Mexico Military Records
Military records identify individuals who served in the military or who were eligible for service. Most young men were required to serve in or register for military service in Mexico. Today there are three categories of service: career personnel; the draft for all 18 year olds, who serve for a limited time; and the rural militia that is recruited when needed. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family records, biographies, censuses, probate records, civil registration, and church records.
Military records in Mexico begin with the Spanish military records in the colonial period before Mexico’s independence and continue with the nation’s own records. They give information about an ancestor’s military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. In addition, these records usually include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members.
In the late 15th century, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, one out of every 12 Spanish males between the ages of 12 and 45 was required to serve in the army. In 1773, Charles III established the quinta system, which required every fifth Spanish male to serve in the military.
The colonial armies included four kinds of troops:
- Spanish soldiers assigned to temporary service in the colonies
- Spanish soldiers permanently assigned to colonial service
- Provincial militia
- Local militia
The provincial militias were composed of men from the colonies, but the officers were almost exclusively Spanish. The local militias were created toward the end of the 18th century for community defense. Both the provincial and local militias were instrumental in the Mexican independence movement.
Military records are valuable for identifying further information about an ancestor, but they are not easily accessible to search. The Family History Library has not microfilmed many of them, and it is very difficult to get information by writing. An exception could be the colonial records housed in the general archives of Segovia, Sevilla, and Simancas in Spain. However, for most family research problems, military records are difficult to access and are scattered in various archives.
Other sources such as church records and civil registration are more easily available and contain much of the same information. The military records that have been microfilmed by the library are for the most part indexed and not difficult to read, but they are incomplete for several years.
To use Mexican military records, you will have to determine the specific regiment in which an ancestor served. If the records of your ancestor do not provide this information, it may be possible to learn which regiments were inducted in the area where he lived. To do this you must at least know the town where the individual was living when he was 18 years old. To determine the name or number of the unit to which your ancestor belonged, write to the Archivo General de la Nación and Archivo Histórico Militar Mexicano with all the information that you have about your ancestor, including your relationship to him. The archives’ addresses follow:
- Dirección General de Archivo e Historia
Miguel de Cervantes Zaavedra s/n
Col. Irrigacion Esquina con Periférico
11640 Mexico D.F.
- Archivo Histórico Militar Mexicano
Lomas de Sotelo por Periférico
Mexico was involved in the following military actions:
1521 Cortes seizes Tenochtitlan and conquers the Aztec empire.
1536 Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca first explores New Mexico, a land rich in natural resources. Other expeditions follow between 1539 and 1610.
1571 The Tribunal of the Inquisition formally established in Mexico City.
1610 Santa Fe founded.
1691 Conquest of Texas.
1761 The Ejército De La Nueva España (The Army of New Spain) created. Before this only town militias that were organized as the need arose.
1765 Some Spanish troops added to the army in New Spain.
16 Sep 1810 Parish Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Independence) gives way to the first uprising by Indians and mine workers in the pursuit for independence. The revolution begins.
7 Nov 1821 General Agustín de Iturbide orders the organization of the Ejército Mexicano (Mexican Army), an army mainly composed of soldiers who had left the Spanish forces and insurgents from villages that favored independence.
1821 Mexico wins independence from Spain.
1825 The Spanish troops evacuate El Castillo de San Juan de Ulua. Spanish power ceases to exist in Mexico.
1829 Spanish invade unsuccessfully.
1835 Texas rebels against Mexico and forms an independent state.
1838 First French invasion.
29 Dec 1845 United States annexes Texas .
1848 The Mexican War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the war with the United States, which gains upper northern Mexican territories.
1858–1860 The Reform Laws proclaimed by President Benito Juárez. Guerra de Reforma o de los Tres Años (War of the Reformation or The Three Years War).
1860 General Jesús González Ortega, head of the Liberal Forces, disbands the old Ejército Mexicano (Mexican Army) and forms the Ejército Federal (Federal Army) to protect the government. This army later becomes the force President Profirio Díaz uses to suppress his enemies.
1862–1867 Period of French Intervention. French troops capture Puebla and advance on Mexico City. The republican government retires to San Luis Potosí, then to Saltillo, and later to Monterrey. The French arrive in Mexico City and elect Maximilian of Hapsburg as emperor of Mexico.
1867 Maximilian dies and French Intervention in Mexico ends.
1867–1911 The era of Porfirio Díaz, dictator of Mexico.
1913 Creation of Ejército Constitucionalista (Constitutional Army), lead by Venustiano Carranza. The main objective of the army, created by the Plan de Guadalupe, was to overthrow the uprise of Victoriano Huerta. After this was accomplished it became part of the regular army. The Federal Army was disbanded by the Convenios de Teoloyucán (Treaty of Teoloyucan) after its defeat by the Constitucionalistas. On 23 September 1948 the name of the army forces was changed by decree to Ejército Mexicano (Mexican Army).
1911–1921 The period of revolution, when Generals Francisco Villa, Francisco I. Madero, Emiliano Zapata, and Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregón fight to create a government after the overthrow of President Porfirio Díaz.
1929 Ejército Escobarista (Escobarista’s Army) fought against President Portes Gil.
1939–1945 Second World War. Only squadron 201 from Mexico fights in the war.
For more historical information about the Mexican military, army, wars, and campaigns, search the Family History Library Catalog under:
MEXICO- MILITARY HISTORY
MEXICO, [STATE]- MILITARY HISTORY
Military Records of Genealogical Value
The following records include information on most soldiers and can be useful in researching your family:
- Hojas de servicios (Service records). Lists of officers’ name, birth date, birthplace, family information, and military ranks and assignments.
- Expedientes personales (Personal petition files). Personal requests by servicemen such as their petitioning for military advancements after citing their military record. The files may include a number of documents of genealogical interest, such as family baptismal and marriage certificates.
- Listas de quintas o conscripciones (Conscription lists). Lists of new recruits and in some cases a census of all males eligible for military service. The town or municipal archives (archivo de ayuntamiento) sometimes house these records.
- Filiaciones (Enlistments). Lists of common soldiers in the military, excluding officers. Enlistments include the soldiers’ name, birth date and birthplace, parents’ names, residence, religion, marital status, and physical description. They may also list the soldier’s military history. Enlistments are less likely than service sheets to be indexed.
- Padrones and listas de revistas (Census records). Censuses of military men and their families were often taken in various areas. The census records may include all the citizens who were served and protected by the military outpost.
For more information on the military records of Mexico, including where the records are found, see:
Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, California: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984, pp. 591-632. (FHL book 946 D27r.)
Spanish Military Records
The Spanish military records are in several archives in Spain. The records include those for Spanish soldiers who served in Mexico in the colonial era as well as soldiers from Mexico who joined in the Spanish service. The records of the Army of New Spain are found in the archives of Simancas, Sevilla, and Segovia.
A listing of Spanish civil and military archives that contain military service records is found in:
Cadenas y Vicent, Vicente de. Archivos Militares y Civiles donde se Conservan Fondos de Carácter Castrense Relacionados con Expedientes Personales de Militares (Military and Civil Archives Which Hold Sources of a Military Nature Dealing with Records of Military Men). Madrid, Spain: Hidalguía, 1963. (FLC book 946 m2.)
The most extensive military archive in Spain is the Archivo General Militar de Segovia (General Military Archive of Segovia). Service files of Soldiers and officers are housed in the archive. You may obtain information about an individual by writing to:
Archivo General Militar de Segovia
Secretaría General del Ejército
Subsecretaría - Archivo Militar de Segovia
If your ancestor was an officer, check the published indexes of the Archivo General Militar. The files on officers are indexed (those of common soldiers are not), and references may be found in:
Cadenas y Vicent, Vicente de. Índice de Expedientes Personales (Index to Personal Records). 9 vols. Madrid, Spain: Hidalguía, 1959–1963. (FHL 946 m23s.)
Ocerin, Enrique de. Índice de los Expedientes Matrimoniales de Militares y Marinos (Index to Marriage Records of Soldiers and Sailors). Madrid, Spain: Zurita, 1959. (FHL book 946 M2oe; film 0897927 item 1.)
In your written request to the Archivo General Militar, include the name of the index you used, the page number of the information, and a copy of all the information about your ancestor in the index.
The Archivo General de Simancas (General Archive of Simacas) in Spain houses military records of Spanish soldiers who served in the Americas from 1780 to 1810. An alphabetic listing and index of these soldiers is found in:
Catálogo XXII del Archivo de Simancas (Catalog XXII of the Archive of Simancas). Valladolid, Spain: Secretaría de Guerra, c1958. (FHL book 946 m23e.)
Once you find the soldiers in the above index, refer to the service records from 1786–1800 from the Archive of Simancas, which can also be found on microfilm at the Family History Library as follows:
Hojas de Servicios Militares de América: Nueva España, 1786–1800 (Lists of the Military Service of America: New Spain 1786–1800). Madrid, Spain: Servicio Nacional de Microfilm, 1971. (FHL films 1156334–1156342.)
These records include three important aspects: genealogies, records concerning the Spanish military organization of the Indies, and records of the military unit of the Dragones de España that include the soldiers’ name, age, health, rank, and other personal information. Some records list the soldiers’ parents, civil status, and employment.
For additional military records of Spain, you may write to the following archives:
National Archive of Simancas
47130 Simancas (Valladolid)
Telephone: 983 590 003 983 590 750
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Internet: www.cultura.mecd.es/archivos/visitas/simancas/simancas.html[dead link]
Servicio Histórico de Segovia
Archivo General Militar
Plaza Reina Victoria Eugenia s/n
C.P. 40071 Segovia
Archivo General de Indias
Avda. De la Constitución
C.P. 41004 Sevilla
Internet: http://www.cultura.mecd.es/archivos/visitas/indias/indias.html[dead link]
Locating Other Military Records
Records of military service in Mexico were kept by several government agencies. Some of these records have been centralized at the Archivo General de la Nacion and the Archivo Histórico Militar Mexicano. Others can be found in different state archives as well as in the municipio archives (archivos del ayuntamiento). The Family History Library has some military records that cover the 1500s to 1900s.
The Archivo General de la Nacíon has several collections that contain valuable military records. These collections can be searched in the Archivo Histórico Militar (Historical Military Archive). Some of these collections are:
- Guerras y Pensiones(wars and pensions). These date from 1793 to 1900 and contain petitions for pensions from families who had soldiers who died in the war. These include servicemen’s name, spouse and children, date and place of birth and marriage, and place of residence.
- Listas de Revistas (list of musters). From this collection you can find the servicemen’s name, place of residence, age, civil statues, race, years in the service, and number of family members.
- Méritos y Servicios (merits and services records). These records start in 1524 and continue to 1634. They contain genealogies, biographies, names of soldiers, and occasionally their date and place of birth.
Another archive that has military records but is difficult to access is the Archivo de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Archive of the Secretary of National Defense) in Mexico City. Some of the collections include:
- Registros de Comisiones Militares (registers of military comissions).
- Hojas de Servicio Militar (military service records).
Cancelados (files on former officers)
These records have extensive information on the soldiers and officers and their families. In order to visit this archive you need a letter of recommendation and the archive’s permission to do research.
Another military record in Mexico is the Cartillas del Servicio Militar Nacional (cards of conscripts of the national military service), which covers the last century to the present and lists persons from 18 to 48 years old. These cards are issued to all who enter the military and include a photo of the conscripted and his full name, age, date and place of birth, parents, and civil status. These records can be found either in the Ayuntamientos (municipio offices) or the Department of the Secretary of National Defense.
The above collections are only a few of many that are found throughout Mexico. Always make sure you know the history of the area in which your ancestor served, and find out what archives are available for that area and what records they contain.
Some of the Mexican military records at the Family History Library that contain helpful genealogical information include:
Luna, Laurentino. Archivo de Genovevo de la O (Archive of Genovevo de la O). México, D.F.: Archivo General de la Nación, 1980. (FHL book 972 B4a #36). An index to the records in the Archivo de Genovevo de la O. The original records are housed in the Archivo de La Nacion This collection includes a history of the Zapatista movement of 1920 to1929 and contains dates acts bulletins letters receipts telegrams service records minutes offices reports certificates newspapers and military and pension records
Martínez Cosio, Leopoldo. Los Caballeros de las Órdenes Militares en México (Cavalier of Military Orders in Mexico). México, D.F.: Editorial Santiago, 1946. (FHL book 972 D5c.) An index of records of the units known as Orden de Santiago, Orden de Calatrava, Orden de Alcántara, Orden de Montesa, and Orden de San Juan de Jerusalén. These orders are listed in alphabetical order and include valuable genealogical information.
Hojas de Servicios Militares de América: Nueva España, 1786–1800 (Military Service Records of America: New Spain, 1786–1800). Madrid, Spain: Servicio Nacional de Microfilm, 1971. (FHL films 1156334–1156342.)