Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Genealogical Help: World War I Burial Case Files

This version contains corrections made 15 October 2021

Temporary Cemetery for the Fallen of the 147th U.S. Infantry

By Lynna Kay Shuffield

When Cpl. William W. Brown, Co. D, 141st Infantry, 36th Division, "went over the top" during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in World War I on 8–9 Oct 1918, he fought as only a Texan should. While courageously advancing under violent artillery and machine gun fire, Brown was killed in action by German shrapnel, which resulted in fractures of the skull and left arm at the elbow.

He was originally buried in an isolated battlefield grave on the Medeah Farm at St. Etienne-a-Arnes (Ardennes). He was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre with a silver star for extraordinary heroism. Brown was disinterred and reburied four times before he reached his final resting place at the Meuse Argonne Cemetery #1232 at Romagne-sous -Montfaucon in Meuse, France in Grave 174, Sec. 85, Plot 4.

Corporal William Brown's Final Resting Place
(While Under Construction)

You are probably wondering how I learned so much about Corporal Brown and his death. There are little-known documents called "burial case files" for most World War I casualties contained in Record Group 92 now located at the National Archives facility in St. Louis, MO. These files are related to servicemen or women who died while in the military during the time period 1915-39; the files were maintained for war casualties as well as for military domestic deaths.  See for the NARA catalog description of the burial case files.

The folders are arranged alphabetically and contained documents related to the individual's name, military organization, place of residence, date of death, circumstances of death, places of burial, next of kin, etc.  These files also contain documentation if the mother of the deceased participated in the "World War I Mothers' Pilgrimages" program, which was sponsored by the U.S. government.  This program transported mothers and wives of the deceased to the overseas military cemeteries.

Contact Information:

National Archives at St. Louis (RL-SL)

1 Archives Drive, Room 340

St. Louis, MO 63138

Phone: 314-801-0850

Fax: 314-801-9187


Be sure to include as much information as you know about the solider, i.e., full name, date of birth/death, service number (if known), places of residence, etc.

Thanks to Patrick Osborn of the National Archives for pointing out that the contact information in the original version of this article was out of date.


  1. Thank you for the burial information. My great uncle Pvt. Jerome Marks of the 6th Marine regiment, was also killed October 9, 1918 at Blanc Mont. I obtained some information about his service record via the Army records in Saint Louis, but the burial information may prove informative.

  2. I also appreciate the address and information. My Great Uncle Edward Stanley Knight was killed 9/27/18 of counter battery fire which resulted in schrapnel to the skull. He was re interred 3 times with his final resting burial in Thompsontown, PA. Maybe there will be more personal information in his burial file. Thank you!

  3. Another related resource from the National Archives with burial information is the Card Register of Burials. The card images are available online and there is a lookup tool here: