United States, Veterans Administration Master Index - FamilySearch Historical Records
|Access the Records|
United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940
|This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.|
|Flag of the United States of America|
|US Flag 1912-1959 (48 stars)|
|National Archives and Records Administration Logo|
|Record Type||Military Veteran Index to Benefits|
|Record Group||RG 15: Records of Veteran Administration|
|Microfilm Publication||. Veterans Administration Master Index. 259 rolls.|
|National Archives Identifier||76193916|
|National Archives and Records Administration|
- 1 What is in This Collection?
- 2 What Can These Records Tell Me?
- 3 Collection Content
- 4 How Do I Search This Collection?
- 5 What Do I Do Next?
- 6 Citing This Collection
What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]
This collection contains a card index created by the Veterans Bureau (Veterans Administration), colloquially known as the VA Master Index. These 3" x 5" index cards contain basic information about approximately 5.7 million veterans who served in the United States military between roughly the end of the Civil War through 1939, but the majority from the Spanish-American War and World War I, and who later made (or whose heirs made) claims for benefits between 1917-1940.
This index card collection was deaccessioned from the Veterans Administration, who had microfilmed the cards several decades ago, to the National Archives (NARA) in 1985. Each of the microfilms is sorted by the first letter of the veteran's surname, with some long runs of the cards in roughly alphabetical order. However, some cards were unintentionally overlapped during the filming, making the information on any underlying card only partially readable. And some small sections of the alphabet appear to be missing entirely.
The microfilms of the card index are stored at the National Archives (NARA) branch in St. Louis, but the microfilms were not widely known to the public, nor to researchers, because they were not listed in the online searchable National Archives Catalog. (It is also not clear what happened to the original paper cards.) The microfilm set was initially located and identified by a military historian serving on the board of directors of the 501(c)3 non-profit organization Reclaim The Records, which then brought the records set to the attention of FamilySearch. Here is a PDF LINK to what each of the letters mean on the card.
The two organizations worked together throughout 2018-2019 to make the records available to the public for the first time. FamilySearch had volunteers travel to St. Louis to digitize the microfilms onsite, over a period of eight weeks. They then made a copy of the newly digitized images available to Reclaim The Records, who is releasing them to the public without usage agreements or copyrights. FamilySearch also started an online transcription project to make the information on the cards text-searchable, also making the data available to both organizations. As of August 2019, Reclaim The Records is using their copy of the text data and images to develop a free standalone website for this data set, with advanced functionality for researchers to further explore the records, including features like soundalike name searches and geo-location proximity searches.
Additional information may be available at the National Archives at St. Louis. Additional indexed records will be published as they become available.
The following collections also known as the Veterans Administration Claim Files World War I Compensation Files. Deceased Veterans Compensation Files are at the National Archives at St. Louis and are related to the master index:
- Deceased Veterans Claim Files (XC Files),10.1917-ca. 1945 NAID 23904754
- Deceased Veterans Claim Files (XC Files), 10.1917-ca. 1949 NAID 12280123
- Deceased Veterans Claim Files (XC Files), 10.1917-ca. 1955 NAID 26466267
- Deceased Veterans Claims (XC Files), 10/1917-ca. 1955. NAID 28894631
Additional Resources on World War I at the National Archives at St. Louis
- World War I Records at the National Archives at St. Louis
- Finding Your World War I Veteran at the National Archives at St. Louis
- The Sick and the Dead. Veterans Administration Claim Files and World War I Burial Files
- United States, National Archives, Military Records, 1885-2004 - Collection Coverage Table
- Theresa Fitzgerald. "Auxiliary Records of World War I Veterans." NGS Magazine 43 # 4 (October-December 2017):50-55.
Image Visibility[edit | edit source]
Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.
What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]
Information found in the collection are listed below:
Collection Content[edit | edit source]
Sample Images[edit | edit source]
Digital Folder Number List[edit | edit source]This collection was published as a DGS browse collection. The list does not contain any description of the DGS folder's content. A table listing each DGS number and its contents can be found at United States, Veterans Administration Master Index Digital Folder Number List.
How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]
Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:
- The name of your ancestor
- The first military unit in which your ancestor served
- The names of family members (heirs or beneficiaries)
Search the Index[edit | edit source]Search by name on the Collection Details Page.
- Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
- Click Search to show possible matches
View the Images[edit | edit source]
To view images in this collection go to the United States, Veterans Administration Master Index Digital Folder Number List article to determine the folder/film number for the images you want to see.
How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]
Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.
What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]
I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]
- Search for the family in the 1910 and 1920 census records. The 1930 census will also identify World War I veterans.
- Search for the veteran's discharge certificate, statement of service card and published military unit or county history.
- Your ancestor or relative may have joined a local post of the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars.
- When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
- Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.
- Contact the National Archives at St. Louis for additional information about the people on these index cards. These cards are useful, but they are also just the finding aid index to a much larger set of records. As of August 2019, the non-profit organization Reclaim The Records is working on a free step-by-step guide to help genealogists request copies of the veteran's full file, with pension or other benefits information, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Most of these full files are about fifteen pages long, but perhaps twenty percent of these files are much bigger, some even as long as five hundred pages of material.
I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]
- Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names
- Search the military records at Fold3
Research Helps[edit | edit source]
The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the United States.
- US Military Basic Search Strategies
- Beginning Research in United States Military Records
- Beginning United States World War I Research
- United States Guided Research
- United States Record Finder
- Research Tips and Strategies
Related Family History Library Holdings[edit | edit source]
- United States, Veterans Administration master index, 1917-1940
- United States, World War I, military muster rolls and rosters, 1916-1939
Related FamilySearh Historical Record Collections[edit | edit source]
- United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
- United States, World War I American Expeditionary Forces Deaths, 1917-1919
- United States Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918
- United States, Enlisted and Officer Muster Rolls and Rosters, 1916-1939
Related Digital Books[edit | edit source]
Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]
Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.