On October 15th, representatives from the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and Heritage Reports gathered at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to present on a new digital history project about the First World War. Inspired by a list of names and addresses uncovered in the Pennsylvania State Archives, “The Fallen of the Great War: The Philadelphia Project” aims to identify and document over 2,500 service people from Philadelphia who lost their lives in the war. The project is part of Home Before the Leaves Fall, a collaborative digital initiative led by the Villanova University Special Collections Department designed to showcase World War I-era archival collections and primary source materials from institutions across the Delaware Valley.
Over the course of the evening, Ruth Martin (Heritage Reports) described the origins of the project and the initial intention to use the simple typewritten list of names and addresses to create an interactive map showing where the service people lived in Philadelphia and where they died. From there, she detailed how the project grew into an online database of biographical information and data of potential use to genealogists, scholars, social scientists, and the like. Joyce Horman and Kathryn Manz (Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania) discussed their efforts to mobilize volunteers from the academic and genealogical communities to gather information about each individual from censuses, city directories, draft registration cards, vital records, and newspapers. They also related some of the notable stories uncovered in their initial research, including the experience of Guiseppe Bellarosa, a recent Italian immigrant to the United States killed in action just four days before the 1918 Armistice.
For more information on “The Fallen of the Great War: The Philadelphia Project” or to join the team of research volunteers, check out the project page.