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Beginning Research in United States Military Records

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1. What are United States military records?[edit | edit source]

  • Chances are good that one or more of your ancestors served in the military, either at the Federal level, the State level, or perhaps both.

General Types of Military Records[edit | edit source]

  • Service Records: Service records for militia, volunteer, or regular forces document that an individual served in the military and can provide your ancestor’s unit or organization.
  • Draft, Conscription, or Selective Service Records:
  • Bounty Land Warrants: The federal government provided grants of bounty land for those who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and Indian wars between 1790 and 1855.
  • Pension or Veteran Records: Payments or benefits were given to retired soldiers. However, not every veteran received or applied for a pension.

For other records related to military service, see OTHER TYPES OF RECORDS RELATED TO THE MILITARY.

2. What time periods do they cover?[edit | edit source]

Military records began as early as the 1600's when the early immigrants were fighting in different wars with the Indians. Early records are frequently organized by a specific war. Starting dates for military branches are:

  • United States Army, 1789
  • United States Navy, 1775
  • United States Marine Corps, 1798
  • United States Air Force, 1947
  • National Guard: State level records.

3. What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Military records provide a variety of information about an individual and could include their birthplace, age at enlistment, occupation, and names of immediate family members.

  • Service Records:
    Name, unit, residence, date mustered in and out, basic biographical, medical and military information.
  • Draft, Conscription, or Selective Service Records:
    Name, residence, age, occupation, marital status, birthplace, physical description, and other information.
  • Bounty Land Warrants:
    Covers the same information as Service records as well as information pertaining to the Indian Wars.
  • Pension Records:
    Narration of events during service, birth, marriage and death records, may include family bible pages as well as letters.

4. How do I access them?[edit | edit source]

Online records and indexes[edit | edit source]

United States Military Online Genealogy Records (includes links to Ancestry.com ($) and FamilySearch)

  • Fold3:
    Gives convenient access to US military records, including photos and personal documents of the men and women who served.($)

Ordering military records online[edit | edit source]

  • Military records for the NARA and NPCR can be ordered online by going to eVetRecs.
  • To order military service records from Washington, D. C., use NATF Form 86.
  • To order military pension files from the American Revolution up to before World War I and bounty land warrant applications before 1856 use NATF Form 85.
  • To order military records from St. Louis, use form SF-180.
  • NATF Form 85, NATF Form 86, or SF-180 can be found at NATF forms.

5. Search strategies[edit | edit source]