While I can sit here and write complaint after complaint about the difficulties of researching the history of a man who gives merely his initials in a signature, you would think, once receiving a fully complete name, I’d be satisfied.
But, no. I am, once again, going to regale you with grumblings.
Take Robert James Stafford of Janesville,Wisconsin, one of the twelve friends of my father-in-law, Frank Stevens, who together went through the initial training at the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1942.
Not only was Mr. Stafford careful enough to sign his complete name and hometown on the back of Frank’s copy of the company photograph, but he also inserted his assignment for his upcoming duty: hospital corps.
And yet, though I can find Navy records on Ancestry.com for a James Robert Stafford (enlisting from the New England region), I find nary a trace for a reversal of those two given names.
It’s been several days now since beginning this project—as I’ve already explained—seeking information on what became of these fellow World War II veterans. With an enormous boost in the research department from online friend “Iggy,” and several volleys of emails with possible relatives as well as volunteers from my usual genealogical haunts, I’d like to say I’ve found plenty to recognize the service of these men. But, so far, there has been little unearthed to say what has become of them.
Today, I’ll post what we’ve found on a possible candidate for Navy hospital corpsman Robert James Stafford.
If this is our man, Robert James Stafford was the son of England-born Chicago resident, Edward Stringer Stafford, and his wife, the former Alma Kapke of Janesville, Wisconsin. Robert was born into the Stafford household in Chicago on January 24, 1916, according to his State of Illinois certificate of birth. That household included a daughter from Edward’s previous marriage, two children from Alma’s previous marriage to Thomas Cruse, and Robert’s older brother, Edward. By the time of the 1930 census, younger siblings Frank, Dorothy, Loraine and William had joined the family at that same residence on West Lake Street in Chicago.
While I couldn’t find any confirmable Naval records for Robert’s service during World War II, he apparently had some post-war duties—whether of a military nature or in his civilian capacity, I can’t tell—requiring international travel, as evidenced by some passenger lists found on Ancestry.com for a Chicago resident by that same name and age.
It was hard to determine anything further on this man’s life—in the military or out of it. Whatever became of his plans to serve as a hospital corpsman, I’ve not been able to discover. It was even a challenge to determine which Robert J. Stafford was the accurate choice when scrolling through what seemed like endless listings on the Social Security Death Index. Only through discovering an obituary for Robert’s youngest brother, William, did I narrow the range for his date of death. I gleaned the name of a possible cemetery to check through a publicly-posted Family Tree on Ancestry.com. Checking the name of the cemetery on the search box at Find-A-Grave, I found this Robert J. Stafford buried next to his brother Frank at Concordia Cemetery near Chicago in Forest Park, Illinois.
The headstone for Robert was inscribed, “Nubs.” At least that gives me some hope that this veteran—if this entry is for the veteran we’re seeking—did not leave life a forgotten man.