Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Happy Veterans Day 2014 To All Veterans!
It seems like I always make progress on my Family's Veteran ancestors around Veterans' day. Maybe it's because the genealogy sites promote their military collections around this time of year. My grandfather was a Veteran of WWI. He has come to mind especially this year because it's the Centenary of WWI this year.
This time another event spurred further research into our Military history. I was so peeved that my great uncle William Kappel was misidentified by the Margraten Netherlands American Cemetery site that I was forced to gather more information about him to prove he was indeed my great uncle. As I stated in the past my Kapple grandparents divorced and my grandmother brought all of her children to California in the late 1940's. Her ex husband, my grandfather, remained in Illinois and remarried a couple times. My father didn't talk about his father or his father's family very much, unless I asked. He never mentioned his uncle William was killed in WWII. My dad was always interested in WWII history. My mom and I were forced to sit through many documentaries about WWII. He probably knew his uncle was killed and just never wanted to talk about it.
My genealogy obsession began in the late 1990's when I started searching for more information about the Kapple line. Early on I found out my grandparents changed the spelling of their name from Kappel to Kapple. I was so surprised when I found out my grandfather Rudolph was from a family of 11 (now I hear possibly 12). I then gathered up all the information I could find online about his siblings. I found most of his brothers in the Social Security death index. It was then that I found out William Kappel had died in 1945. I was pretty certain that entry was his because the date of birth was exact.
I asked my aunt June if William may have been killed in WWII? She said yes he was and his widow and her grandmother were locked in a battle over benefits after his death. Before the war William had been living with his mother in the family home along with his wife and son (just like my own grandparents lived in the Kappel household for a few years). William worked as a steel inspector at a steel mill in Chicago before the war, along with his brother-in-law. Mary had relied on her youngest son a great deal after the death of her husband in 1937; which was why she felt she was entitled to benefits when he was killed at the end of the war. The detail my aunt June provided left little doubt that the William Kappel who died in 1945 was my great uncle. A few years after I identified him I found out he was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery. That puzzled me because aunt June said he was killed in the South Pacific? At this point I did more research and discovered the soldier buried at that cemetery was from Chicago, Illinois and was Catholic like my great uncle's family. I could find no other William Kappel's sharing his birthdate who were killed in the war. I felt confident the man buried in that cemetery was my great uncle.
I've always wanted more information. A few years ago a Facebook friend found a battalion history which gave a narrative of the circumstances of William's death. He was killed at the end of the war when he was pursuing a sniper. Another Facebook friend, and distant cousin on my Forgey line, visited the Cemetery this past summer and took some great photos and a rubbing of William's cross. All of this added information has been so rewarding!
My quest to prove William Kappel was my Uncle beyond a reasonable doubt led me to consider writing for his Social Security application which would contain his parents' names. Since a few years ago privacy laws were tightened requiring proof of the applicants death, and his parents deaths, it has become more difficult to unlock that information. I was assembling the needed information when I stumbled on some evidence which met my own standard of proof. It was the application for a grave monument. William's widow's name was given as Belle Kappel which was also the name of his wife on the 1940 Census when they were living with my great-grandmother Mary. My father's birth certificate contained the same address in 1933. This is good enough evidence for me. I'm satisfied. The cemetery site has changed William's parents from Gabriel Kappel and Rose Kappel to my great-grandparents Frank and Mary Kappel. The wrong family was added to William's page from an Ancestry.com tree. The mix up was a good thing because it got me searching again, if I had not taken up the search again I never would have found the wonderful original documents posted at Ancestry.
Why my great uncle appears on a National Jewish American Board record is a mystery? He was likely part ethnically Ashkenazi, but the family was Catholic for at least 200 years. My grandmother Kapple said the name Kappel was generally perceived as Jewish. The surname may have led to the mistaken belief that he was Jewish?
The entire research journey with William Kappel has been very rewarding. I appreciate his service and I'm honored he is my Great Uncle.
I would like to hear from William's son Ronald Kappel born around 1937 in Chicago. That would really be the icing on the cake!
Happy Veterans' Day to all Veterans!