If you know what to look for -- and even if you don’t -- there’s a lot you can learn from a military discharge document.
That’s what Citrus Springs resident Daniel Hafner learned recently when he sat down to read his great-grandfather’s discharge papers -- all four of them.
“I don’t think I ever met him, unless he was the great-grandfather we used to take Girl Scout mint cookies back in Ohio,” Hafner told a Chronicle reporter who had come to look at the papers with him to help him get to know his grandmother’s father.
In addition to the four military discharge papers from four different enlistments in two different branches of the service, Hafner also had information from a funeral home.
In less than an hour’s time, here’s what Hafner was able to piece together:
His great-grandfather, Lewis Chamber Harbaugh, was born on Jan. 8, 1887, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
One month shy of his 21st birthday, he joined the Navy on Dec. 1, 1908, and served as an “ordinary seaman.”
He was discharged from the Navy on Nov. 30, 1912.
“Grandma said he wanted to do his part (in the military), but there was ‘too much water’ so he joined the Army,” Hafner said. “Grandma” was Harbaugh’s daughter.
Harbaugh enlisted in the Army three times: The first time was during World War I, from June 25, 1915 to June 24, 1919.
He joined the cavalry as a “stable sergeant,” serving in the Panama Canal.
His second Army enlistment began June 25, 1919 -- the very next day after he was discharged.
“Grandma said they tricked him into re-enlisting,” Harbaugh said. “They told him they didn’t have a way to get him home to Ohio and he’d have to wait a while, so he just signed up again.”
Harbaugh was discharged again on June 25, 1920, at Fort Slocum, New York, and then re-enlisted again on May 8, 1924, at Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
His final discharge from the Army was on April 8, 1925, at Fort Hamilton, New York.
Other information from the military documents and information from Ware Funeral Home in Chillicothe, Ohio:
Lewis Harbaugh had grey eyes and a ruddy complexion. He was 5-foot, 5 and a half inches tall, had “excellent character,” was “honest and faithful” and when he was a stable sergeant, his horsemanship was “excellent.”
In 1944, Harbaugh married a woman named Gladys. At the time of his death, Dec. 9, 1964 at age 77, he had a foster son, a stepdaughter, stepson and four grandchildren, one of whom was Hafner’s mother.
He was a retired plumber and worked at a Veterans Administration hospital in Ohio.
Hafner said he was surprised to have learned so much just from a few pieces of paper.
Interested in researching your ancestors who were veterans?
Nathan Walker from the Lakes Region Library in Inverness said Citrus County libraries have access to three genealogical databases: Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online and American Ancestors, which is only available from the Lakes Region Library.
Lakes Region Library also has the physical books and resources for the libraries’ genealogy collection.
HeritageQuest can be accessed with a library card from any computer by going to https://www.citruslibraries.org/research/databases. Ancestry can be accessed from within any of branch library.
The National Archives website offers an abundance of information on researching military records at https://www.archives.gov/research/military.