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Who is Capt. James Burdick

Researcher: Don Wilt (edonwilt@aol.com)
Posted: May, 2020

(Don is an excellent genealogy researcher, specializing in locating military members. He graciously volunteered to find out more about Capt. Burdick, U.S. Army, after seeing a request I posted in the Winter 2000 Burdick Newsletter. I was contacted by someone who had the discharge and other papers of Peter Burdick and wanted to see them returned to a close family member. We were not able to find a relative so the papers were sent to me for safe keeping. Don used his extensive contacts and resources to find out more about Capt. Burdick but still no family members. His research is detailed below. If you are a relative of Peter Burdick please contact us. -- HB)

This morning, I again turned to the subject of Peter Burdick and his Service Records. I found a 1940 census for a soldier named Peter Burdick serving in Alaska who, on first examination, appears to be the Captain Burdick, born 1899, who is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in California. However, something is just not right when it comes to his pay scale.

From the 1940 census for Chillkoot Barracks, Skagway, Alaska (Military Reservation, Enumerated 9 Oct 1939, Sheet 3A, Line 20:

QM Dep. Name: Burdick, Peter, Age: 40, Born: PA, Education: 8th Grade, Residence 1935: Washington, Occupation: Soldier U.S. Army, Income: $990.00/yr., Had income from additional source: Yes

Note that his Rank is not stated. This soldier had an income of about $83.00 per month. The income from additional source could be extra pay generated by the location of Alaska. According to the Army & Marine 1940 enlisted base pay for men of Grade 2 with under 4 years’ service time the pay was $84.00. This pay grade would be for a rank of about 1st Sgt. It is unknown if the $990.00 included extra pay for duty in Alaska. The base pay per month for officers of under 3 years of service, Pay Period 1 was $125.00 per month. Conclusion: this soldier must have been an enlisted man.

Perhaps the military records you have can provide more information such as the date and location of enlistment. Sometimes, service records record the date of birth of the soldier. This information would be most useful in identifying descendants. There may even be a family tree on Ancestry.com concerning this soldier. Then too, given that he may have passed away, Legacy.com may have his obituary. If we can find this type of information, then we may just find his descendants.

I seem to be having some problem researching Peter Burdick with Army Serial Number 6524127. From the records you have we were able to glean a birth date of June or July 1899 and born in St Marys, PA. This guy just does not seem to exist.

While poking around on the Internet I found the military record for a Captain Peter Burdick, Serial Number 0-510630, who is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, CA. I think this record is worth taking a closer look.

Two of the documents you have contain the following:
11 May 1926: Discharged as Corporal, enlisted 14 Apr 1923, $130.02
18 Jan 1943: Discharged as Master Sergeant, enlisted 21 Aug 1940

The record for Captain Peter Burdick states:
Enlistment: 14 Apr (19)23 thru 18 Jan (19)42

From what I see in the above records there is a difference of only one numeral. That numeral is the discharge date of 18 Jan 1943 as found in the records you have and 18 Jan 1842 in Capt. Burdick's record.

And now for the clincher. The interment record for Captain Peter Burdick in the Golden Gate National Cemetery has hand-written, in tiny red letters, the notation: Serial NO: ASN 6524127. The interment record also provides an accurate date of his birth, 29 Jun 1899. He died 13 Oct 1946 of non-battle injuries in California. It looks like Capt. Burdick is our Peter after all.

I have about given up searching for descendants of Peter Burdick. The other day I searched the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records for all states for a Peter Burdick born 1898-1900 and male and any relationship. Nothing! I also searched all WWI records for our man. Nothing!

I went back and did what one might call a "Wild Card" search on Ancestry.com Family Trees. I searched on "Burdick" and "St Marys, PA". To my surprise, I got a hit. There is a family tree on Ancestry of William Bischoff but Peter is not listed in it. William is retired, a College Graduate of Kansas State University and was with the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS. In this family tree is a 1920 census for Saint Mary, Elk County, PA. On line 92 is a man by the name of John Burdick, age 35, born in Austria. I sent an Ancestry message to William Bischoff and am hoping he may have some knowledge of another Burdick family in the area or may have some Military connections and will be able to provide more information on our Peter Burdick.

In the census records for 1900, 1910 and 1920, I searched on Burdick, male, born 1899 +/- 1 year and in all states. You will see that there were some persons with a middle initial of "P" but no "Peter". Nothing to conclusively prove any of them are the Peter of our search.

In summary here's what we know:

  1. Date of birth: 29 Jun 1899
  2. Place of birth: St Marys, Elk County, PA, per military records
  3. WWI 28 July 1914 to 11 Nov 1918 and WWII 1 Sep 1939 to 2 Sep 1945
  4. Army Serial Number: 6524127
  5. He was stationed at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA as a Corporal in the QMC (Quarter Master Corps, circa 1934/1935)
  6. Six known Enlistment/Discharge records:
    1. Enlisted: 14 Apr 1923, Rank: Corporal, Pay Scale: $130.02, Discharged: 11 May 1926
    2. Enlisted: 27 Nov 1928, Rank: Private, Pay Scale: $101.62, Discharged: 26 Nov 1931
    3. Enlisted: 27 Nov 1931, Rank: Corporal, Pay Scale: $162.89, Discharged: 20 Aug 1934
    4. Enlisted: 21 Aug 1934, Rank: Staff Sergeant, Pay Scale: $162.89, Discharged: 20 Aug 1937
    5. Enlisted: 21 Aug 1937, Rank: Staff Sergeant, Pay Scale: $150.00, Discharged: 20 Aug 1940
    6. Enlisted: 21 Aug 1940, Rank: Master Sergeant, Pay Scale: $86.70, Discharged: 18 Jan 1943
  7. Date of enlistment (Non-Com) 14 Apr 1923 to 18 Jan 1942
  8. 1930 census for San Francisco, Soldier/Army/4th Motor Repair battalion, not married.
  9. Discharged 18 Jan 1942 to accept commission (Captain)
  10. Died 13 Oct 1946
  11. Died on Active Duty: 13 Oct 1946
  12. Date of internment: 18 Dec 1946
  13. Burial: Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California

From the 1930 census for San Francisco, San Francisco County, California:

  • Name: Peter Burdick
  • Birth Year: abt 1901
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: White
  • Birthplace: Pennsylvania
  • Marital status: Single
  • Relation to Head of House: Head
  • Home in 1930: San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  • Street address: 4th Motor Repair Battalion
  • Dwelling Number: 21
  • Family Number: 1272
  • Home Owned or Rented: Rented
  • Radio Set: No
  • Lives on Farm: No
  • Attended School: No
  • Able to Read and Write: Yes
  • Father's Birthplace: Pennsylvania
  • Mother's Birthplace: Pennsylvania
  • Able to Speak English: Yes
  • Occupation: Soldier
  • Industry: U S Army
  • Class of Worker: Wage or salary worker
  • Employment: Yes
  • NOTE: Listed as a veteran but did not serve in any WW.
Transcription of U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Form:
  • To: The Quartermaster General, Washington 25, D.C.
  • Interment in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California
  • Religious Emblem: Latin Cross
  • Name: Burdick, Peter NMI (No middle initial)
  • State: California (also PA)
  • Rank: Captain
  • Serial No: O-510630 (also ASN 6524127) (ASN = Army Serial Number)
  • Service Data: U.S. Army PAC HONSU (Pacific Army Command, Honshu, Japan) WWI
  • Date of Birth: 29 Jun 1899
  • Date of Death: 13 Oct 1946
  • Date of Internment: 18 Dec 1946
  • Grave Location: Section G, Block 2, Grave 2191A
  • Dates of Service WWII
    • Enlistment: 14 Apr 1923 thru 18 Jan 1942
    • Died on Active Duty: 13 Oct 1946
    • Discharge: 18 Jan 1942 to accept commission
    • Retirement: (blank)
  • Remarks: Authority – Commanding Officer, Ft. Lawton, Washington
    • Headstone form returned
  • Date Headstone Ordered and B/L Number: Green Mountain, VT. Jun 3 / 1947 6382646
    • Green Valley Memorials, Randolph, Vermont (?)
  • Shipping Point for Headstone
    • Railroad Station for Freight: San Bruno, California
    • Post Office Address: San Bruno, California
  • Signature of Superintendent of National Cemetery: A. J. Nettke,
  • Number printed across bottom of Card: 6 1 0 0 1 0 0 6 2 8 8

Finally, here is my speculation:

  • Peter Burdick was not the soldiers birth name.
  • Peter may have been taken in by a Burdick family and began using the Burdick surname.
  • Since he does not appear in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records, he may have gone to live with other families to earn a living.
  • Not being with any family while using the Burdick surname to have been listed by a census taker.

Update, April 11, 2020:

You forwarded a message from someone telling of a Nathan Burdick was born in 1827 in Frewsburg, NY. This family supposedly moved to PA in an area close to St Marys, Elk County. I looked for family trees for a Nathan Burdick born 1827 and found 136 trees. I choose one with 20 records and 40 sources. Searched that tree and found 10 Peters (none born circa 1899) and no Peter Burdick in the family.

One would logically assume that if a child was born 29 Jun 1899, the family would still be in the same area in 1900. I searched Ancestry and Familysearch again, just cannot find a family with a son with an initial of P. or a given name of Peter, of age about 1-2 years, in any state.

Have heard nothing more from my contact who stated "Will see what I can find and get back to you." He has the family tree of John and Anna Eva "Sigmund" Burdick. This contact's credentials are "U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS.

I did find a Donald P. Burdick born 1899 in Pennsylvania in a family tree on Ancestry. However, this Donald P. supposedly died prior to 1900. The owner of the tree provides no proof of birth or death. I wrote asking for input on this person. As of yet, no reply.

Then I found a tree with a daughter born two years prior in Elk County, PA and have written to that tree owner to see if they may have a hint of a son by the name of Peter, or like name, who was born in 1899. Still no reply.

I hate to give up on this Soldier. I am wondering a couple of things that are really nothing but pure speculation. Was he an adopted child and therefore not listed as a Burdick or son in the census records? Was the spelling of his surname originally BURDICK? Did this soldier go by the given name of Peter because he just happened to like that name? Was he an orphan raised by someone else and, in later life, just took their surname, not knowing his real surname? Maybe raised in an orphanage under another surname so he is not to be found in the 1900 to 1920 census records? Was he a man who had something to hide, therefore using an assumed name? An unknown foundling left on a doorstep or at a church? A child who happened to have a friend with the surname of Burdick and chose to use that surname? Just too many unanswered questions about the early life of Capt. Peter Burdick.

About all we can do is hope that someone out there will recognize something about this person and contact us.

Update, May 6, 2020:

In the record of the mysterious Capt. Peter Burdick, it is noted that he was born in St Marys, Elk County, PA. Then, on the back of his headstone order card it is noted that he was born in Canada. Well, this morning, while searching on Ancestry.com, Four records magically appeared, they seemingly support the St Marys, Elk Co., PA location and also the Canada location. In the second record, the date and place of birth matches our Peter Burdick. However, he was supposed to be in the army on the date this record was recorded. Hmmm! He could have been between enlistments. He gives an address of Chicago, Illinois, yet he is crossing into Canada from North Dakota. In this second record, Peter Burdick was apparently traveling with a Walter L. Towers, as Towers gave the same address for a contact in the United states. I have added these records to my research document as it agrees with date and location of Birth or our Capt Burdick. Something else may turn up that will add to this information and put us a little closer to learning of his parents. They are easily deleted if proven irreverent.


Copyright Howard E. Burdick 2020. All Rights Reserved.

howard@burdickfamily.org