Whether it’s a meticulously prepared Daughters of the American Revolution application or an enlistment record that transports you across the decades with descriptive details, military records are an important source of information in genealogical research. Military records help us understand when and where our ancestors fought and served, what wars they were part of, and whether they dedicated time to national security during times of peace. There are numerous types of military records that researchers encounter: draft accounts, muster rolls, detailed service records, pension documents, bounties, cemetery records and veteran's profiles. Here’s a closer look at how to interpret military records and how they can inform your genealogical search.
Navigating military paperwork
One of the advantages of conducting genealogical research with military records is that most militias across time and countries have been well-organized. Military service can be one of the richest sources of written details about the life and times of a specific ancestor. This is true whether your ancestor served in a distant navy or army, or more recently in branches like the Air Force and National Guard. It’s important to remember that military paperwork typically relates to different points in the service lifecycle:
Accessing Military Records
If you’re currently researching an ancestor that you know served in the military, accessing these records can greatly expedite your research. But if you don’t have personal experience with finding and reviewing military records, it can be a challenge to know where to get started. What follows is a list of several different options to launch your search.
The National Archives: The National Archives stores records in two repositories, one in Washington DC and the other in St. Louis, Missouri. Their website outlines the procedures for visiting the archives and obtaining copies of specific records.
Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com has digitized a significant portion of America’s military records prior to WWII. These include WWI draft cards and WWII draft cards. They also have collections of foreign national service records available.
Taking pride in your family’s military service and uncovering the details is one of the pleasures of genealogy. There’s a vast world of military records that can help fill in important gaps in your family narrative. If you need assistance locating and interpreting military records in your genealogical search, contact us today for a personalized consultation to find out how working with a professional genealogist can help.