Georgia? That answer came as I looked back at his draft registration card. It turns out that Ernest had been a surveyor with the International Boundary Commission of the State Department. In the 1910 census, Ernest's occupation had been listed as a civil engineer with the US government. Now I knew more about this work. He had actually registered for the draft in Maine in May, 1917, as he apparently was working there as a surveyor. Interestingly, by direction of the US Boundary Commissioner, he was seeking an exemption from the draft.
|World War I Draft Registration Card for Ernest Vaughn Perkinson|
The final bit of military information I found that day was the application filed by Ernest's wife for a military headstone for his grave.(1) It was interesting to see the verification of Ernest's military record - enlistment date, honorable discharge, his rank and branch of service - that was part of obtaining that marker for him. The only surprise was seeing his name listed as Ernest Vaughn Perkinson. The draft registration card had listed his name as Vaughn, but I had assumed it was just recorded incorrectly by the draft registrar. All these years I had thought (incorrectly) that his middle name was spelled Vaughan, like the maiden name of my Grandmother Annie Laurie Vaughan Perkinson. Wrong! Ernest was related to Annie Laurie only as her brother-in-law, so there was no requirement that his name be spelled as my grandmother's surname. Where the Vaughn in Ernest's name come from is probably another story.
- If you use Ancestry.com, it pays to look at their list of new and updated databases. There is no telling what you might find.
- Take the time to look at previous records with new eyes. I had looked at Ernest's draft registration card before but had not noticed the link to Washington, DC, or the request for a draft exemption.
- Once again, information about a relative has lead me to learn more about my country's history, in this case the work of the International Boundary Commission. I had assumed that the US / Canada border had been firmly established long before 1918. The Boundary Commission's website provides some interesting information about the work of this joint US / Canadian commission, work which continues today.
- One more reminder that assumptions aren't facts. Just because Ernest's middle name was Vaughn did not mean he was related to the Vaughan family, even if my mind kept automatically making that connection.
(1) Ancestry.com. U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. "Application for Headstone or Marker" for Ernest Vaughn Perkinson; citing Microfilm publication M1916, 134 rolls. ARC ID: 596118. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92. National Archives at Washington, D.C.