18 April 2016

Red Cross -- Invaluable Service & Extensive Archives -- Have you checked these out?

Today I woke up thinking about The Red Cross and the unimaginable scale of humanitarian aid provided by it since its founding.

Many of our ancestors have either contributed financially or physically to this organization and/or been assisted through provided services.

I knew that the British version, a few years ago, had made available a database of “Over 90,000 people volunteered for the British Red Cross at home and overseas during the war.” which refers to WWI.

I also learned that there is a physical British Red Cross museum and archives,
The British Red Cross museum and archives contain a fascinating portrait of our humanitarian work, from our beginnings in 1870 to our vital contribution in today's society.

Of course, I then had to see if the American Red Cross (ARC) had anything similar.  First, I reminded myself of its history ...

Clara Barton and a circle of her acquaintances founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired global Red Cross network while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.

I then learned that the National Archives actually has extensive holdings covering 1881-2008 donated by ARC. Here is an article about part of that collection as records were processed in 2011.

Additionally, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, has a large WWI-related collection.

Dating from 1917 to 1921, the large collection of American Red Cross records at Hoover documents the efforts to deliver aid to Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and China during and immediately after World War I. The records, consisting of correspondence, memoranda, reports, financial records, lists, and photographs, are arranged by the name of ARC commission, which specifies its geographic area of operation.

Ancestry.com, quite familiar to genealogists, has an online database of American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959.

We cannot talk about the British and American Red Cross agencies without referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRC) and its archives and history.

What was to become the International Committee of the Red Cross met for the first time in February 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland. Among its five members was a local man named Henry Dunant who, the year before, had published a crusading book (A Souvenir of Solferino) calling for improved care for wounded soldiers in wartime.

Earlier this year, the ICRC made its Audiovisual Archives open and available online --  “Thousands of photos, films/videos and audio recordings belonging to the ICRC and documenting the organization's past and present are now open to the public.”

Why stop now, the Australian Red Cross in 2014, the Centenary of the organization, donated its archive and heritage collection to the University of Melbourne Archives.  I’m sure that the list goes on.

It is great to see these archives becoming more available to researchers either by the material being donated to a national or large publicly accessible archive or through digitization and online access.

Many of our family members are part of the history of the Red Cross.

Did a family member of yours serve in or be served by the Red Cross? Do you have or have you sought out documentation of such?  What type of documentation do you have or found?

What other archives of the Red Cross and its activities have I overlooked that would interest family historians?

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