April 18th - International Day on Monuments and Sites

Every small town, major city, county and state has a vast array of monuments representing some event, a person, an activity — anything that is important for the present day and future generations to know about and remember. One generally thinks of historical monuments or sites such as battle fields, or a the place where something new began (such as Ellis Island). However they can be as varied as the people who have them built and managed.

In New York City there are several special monuments and sites being dedicated and preserved for the victims of 9/11. At Pearl Harbor a couple of the ships sunk in the 1941 attack have been preserved right where they sank. There are statues and monuments to brave individuals such as police officers. Monuments exist to people who made outstanding contributions, like the Wright Brothers for aviation and Walt Disney for entertainment.

Back in 1983 a special day — April 18th — known as International Day on Monuments and Sites was established to mark the education and care of present-day monuments across the globe. School children are exposed to information about their local monuments and sites as well as programs for the general public.

Each year a different theme is set allowing communities to focus on a specific type of monument or site. On Friday, April 18, 2014 it was ‘Heritage of Commemoration’ with special recognition of the beginning of the “Great War”, later named World War I. An excellent opportunity for a family researcher to seek out additional information on an ancestor who may have served during that war between 1914 and 1918. Remember a relative didn’t have to be a soldier, many women were nurses, helped with communications (telephones) besides the many civilians on the home front put on special duties producing necessary supplies for the military.

WWI Bronze Tablet (colorized)

Check your own hometown to see if there is a monument to any residents who served during World War I. An excellent example is a special bronze tablet still hanging on display in city hall (originally at the public library) in New Rochelle, NY, presented to that town in December 1917 for their unselfish hospitality to the thousands of recruit soldiers that were cared for by the residents before they were shipped off to war. It reads: “This tablet is erected by the volunteers of the National Army in grateful appreciation of the kindly welcome and warm hospitality extended to them by the people of New Rochelle from December 10th to 20th, 1917.Coming in such numbers that the Recruiting Station at Fort Slocum could not provide accommodations for them, these thousands of men found food and shelter in the homes and public buildings of the city while awaiting reception into the service of the nation.” If you had a relative there in New Rochelle at that time period, they were part of history and a future monument.

So look around, check with the museums of your ancestral hometowns, there could be wonderful monument right there, waiting for you.

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