U.S. Army Transport Service Records

In honor of the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I (April 6, 1917), Ancestry.com has released records of the U.S. Army Transport Service (1910-1939), which includes troop transport records from the First World War.  Ancestry explains that:

The U.S. Army Transport Service (ATS) was established in 1899 as part of the Army Quartermaster Department. It was originally created to manage the transport of troops and cargo on Army ships that travelled between U.S. and overseas ports during the Spanish-American War. During World War I, the Quartermaster Corps managed the Army’s deepwater fleet.

As always happens when new WWI-era records become available I immediately check for my grandfather, Perry Carl Thompson, a son of Charles and Artemissa (Robbins) Thompson, who served in the 20th Engineers (U.S. Army), the largest regiment in the history of our country’s military.  The 20th Engineers was also called the Forestry Regiment as one of its primary responsibilities was providing timber and lumber for the Allied armies in France.  I had to play around with Ancestry’s search form a bit to find my grandfather, but I finally found him in the troop transports both coming and going from France.

I learned that Carl Thompson was in Company D of the 10th Battalion, of the 20th Engineers.  He sailed on May 10, 1918, from Hoboken, New Jersey, on the USS Pastores.  He was a corporal and the person to notify in case of an emergency (something very important for a soldier to provide) was his father Charles Thompson of Sherwood, Oregon.  A quick Internet search provided a photograph of his ship.

A year later, Carl Thompson sailed from Brest, France, on the USS Rhode Island in June of 1919.  He is still a corporal though he’s recorded as belonging to the 28th Company of the 20th Engineers.

Another example is Carl Thompson’s second cousin Carll Kirchem’s transport record.  Kirchem, a son of Walter and Laura (Robbins) Kirchem, was a private in the 20th Balloon Company organized under the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps, which acted as observation balloonists on the western front.  Carll Kirchem shipped out on the SS Duca d’Aosta on 21 October 1918, departure port not named.  The ship had been used as a passenger vessel before the war, transporting many European emigrants to Ellis Island.

After serving in Europe, Kirchem boarded his return ship, the USS Otsego, in Pauillac, France, located in the southwestern part of the country.  The ship sailed on 4 April 1919 and landed in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 18th.  The Otsego was originally the German steamship SS Prinz Eitel-Friedrich but had been taken over by the U.S. government during the war.  His emergency contact is his father Walter Kirchem in Oregon City.

These records don’t necessarily add new information in terms of family relationships but they do provide a small snapshot of service records and ship transport to and from Europe during the First World War, and the possibility of finding a photograph of the ships on which our ancestors crossed the Atlantic.  I’ll include more of these records in upcoming posts.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Nathaniel Robbins-William F. Robbins-Artemissa (Robbins) Thompson-Perry Carl Thompson)
(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Nathaniel Robbins-Nathaniel Norval Robbins-Laura (Robbins) Kirchem-Carll Kirchem)