Your Guide to Finding Ancestors
in U.S. Military Records

Military records can provide much information. There are two basic record types: service records and pension records. But there are many types of records that are related to military service, ranging from letters home to burial arrangments to medals and honors.

Service records give less information than pension records, but exist for most people who served.

Pension records can provide a wealth of information, but exist only for a relatively small segment of individuals.

Military records can be found at both the federal and state levels of jurisdiction, but don't overlook local pride... you will often find county or town specific information. Also, there is often much data on military conflicts, including information on those involved, in manuscripts.

This page is still in progress, but you may find the links here so far helpful... it's a lot to cover!

General Information * Colonial Wars * American Revolution* --Loyalists * War of 1812 * Indian Wars * Mexican War * Civil War * Spanish American War * World War I * World War II * Korean War * Vietnam * More Links

General Information

Any basic how-to book will include at least one chapter on this topic and there are many books that cover how to locate and use military records.

A great deal of helpful information is on the web.

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Colonial Wars: Pre-1775

Wikipedia: Military History of the 13 Colonies

On the Web:

American Revolution (1775-1783)

Books and Articles :

Locating Your Revolutionary War Ancestor: A Guide to the Military Records. Neagle. (This is out of print, but many libraries would own it) (find in a library)


Crume. "Researching Revolutionary War Records Online" in Family Chronicle, April 2007 pages 23-28

On the web: How to guides:

Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestor -- a research guide by Connie Lenzen. This is written for patrons of the library of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon, but is useful to anyone. The books she lists are available in most libraries that have a genealogy collection of any size.

Also helpful are

Data Online

  • Online Revolutionary War Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide
  • Colonial Ancestors provides some information on Revolutionary War soldiers and of course the DAR has tried to identify all Revolutionary War Soldiers.
  • Pension Records
    • Scanned images of selected revolutionary war pension records are available through Heritage Quest, which may be available through your local libraries (all Michigan libraries have a subscription). These can be viewed at home, as well as in the library. (Dick Eastman describes this database). Included are files of 80,000+ individuals who served in the Revolutionary War. Each veteran's file usually contains six or more pages on each veteran and normally includes the veteran's former rank, unit, and period of service, age or date of birth, residence, and sometimes-genealogical information on other family members.
    • Footnotes, a subscription database, provides scanned images of the full revolutinary war pension record files.
    • Revolutionary War Pension Records can be difficult to read. Is it worth it to take the time to transcribe them? Here is an example of what a transcription might provide.
    • You can't rely on Ancestry.com to determine if there is a R.W. pension record for your ancesetor; the works they indexed create only a partial listing. (as of 4/09)
  • Prisoner of War Records

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Revolutionary War-- Loyalists

Books and articles:

Merriman. United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada (Ontario) (review) (find in a library)

Bunnell. Research Guide to Loyalist Ancestors. A Directory to Archives, Manuscripts, Published and Electronic. (find in a library)

On the Web.

Start with the website of the On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies. Notice that they have a genealogy page in addition to several pages filled with valuable research information.

Print out : Getting a Handle on Your Loyalist Ancestors Using Published Sources (.pdf file)

Loyalist Research of Canada

More Links:

Post Revolution

Papers of the War Department 1784-1800

War of 1812

Online War of1812 Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide

Butler. Military Records of the War of 1812 (an article generally describing the records at the National Archives.) Note: War of 1812 pension and service records have not been microfilmed, but indexes are available on film and through subscription databases online.

NARA. Military Resources: War of 1812. A detailed description of each of the various record groups at the National Archives.

 

Indian Wars (1790-1898)

Mexican War (1846-1848)

Books and Articles:

On the web:

Civil War (1861-1865)

How to..

Online Guides

Books

The Records

Spanish American War

Online Spanish-American War Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide

World War I

Books and Articles

Schaefer. The Great War: A Guide to the Service Records of All the World's Fighting Men and Volunteers (find in a library)

Available Online

Joe Beine's Guides of online resources for WWI

Nudd. . World War I Draft Registrations (article by archivist at National Archives, published in Eastman's Online Genealogy Blog)

The WWI draft registration cards are available at Ancestry.com. If you don't have a subscription and can't get to a library that has a subscription, remember: you can still search Ancestry.com WWI records. The results list will show the state and county (but not the city). You can order the records from the Family History Library, but must know where the registration took place. Here is the entry for Michigan -- note you must click the VIEW FILM NOTES box to determine what reel to order. If your ancestor was in a large city, it can be quite tricky to pinpoint the film.

"They Answered the Call: Military Service in the United States Army During World War 1, 1917-1919" from Prologue vol.30 no. 3 Fall 1998

For more links, see Cyndi's List: WWI

World War II
Online WWII Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide

Neill. WWII Draft Cards -- describes them and gives information on obtaining them.

NARA. World War II Records

"World War II Army Enlistment Records and Access to Archival Databases" in Prologue vol. 38 no. 1, Spring, 2006

While not military records, researchers with 20th century immigrant ancestors will want to research the alien registration records (1940-1944) microfilmed and held at the INS. It looks like you must make a FOI request to get them. Alien Registration Form, A Genealogical Resource discusses these records, including a detailed explanation of how to obtain them.

Korean Conflict

Online Korean War Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide

Vietnam

Online Vietnam War Indexes and Records: A Genealogy Guide

More Links...

Cyndi's List

Genealinks: Military Sites

 

 

updated May 1, 2012
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