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Meet your WWII ancestors for free this Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day is our national day of remembrance for America’s fallen service members. The weekend isn’t all about grilling and shopping. It’s also a day to reflect on our freedom and those who have sacrificed their lives for it.

Go a step further and find out more about the people in your family’s history who laid down their lives or served in the military.

Throughout Memorial Day weekend, is giving free access to war-related records. If you’re a history buff, or just want to learn more about your family’s past, you won’t want to miss this.

A chapter of history at your fingertips.

In honor of Memorial Day, is making its massive amount of World War II archives free for the general public to access.

These records include draft cards, hospital admissions, medical records and death certificates. You can even find detailed records and transcriptions of MIA and KIA combatants — just as they appeared the day they were filed.

Related: Tap or click here to map out your family tree with the best genealogy software.

In addition to providing a window into the past, these records shed some serious light on the actual people who lived during this pivotal chapter in history. If your ancestor served in the war, these records can include physical descriptions, handwritten notes and medical conditions that may even apply to descendants like you.

In the words of Mike Linton, chief revenue officer at Ancestry, the project is about “encouraging people to discover their personal connection to this chapter in history.” Describing the discoveries he made browsing the archives, he said that he “was surprised to find…Uncle Henry’s draft card in his handwriting. I discovered he was only 24 when he joined the military.” 

If you take some time to dive in this Memorial Day weekend, who knows what you’ll find.

Is it worth signing up for an membership?

Even though the World War II archives are free, there are some bits of information that you may be tempted to look deeper into. And the website, for better or worse, is eager to take you there — for the right price.

Much of Ancestry’s archives are locked behind a membership subscription fee, which can range from $25 a month for domestic results and $40 for international results. You do have the option to sign up for a 14-day free trial, but you will need to provide payment information so the platform can bill you once the trial expires.

If you forget to cancel before your trial ends, you will be billed for the entire next month. You can cancel after this, but you’ll still be on the hook for the month you paid for. If you don’t plan on subscribing to Ancestry long-term, don’t forget to check in and discontinue your membership before the clock runs out.

That said, if you do want to create a membership, you won’t be disappointed at the amount of material the platform has to offer. We recommend creating a separate email address and password for your account, however. The platform did suffer a major data breach a few years back, after all. Tap or click here for more information about this breach.

By looking into our history, we gain a greater understanding of who we are today and how we got here. And in the case of our brave fallen combatants, what better way to honor their memory than by exploring their stories firsthand? Happy hunting!

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