Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking Beyond the Indexes

Have you ever looked at an index and thought, "Well, the name looks close but that can't be my ancestor because the (fill in religion, race, sex, etc.) is wrong"? I used to think that too. But I have found errors in indexes on several occasions. So I've learned that it is always a good idea to look beyond the indexes and view the documents themselves. The document above is my latest example of this lesson. has posted and indexed the World War II draft registration cards for Illinois. These are the cards from the fourth registration of World War II, known as the "old man's draft." Those required to register were men between the ages of 45 and 64. I searched for grandpa under the most common spelling of his name and found him indexed as follows:

Name Anton W Skrobul
Birthdate 18 Mar 1884
Birth Place Sany, Lithuania
Residence Beckemeyer, Illinois
Race Negro (Black)

Now if grandpa had a common name and lived in a big city, I might have thought, "This can't be grandpa, he wasn't "Negro"." But, let's face it, how many Anton Skrobuls do you know? So I was pretty sure this was him. And in looking at the image, everything else looked correct.

Page 2 of the document contains more information, including 7 categories to indicate race, such as light, dark, freckled and black. (Note to self: See if any of my Irish relatives were freckled.) The page 2 associated with Anton W. Skrobul indicated he was dark, not black. But apparently an indexer made a mistake and decided "dark" meant "black" which was indexed as Negro. I doubt that Anton identified himself as black, and he looks rather fair-skinned in his photos. So if his skin looked dark the day he registered, it may have been due to coal dust from working in the mine, and not his ethnic heritage.

Here is a photo of Anton with his two sons. From left to right, Anthony, Anton and Stan Skrobul.