Sam found where genealogy and radio meet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sam Alcom (KB3DFJ), who shares the following guest post:

Genealogy and radio meet

by Sam Alcom (KB3DFJ)

Who knew two of my hobbies – genealogy and radio – would joyfully collide in such an unexpected way?

My grandfather died in the 1950s when I was just a few months old, so I didn’t know him, let alone have some misty recollection of him. Seemingly, our only connection was the DNA bloodline though my father.

But as I dove into my family’s history, one web search led me to William H. Alcorn and 3ADJ. What the heck was 3ADJ? I dug deeper and found Amateur Radio Stations of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, Radio Division from June 30, 1924. Both of us were hams!

He was licensed as amateur radio station 3ADJ in Port Norris, N.J. with authorization to operate up to 50 watts.

I found him and his 3ADJ callsign again listed in 1925 in the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation, Radio Service publication. The “3” in his sign threw me for a brief loop, but I learned that in the early days of radio Southern New Jersey was part of the third call district along with Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, certain counties of Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

The website, a goldmine for anyone delving into all aspects of broadcasting’s past, led me to more publications where I spied my grandfather in the late fall 1925 edition of Radio Listeners’ Guide and Call Book and the 1926 edition of Citizens’ Radio Call Book and Complete Radio Cyclopedia.

The last radio trace I find was in the June 30, 1927, edition of the Amateur Callbook.

It was around this time that the U.S.  began using “W” to start callsigns and I wondered if my grandfather continued with his radio hobby under the new designation. I looked up W2ADJ and found William Czak of West Brighton, N.Y., owning that sign. Likewise, W3ADJ belonged to the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. Both were from 1929.

I dug a little deeper to learn if he possibly had been an amateur prior to 1924, but I saw 3ADJ licensed to Horace Derby of Norfolk, VA., 1920 through 1923.

His amateur radio interest appears to have started sometime after 1921 and a stint in U.S. Navy as a Seaman Second Class and then seems to have waned – at least license-wise – as marriage and the first of my aunts, uncles and my dad were being born.  I wonder if my dad had known about his dad’s radio hobby. In all the years I’ve been a licensed ham and bono fide radio nerd, he never mentioned it.

Of course, learning on this radio connection to my grandfather raised a host of other questions. Did he enjoy CW as much as I do? What kind of contacts was he making with 50 watts? Would he have admired the WAS and DXCC award certificates hanging on my wall? Would my hefty binder of shortwave QSL cards impressed him?

So, I’ll keep poking, looking for more radio connections. Who knows, maybe, somewhere, there’s a 3ADJ QSL signed by my grandfather.

Spread the radio love

8 thoughts on “Sam found where genealogy and radio meet

  1. dv1sco

    Very nice.
    I hope you find some more of your grandpa story and stuff. Old stories and histories are good to reminisce.

  2. Michael Black

    But it only works if there’s a coincidence.

    My great, great grandmother’s brother was a lawyer. My great grandfather was. One or two of my grandfather’s brothers were lawyers.

    I should have been a lawyer, except I only know this in the past decade.

    My father of as a zooologist.

    1. Frank K4FMH

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you so much for the link to Prof Streete’s link to a course he taught while at the Univ of Vermont in the Sociology Department. I’m Prof Emeritus of Sociology at Mississippi State U but am unfamiliar with his work. That’s now changed, lol!

      You may find my forthcoming article on The Lost Tribe of US amateur radio operators in the October issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine of related interest. It describes some historical facts not found in ARRL-based versions of “the” history of amateur radio.

      1. Roger Fitzharris

        Hello Frank,
        You are welcome. Coming across that link was serendipitous.
        It came about after I had finished watching a History Channel episode entitled: “Tesla vs. Marconi.” (See the SWLing post dated August 24, 2021 – “Nostalgia,” “Radio History” for the link.
        During the narration of the broadcast (I believe it was near the end) the narrator stated:
        “Radio would become the backbone of modern communication entertainment: TV, Internet, and smartphones – all born from the idea of messages being transmitted through the air.”
        What intrigued me was how one could compare information transmitted through the air to packets of information being transmitted through fiber optic and copper lines?
        Along that line of questioning, I certainly found the Prof. Streete’s lecture notes quite illuminating and interesting. And I’m assuming you did as well.
        I look forward to reading your forthcoming article on The Lost Tribe of US amateur radio operators in the October issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. I’m sure that I will find it quite interesting.
        In the future, perhaps you would consider publishing another article in the Spectrum Monitor. One dealing with Radio’s enduring interest and appeal among listeners with widely diverse backgrounds and interests. As a Professor Emeritus of Sociology, I’m sure you would provide an invaluable perspective.

        Cheers and 73

  3. Roger Fitzharris

    Hello Sam,
    “His amateur radio interest appears to have started sometime after 1921 and a stint in U.S. Navy as a Seaman Second Class…”
    Below is a link that you and Frank (K4FMH) may find of interest.
    Therein lies the importance of troops returning home, from World War I, to the evolutionary development of the nascent technology known as radio. › Soc43 › pages › lecture_radio
    Cheers and 73
    Roger Fitzharris


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.