World War II – finding families

As far as genealogy goes, I have a handful of extreme passions: I’m passionate about my own family research, I’m passionate about genealogical technology, I’m passionate about Italian genealogy, and I’m passionate about “reuniting” long-lost family photos and artifacts with relatives. For that final category, I’ve purchased hundreds of old photos over the years – from flea markets, eBay, antique stores, anywhere I can find them – and then I research the families. In over 200 cases I’ve managed to help reunite the originals with their descendants! It’s a great feeling.

In my own family, I’ve been fortunate to come from a long line of packrats. Packrats who have generally avoided natural disasters, and kept their family archives intact. Having these photo albums and scrapbooks to dig through was a major impetus in my initial interest in genealogical research, and my maternal grandfather, Frank A. Cerruti, left behind some of the most amazing artifacts. In Word War II, he would eventually rise through the ranks to become a Master Sergeant. Always ready with a camera, he documented his military service with great detail. I recently scanned one of grandpa’s World War II pictures and thought I would share it here.

Frank A. Cerruti, 2nd row farthest on the right

It’s a pretty great photo, but the best part of it all is – grandpa was forward-thinking and had each man write his name and home address on the back. (Ever the joker, the question mark for #8 marks where he is standing.)

I’ve never done research on any of these men, and don’t have enough free time at the moment to dig in too deep – but, by posting it here, I thought I’d take the first step. There are some amazing volunteer photo detectives on the internet, and perhaps someone will choose to pursue research. Please let me know if you do – and I’m happy to send a high-resolution scan of the photo to anyone who’d like one – just send me a message. Perhaps a military historian could shed some light on where this photo would have been taken, or other details they’re able to extract? I’ll post updates here as they come in.

Below, please find my attempt at transcription of the names and addresses. Again, I’ll start to search these out, but feel free to send corrections if you beat me to it:

William H. Axelby – 429 Fairmount Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey

Roland J. McNamara – 1343 Jefferson Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

Carl J. Brauer – 901 Darlington Road, Syracuse, New York

David J. Ryan – 1800 Monroe Avenue, Bronx, New York

Otis A. McCoohle – Iroquois Road, Pleasantville, New York

John H. Barry – 59 Gautier Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey

Monroe F. Fish – 720 Riverside Drive, New York, New York

Frank A. Cerruti – Paterson, New Jersey

William J. Foley – 10 West 182nd Street, Bronx, New York

Walter H. Gross – 5938 Osage Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Norman F. Rudderow – 41 W. Chestnut Avenue, Merchantville, New Jersey

Joseph H. Urban – Stanhope, New Jersey

Robert J. Anderson – 1306 Elm Avenue, West Collingswood, New Jersey

Charles A. Pertan – 202 Harreson Avenue, Westfield, New Jersey



I started with Norman Rudderow, given his less common name. According to his World War II enlistment record1, Norman joined the Army at Fort Dix on 7 April 1942, which helps to date this photograph, if nothing else.

Once I confirmed his dates, using the Social Security Death Index, I looked for an obituary as those often provide clues about who any living descendants may be. In addition to finding some of those details, the obituary2 I found also provided insight into his service career, as well:

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A. J. Hersh and Hanson Hersh: Brothers

(This is part of an ongoing series of photos and family artifacts that are NOT related to my own lines, but rather things I have found in the world – at flea markets, antique stores, eBay auctions, and beyond: valuable genealogical artifacts, desperately needing to be returned to their families. Since 2009, I have managed to reunite over 250 of these items with descendants and relatives, but there are still many cases where I’ve yet to find a rightful heir. If the people depicted below are of interest to you, or if you have additional information, feel free to contact me – I’d love to speak further.)

I’ve spent much of this year organizing and researching some photos I obtained early in my “photo rescuing” efforts. Unfortunately, with these, I have no idea where I bought them, and I’ve yet to make a successful “reunion” for many of them. But, armed with the desire to find a more permanent home for these, I’ve decided to start this blog series. If nothing else, I can document my attempts and put this information on the web, where someone might stumble upon it. Today’s entry is one such photo, a cabinet card, probably from the 1880s or 1890s, featuring two brothers.

“A. J. Hersh / Hanson Hersh – Brothers”

The only real clues I had, to start, were these names written on the back of this cabinet card. I knew the photo was taken in Hanover, Pennsylvania, due to the photographer’s logo on the front. (As far as technology has progressed, I constantly find myself grateful to the advertising mechanisms of the 19th century photography trade: they’ve helped me identify hundreds of photographs over the years!)

I took the few clues and headed over to For this type of photo reunion project, it’s usually my first stop – given the wide array of available resources – and also the proliferation of Member Trees, where I might locate a descendant with relative ease.

Having searched for a Hanson Hersh who lived in Hanover, PA, the first promising lead was a FindAGrave page, and, as luck would have it, it linked to a sibling, Alfred John. Given the relative timeline and location, I was certain I had found our gentlemen – but of course wanted to consult some primary sources as well. I found the brothers together in the 1850 U.S. Census1 and other supporting documents made it clear that these were the same brothers in question, and I could further posture that this picture might have been taken while A.J. was visiting Hanson, as Hanson lived most of his life in close proximity to Hanover, where the shot was taken.

Though it’s always a joy to find an identified photo, we’re often greeted with dilemmas. In this case, there’s no easy to way to distinguish the two brothers from one another. Although I’m exceedingly grateful for the relationship identifier, they were born just two years apart – it would be speculative guesswork to assign an identity to one or the other.

While, to my eye, the man on the right looks older than the man on the left, I think a case could be made in either direction. If I were to conduct in-depth research, here, I’d look for any sort of physical description in extant records. These men would have been too old for the 1917 World War I draft (and Hanson died in 19152 but who’s to say that facial hair or lack thereof would remain constant through the decades. That would, however, be a place to start. Beyond that, I’d attempt to find extant photographs of either man – to see if an exact identification is possible.

For now, I’ve reached out to the person who maintains many of the family graves and inter-linked relationships on FindAGrave, to see how she is connected. When time allows, I’ll begin doing some descendancy research: both men had children, but I haven’t had time to go much beyond that first generation. For the time being however, I’ve scanned the photo on both sides and uploaded it here – if you know anything about this family, or if you’re researching these gentlemen, don’t hesitate to reach out!


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