April 6, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of United States involvement in World War I. To commemorate this event, Ancestry.com released a new database, “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910–1939.” This database contains the names of soldiers and other military personnel who arrived at U.S. ports during the years indicated. Sometimes family members were on these ships, in which case, they are listed, too. Bear in mind that this database does not contain people who left U.S. ports, bound for other countries. Knowing that my grandfather, Ferdinand “Ferd” Steinkamp, had served in France, I went searching for him.
Very quickly I found that he appears on two passenger lists. The first one shows him leaving from Newport News, Virginia on 23 September 1918. Camp Jackson, South Carolina was his destination. At this point, he must have been in training, having recently entered the service. The name of his sister as emergency contact and his Quincy, Illinois address verify that I have the correct person. For me, the best piece of information was his service number and his regiment, Company M, 4th Pioneer Infantry. This was news to me!
Years ago, I had found Ferd’s World War I draft registration card. On 25 July 1918 he registered in Quincy, Illinois and this is the notation made on his card: “He states that he came from Canada, just arriving at 2 P M to-day. He is unemployed, but has come home with the intention of going to work at farming in Adams County.“ Adams is the county where Quincy exists and the county Ferd called home. My dad had told me that Pop, as he called his father, had “followed the harvests” in Canada in his younger years. But it was neat to see other evidence of that story and to narrow down a time period. And this evidence is down to the hour! Dad also told me that Ferd worked for a Canadian who had taught his pet crow to talk. Strangely enough, that was not mentioned in the draft registration.
Imagine this, he registered for the draft on 25 July and less than two months later, he’s on a boat heading to Camp Jackson. His family had just welcomed him back from Canada!
But he came home safely on board the S. S. Julia Luckenbach on 11 April 1919, arriving in Brooklyn. He had departed from Bordeaux two weeks before. He was part of the Camp Grant Detachment in the 157th Infantry upon his return. Imagine the happiness he must have felt, returning to American soil. I wish I could talk to him to find out what he felt that day.
What else can I do with this information? A few years ago, I had written to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri to get records about Ferd’s service. This is where records of World War I soldiers are stored. Unfortunately, they had a fire in 1973 and many records were lost. But some still survive. When I had written, I did not know the name of his regiment or his service number. You can bet I’ll be writing to them again, very soon. If you want to get military records for World War I or World War II veterans, use Standard Form 180, which may be found by following this link: https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public/general-public.html.
I also want to see what information I might be able to find out about his regiments.
Personally, what makes these records so exciting for me is that my grandfather died before I was born. I always knew that he had served in World War I. This picture of him and his two sons who served in World War II was very familiar to me.
Grandpa is in the middle, with my father, Dick Steinkamp, on the left and my Uncle Elmer on the right. Other than the fact that Ferd had served in France, I knew nothing about his stint in that war. Finally with the release of these records, I have filled in another missing piece of the family story. On to the next!
 “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910–1939,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed April 2017), manifest, S.S. Pastores, 23 September 1918, sheet no. 17, entry 210, Steinkamp, Ferdinand.
 “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed April 2017), Ferdinand Steinkamp, no. 211, Quincy, Adams County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service system Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, NARA microfilm publication M1509; no. specific roll cited.
 “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910–1939,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed April 2017), manifest, S. S. Julia Luckenbach, 11 April 1919, sheet no. 8, entry 156, Steinkamp, Ferdinand.