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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Uncle Gus was 'In the Navy' - But Which Navy?

A couple of years ago I started to do sideway research on my paternal side. My great grandmother had a brother (possibly a half brother) named Gustav Blum.

Finding Uncle Gustav

The first hurdle I had to overcome was thinking that Gustav had a sister named Gussie Blum. One day while discussing my research with my mother she started laughing and said that Gussie would be a boy's nickname for Gustav!

Since Gustav's mother's obituary mentioned he was in the Navy at the time of her death I decided to short cut my research and request his file from the National Archives. Imagine my surprise when I received the file and found that he had left the service a few years BEFORE his mother's death.

As researchers we are used to finding errors in obituaries or family stories but this one felt different. Going back through various newspapers stories over the years, Gus was always referred to as being 'in the Navy'.

New York Naval Militia

Using everyone's favorite search tool I started to use Google to figure out my mystery. From various newspaper stories and the Federal Census I knew that Gustav lived in Manhattan in 1910. I also had the name of the ship he was supposed to be serving on at the time of his mother's desk. In a short time I found out that New York had its own Navy!

The New York Naval Militia is Federally recognized and dates back to 1890. It seems that Gus was a secretary in the New York Naval Militia after his service in the Philippine-American War.

Lesson Learned

What did I learn?

*Sometimes a piece of information that appears completely wrong can have a nugget of truth.

*There IS more than one 'Navy' in the United States

*Gustav Blum had a complicated life with a very tragic end. If you click on his name it will take you to his memorial on FindAGrave.Com.

Take Care,

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