Was Great-Grandfather at Penniman? (A Genealogist’s Dream Come True)

In my ongoing quest to learn more about Penniman, Virginia, I visited Ike Skelton Library (a military library in Norfolk) and they told me about “The Shell Inspector,” published by the U. S. Army in 1918. The 44-page book was written by the men of the Enlisted Detachment, Ordnance Corps, U. S. Army at Camp Penniman.

Unfortunately, the only copy in the entire world was at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia.

Fortunately, the VHS still possessed their one copy.

Unfortunately, the VHS does not scan entire documents for patrons.

Fortunately, they allowed me to visit their library (94 miles one way) and take pictures of this old book.

Unfortunately, I visited on the very same day that 4,387 noisy short people from the local elementary school were there.

Fortunately, “The Shell Inspector” was housed in a room with double doors, which the librarian quickly closed when the noisy short people approached the common hallway.

Within the pages of this book I discovered a genealogist’s dream. There were pictures of the 312 Army men stationed there, with a little tiny white number hand-drawn on each man, and a corresponding list of the men’s names and home cities.

And an interesting aside, the book was written days after the war ended (November 11, 1918), so this is one happy bunch of young men.

If you’d like a closer view of a particular man, leave a comment below and I will email you the image you want.

As I said – it’s a genealogist’s dream come true!

Please share the link on your Facebook page!  😀

To read more about the fascinating story of Penniman, click here.


The whole dea

The original picture of the Ordnance Corps comprised several pages.


44 one bee

For ease of viewing, I cut the image into several sections.


44 1 c

These fellows are from the 2nd section.



See anyone you know?



Yes, that is a dog, and he's number 312. Sadly, he's not listed in the roster!


Thirty five one A

They do look like a happy bunch of soldiers. No doubt they were happy. After all, they'd survived the war and the war was over and they were headed home.


Thirty five one B

And in this photo, you can see the officers (in chairs).



These men were photographed independently of the others. I wonder if they missed the first picture day?


Group two

Second group of men that were photographed independently.


And now the names.

And now the names.


Second list of names.

Second list of names.



I don't see any Fullers or Hoyts on the list. Drat!



No Whitmores, either!


And there was

And there was this woman, Mrs. Robert Oberholser. If someone could tell me why an adjutant is needed in a WW1 Army camp, and how a woman snagged this position, I'd be most grateful.


This map from The Shell Inspector shows that the men came from all over the country.

This map from The Shell Inspector shows that the men came from all over the country, but the majority came from the Northeast. I wonder where #312 was from?



"The Shell Inspector" was dedicated to the two officers of the camp.


Captain dog

Lieutenant Carl Trometre, enlisted May 1898.



Lieutenant Frank Butler, enlisted September 1894.



The Shell Loader was published in 1918 by the U. S. Army. It was an incredible find.


To read more about Penniman, click here.

Interested in reading about bungalows and germs? Click here!

Why were kit homes so popular in the early 20th Century?

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  1. Lori Fitzjarrald

    Rose, Thank you for this wonderful article and all of the time and effort that you put in to present it to the public.

    You never cease to amaze me! Lori

  2. Sears Homes

    @Lori Fitzjarrald
    Thanks, Lori.

    Typing out those last names for the “tags” – one by one – was the hard part! 😀

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    I’m a history loving nut, and I’m hoping someone finds an ancestor in these old pictures.


  3. Mark Hardin

    In the roster is Lieutenant Carl Trometre (commanding).

    He is listed in the 1920 census in Henrico Fairfield near Richmond Va. His parents were both German and he was born in Alsace-Lorraine.

  4. Dave Spriggs

    There are many deliciously unique surnames in that batch. With enough diligence … and coffee … it is all but certain that living descendants could be located…Not that I am volunteering for that job, mind you.

  5. Sears Homes

    Thanks for volunteering, David!

    Let me know what you find!!!


  6. Kristi Davis

    I would be interested in seeing J. Zajicek #60, if possible.

    Zajicek is my great-grandmother’s maiden name and her family lived in Chicago.


  7. Sears Homes

    @Kristi Davis

    Did you get the photo? Do you think it’s one of your kin?

  8. Marlene


    is there any way I can email you? I’ve a question about one of your books.

  9. Gloria Bauer Ishida

    Concerning Mrs. Oberholser’s position, almost all camps from early times in the US, had/have an orderly room where daily administration is taken care of.

    Civilians were and are employed and probably she had been well trained for this kind of work. Her “aliases” are amusing.

    The soldiers must have “kidded” her a lot about her own German name.

    From what I have found about her husband, he became a prominent educator in New Jersey; he served in a medical unit World War I.

    I think this must be her husband; her name was Grace. Robert died at an old age in 1994. Grace in 1975. It would be natural for her to wish to serve in some way.

  10. Gloria Bauer Ishida

    Mark Hardin
    Mark, “In the roster is Lieutenant Carl Trometre (commanding). He is listed in the 1920 census in Henrico Fairfield near Richmond Va. His parents were both German and he was born in Alsace-Lorraine.”

    In various censuses folks from Alsace were listed as either German or French depending on which country held Alsace.

    I wonder if he was from the Wissenbourg area, Bas Rhin. That name is common there (spelling variation).

  11. Logan

    @Gloria Bauer Ishida

    Carl is my great-grandfather. He was from Buhl in Bas-Rhin. His family name from Croettwiller and Niederrodern was Trometer.

    He emigrated to Boston in 1891 because his mother wanted to get him away from having to serve in the German army but he went on to become a career military man anyways.

    Carl changed his name to Trometre in the 1890s because he felt it sounded more French as he felt there was too much anti-German sentiment to remain a “Trometer”.