Military Records

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Millions of American citizens served in the armed forces. So chances are good that one or more of your relatives served at some time or another in the military. If they did, the military kept records about them and their service—and these records can range from okay to amazing!

Families do a reasonably good job of passing down information about relatives who served in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or the two World Wars.

But even if your family has no tradition of military service, it’s still worth checking to see if ancestors who lived during the war periods did in fact serve.

It’s possible, too, that an ancestor enlisted in the military during peacetime or that an ancestor who didn’t serve had siblings who did. For all these reasons, there are relatively few American families whose family history research would not benefit from a search of military records.

Military records frequently reveal all sorts of information about an ancestor and can help lead you to other sources.

Generally, military records fall into three broad categories: 1) pension files and bounty land warrants, 2) service records, and 3) military unit histories.

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The contents of the military records depend on which type of record it is.  Therefore:

For what Pension Records contain — see Military–Pension Records

For what Bounty land warrants contain — see Military–Bounty Land Warrants

For what Service Records contain — see Military–Service Records

The contents of Military Unit Histories is not covered on a separate page. These records may contain biographies of officers, rosters of soldiers in the unit, and clues to where the soldiers were living when they enlisted. They may also provide dates of death of veterans or their place of residence after their service. It’s best to look in the Author/Title search of the Family History Library Catalog on microfiche under the name of the author if you find that a history exists.

Where to find these records also depends on which type of military record you’re looking for.  Therefore:

To find Pension Records — see Military–Pension Records

To find Bounty land warrants — see Military–Bounty Land Warrants

To find Service Records — see Military–Service Records

Also, go to FamilySearch, click on Search, then click on Research Helps, then click on U (for United States) and get the U.S. Military Records Research Outline.  This will give you detailed information and links to film #s.

For links to sites with military records,  go to:
http://www.usigs.org/library/military/links

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Military Records—The Family History Library’s Collection

The Family History Center in Salt Lake has most of the military records that are available on microfilm—including a large number of indexes.  Some of the key records available at the Family History Library include the following:

Revolutionary War  (1775-1783)
•  General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers.
•  Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War.
•  Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900.

War of 1812  (1812-1815)
•  Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during the War of 1812.
•  Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files.

Mexican War  (1846-1848)
•  Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during the Mexican War.
•  Index to Mexican War Pension files, 1887-1926.

Civil War  (1861-1865)
Union Records
•  General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.  Includes the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and Philippine Insurrection but not World War I.
•  Indexes to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the States (every state except South Carolina had units that served in the Union Army).
Confederate Records
•  Pension Files and Indexes. After the war most Southern states and some border states granted pensions to veterans living within their borders. These are state rather than federal records.
•  Consolidated Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers.

Spanish-American War  (1898)
•  General Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served During the War with Spain.
•  Pensions are indexed in the: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.

Philippines Insurrection  (1899-1902)
•  Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during the Philippine Insurrection.
•  Pensions are indexed in the: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.

World War I  (1917-1918)
•  World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Search for State, then Military Records

Indian Wars  (1784-1926)
•  Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served from 1784 to 1811.
•  Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served from 1784 to 1811.
•  Index to Indian War Pension Files, 1892-1926.
•  Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during Indian Wars & Disturbances, 1815-1858.

U.S. Army
•  Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914.
•  Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1926.

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Note: most of these records are also available at the Federal Archives at 5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia
http://www.archives.gov/southeast

The National Archives has the federal service, pension, bounty land and draft records. While several major indexes and some collections are on microfilm, most of the original records have not been filmed. These original records are available only at the National Archives. You can obtain photocopies of these records by using NARA Form 85 or NARA Form 86.

The general name index and compiled service records for Revolutionary War soldiers are both available on microfilm.  The indexes to the War of 1812, early Indian Wars, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, and the Philippine Insurrection are on microfilm, but the compiled military service records for these conflicts are not.

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Military—Where The PRE-WORLD WAR I Records Are Kept

Pre-World War I
National Archives Holdings
Washington, D.C.

The National Archives has the following pre-World War I federal service, pension, bounty land, and draft records:

Volunteers  — use NARA Form 86
•  Military service performed by persons serving during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the Federal interest, 1775-1902

Regular Army  — use NARA Form 86
•  Enlisted personnel, 1789 – October 31, 1912
•  Officers, 1789 – June 30, 1917

Navy  — use NARA Form 86
•  Enlisted personnel, 1798-1885
•  Officers, 1798-1902

Marine Corps  — use NARA Form 86
•  Enlisted personnel, 1789-1904
•  Some officers, 1789-1895

Coast Guard  — use NARA Form 86
•  Persons who served in predecessor agencies: the Revenue Cutter Service (Revenue Marine), the Life-Saving Service, and the Lighthouse Service, 1791-1919

Confederate States  — use NARA Form 86
•  Persons who rendered military service for the Confederate States in its armed forces, 1861-1865

Veterans Records  — use NARA Form 85
•  Claims files for pensions, 1775-1916
•  Bounty land warrant application files, 1775-1855

To order Military Pension Records, use NARA Form 85

To order Military Service Records from Washington, D.C., use NARA Form 86

Mail the completed Form 85 or 86 to: National Archives and Records Administration, Attn: NWCTB, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20408-0001

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Military—Where The WORLD WAR I & AFTER Records Are Kept

World War I and After
National Personnel Records Center Holdings
St.Louis, Missouri

The National Personnel Records Center holds the following military personnel and service records:

Army  — use NARA Standard Form 180
•  Enlisted personnel separated after October 31, 1912
•  Officers separated after June 29, 1917
Note: In 1973, a fire destroyed 80 percent of the records for Army officers and enlisted men discharged from 1912 to 1959.

Air Force  — use NARA Standard Form 180
•  Enlisted personnel separated after September 24, 1947
•  Officers separated after September 24, 1947
Note: In 1973, a fire destroyed 75 percent of the records of the Air Force from 1947 to 1963 (surnames Hubbard through Z).

Navy  — use NARA Standard Form 180
•  Enlisted personnel separated after 1884
•  Officers separated after 1901

Marine Corps  — use NARA Standard Form 180
•  Enlisted personnel separated after 1905
•  Officers separated after 1904

Coast Guard  — use NARA Standard Form 180
•  Enlisted personnel separated after 1905
•  Officers separated after 1897

To order these records use Standard Form 180.

Mail the completed Standard Form 180 to: The National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100.

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