Pennsylvania Military Records
The United States Military Records page provides more information on federal military records and search strategies. Many military records are found at the Family History Library, the National Archives, and other federal and state archives.
A helpful bibliography is John B. B. Trussell, Pennsylvania Military History (Carlisle Barracks, PA: [s. n.], 1974; FHL book 973 B4ua no. 10. It includes items from the colonial period through World War II.
Many volumes of the Pennsylvania Archives (see Pennsylvania Genealogy) contain transcripts of military records, such as rosters and muster rolls. The appropriate volumes and series are referred to below.
- 1 Forts
- 2 Colonial Wars (1744-1775)
- 3 Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
- 4 War of 1812 (1812-1815)
- 5 Mexican War (1846-1848)
- 6 Civil War (1861-1865)
- 7 Veterans of Multiple Eras (1867-1921)
- 8 Spanish-American War (1898)
- 9 Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902)
- 10 Mexican Border Campaign (1916)
- 11 World War I (1917-1918)
- 12 World War II (1941-1945)
- 13 Korean War (1950–1953)
- 14 Vietnam War (1964–1972)
- 15 Other Military Records
- 16 Websites
- 17 References
- Carlisle Barracks -- Textual records of this fort, 1829-1879, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
- Fort Cumberland
- Fort Duquesne
- Fort Granville
- Fort Hand
- Fort Ligonier
- Fort McIntosh 1778-91
- Fort Mifflin -- Textual records of this fort, 1841-1901, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
- Fort Necessity
- Fort Pitt
- Fort Venango
Colonial Wars (1744-1775)
- The earliest documents appear to be Records of 17th Century Soldiers in New Sweden: 1637-1655 (microfilm of originals at the Gloucester County Historical Society, Woodbury, New Jersey; FHL film 1510234 item 4. It contains mainly lists of soldiers and is written in German and Swedish.
- Names of soldiers and their companies in the colonial period, 1744-1765, are in the 5th series, volume 1 of the Pennsylvania Archives FHL book 974.8 A39p; FHL film 844572 item 2; FHL fiche 6019913. These records often give the state or country of birth. Sometimes even a more specific locality is indicated.
- "Register of the Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America" published in 1907 (Google Books) (Worldcat) - lists women who are members of the society and a description of the ancestors military or political service.
Revolutionary War (1775-1783)Pennsylvania in the Revolutionary War article.
Loyalists or Tories
Few, if any, Scotch-Irish settlers fought for the British. Names of Loyalists may be found in:
- Pennsylvania, Supreme Executive Council, Forfeited Estates File, 1777-1790 (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, [1978?]; FHL film 1759092 item 2 FHL film 1759093 item 1. Records are alphabetically arranged by name of the estate holder with some files arranged by county.
- Records of forfeited estates are also found in Pennsylvania Archives, series 6, volumes 12-13. See Guide to the Microfilm of the Records of Pennsylvania's Revolutionary Governments, 1775-1790 in Pennsylvania Archives and Libraries section for a list of the names in these records.
Another list of these names is:
- Anne M. Ousterhout, Opponents of the Revolution Whose Pennsylvania Estates Were Confiscated, Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 30 (1978): 237-53. See Pennsylvania Periodicals.
A small list of these individuals is:
- Black List: A List of Those Who Took Part With Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, and Were Attainted of High Treason, Commonly Called the Black List microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia: [s. n.], 1802; FHL film 1688885.
Patriots or Revolutionaries
To understand how the Pennsylvania militia system worked, including why units composed of the same men from the same area were renumbered, see "Revolutionary War Militia Battalions and Companies, Arranged by County." Few of these men, of course, received pensions. For the men who did receive pensions from the state, see the index of Pennsylvania Revolutionary pensioners prepared by Pennsylvania State Archives. It is available for free online.
For patriot records of the Revolutionary War, see:
- Pennsylvania State Archives. Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File. Arranged alphabetically by surname of soldier. The abstract card file contains transcriptions of data extracted from original records in the custody of the State Archives concerning Revolutionary War service in the Pennsylvania Militia, Pennsylvania Line, and the Navy. Note that duty after November 1783 is not considered Revolutionary War service. Information provided is name and rank of soldier, whether active or inactive duty, county of residence, battalion in which served, and record from which information was extracted. Also noted are whether soldier was delinquent and fined or whether militia fines were abated.
- Pennsylvania State Archives. Militia Officers Index Cards, 1775-1800. Index card file of the names of Pennsylvania militia officers who served during the American Revolution, in Indian campaigns in northwestern Pennsylvania, and in quelling the Whiskey Rebellion. The cards are arranged alphabetically by surname of officer. Information provided is name, county, rank, company or battalion, dates of service, township, and occasionally district within township. In rare cases, other pertinent information is provided such as place of burial, wounds received, names of children, names of any expeditions or campaigns, name of person whom they succeeded, and date discharged.
- White, Virgil D. Genealogical Abstracts of the Revolutionary War Pension Files. 4 vols. Waynesboro, Tennesse: National Historical Publishing, 1990. FHL book 973 M28g. May include the soldier's name, unit, dates and places of service and application, age, birth date, marriage date, residences, and names of relatives. These abstracts are mainly from the United States, Veterans Administration, Selected Records from Revolutionary War Pension & Bounty-Land-Warrant Application Files (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969; Family History Library films FHL films 840256-406. The Family History Library only has microfilms for surnames starting with A or B. The National Archives has microfilm for all surnames.
- White, Virgil D. Index to Revolutionary War Service Records. 4 vols. Waynesboro, Tennessee: National Historical Publishing, 1995. FHL film 973 M22wv. Shows the name, rank, and unit of over 390,000 patriots. Transcripts of United States, Adjutant General's Office, General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary Ward Soldiers (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1942; Family History Library FHL films 882841-98.
The service records and pension files for Revolutionary War patriots are available at the Family History Library.
You can also use NATF Form 80 to obtain copies of the original records from the National Archives. You can also go online to order these records at http://www.archives.gov/
The Family History Library has copies of many service records and the complete federal pension files from the National Archives. For example, see United States, War Department, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775- 1783, Pennsylvania Jackets 1-93 FHL films 830359-63. These rolls are filed by military unit. Published rosters of soldiers are in the following volumes of the Pennsylvania Archives, FHL books 974.8 A39p and microfilms listed below:
- 2nd series, vols. 10-11 FHL film 908829 item 2 and FHL film 908830 item 1
- 2nd series, vols. 13-15 FHL film 823997 item 2 and FHL film 823998 items 1-2
- 3rd series, vol. 23 FHL film 824434 item 2
- 5th series. vols. 2-8 FHL films 844573-77 item 1
- 6th series, vols. 1-2 FHL films 844562-63
An index to volumes 10, 11, 13, and 14 of the 2nd series is also at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Index to Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution: Battalions and Line, 1775-1783; Associated Battalions and Militia, 1775-1783 FHL film 539073 (first of 10 films).
- Another useful printed source is Harry E. Cope, Soldiers and Widows of Soldiers of the Revolutionary War Granted Pensions by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania FHL book 974.8 M2c and FHL film 1036819 item 26. Some of the names in this book are also found in the federal pension records. See United States Military Records for information about those records. Records for some individuals in the above title are also in Pennsylvania, Auditor General's Office, Revolutionary War Pension File, 1809-1893 FHL films 1016413-15. The films include names that are not in the book.
The 1835 Pension Roll
On June 5, 1834, the U.S. Senate required the Secretary of War to submit a statement showing the names of pensioners who were on the pension rolls or had previously been on the pension rolls. For more information on the 1835 Pension Roll see Revolutionary War Pension Records. The 1835 Pension Roll for Pennsylvania is available online.
- Report from the Secretary of War... Vol. II (Google Books)
- Pennsylvania Pensioners, 1835 (Ancestry) ($)
- The Pension Roll of 1835, Vol. II (Ancestry) ($)
The following sources from the Pennsylvania State Archives are also available at the Family History Library:
For early payment records, see Pennsylvania, Comptroller General, Revolutionary War Pension Accounts, 1785-1809, 1834-1838 FHL film 295743 items 4-9.
For an account of the payments to pensioners, see Pennsylvania, Auditor General, Revolutionary War Pension Accounts, 1807-1883 (Family History Library FHL films 1027856-9. The soldier's death date may be found in these records.
For a list of burials, see Daughters of the American Revolution, Lycoming Chapter (Williamsport, Pennsylvania), Revolutionary War Veterans Interred in Pennsylvania, volume 1 FHL film 441387. This is a micro-reproduction of an original typescript at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. It often just lists the name of the soldier and the cemetery.
Military Abstract Card File for the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. FHL films 1205961 (first of 42 films). This file has been abstracted from original documents in the custody of the Pennsylvania State Archives and is arranged alphabetically by soldier's name in four file units.
Pennsylvania. Comptroller General. Military Accounts, Line, 1775-1809. FHL films 1027962-70. The Military Abstract Card File is an index to these records. It includes clothing allowances, letters of attorney, probate actions, military rolls, documents regarding payment, affidavits, etc., filed by military unit.
Additional records that could prove helpful are Pennsylvania, Comptroller General, Militia Military Accounts, 1777-1794 FHL films 1023007 (first of 38 films). They are arranged by county, militia period, and battalion and include many lists of names, etc., such as why a person was unable to serve in the military.
For information about the federal soldiers from Pennsylvania (the Pennsylvania Line), see John B. B. Trussell, Jr., The Pennsylvania Line, Regimental Organization and Operations, 1776-1783 (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1977; FHL book 974.8 M2tp.
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
The War of 1812 between Britain and the United States confirmed the separate existence of the United States and the future Canada.
See the Wiki article, Pennsylvania in the War of 1812, for information concerning military records, histories, links to relevant web sites, etc. for Pennsylvania.
There are helpful nationwide records for soldiers of the War of 1812. For more information, see United States in the War of 1812.
Mexican War (1846-1848)
The Mexican War was caused by the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845. Most volunteer regiments were from southern states. Records of Mexican War veterans might exist in a state where the veteran later resided.
- Mexican War Index to Pension Files, 1887–1926. (NARA T317). FHL films 0537000–13 Alphabetically arranged and includes the veteran’s name, rank, and unit; names of dependents; date of filing and application; certificate numbers; act filed under; and state from which application was made. Also available at:
- United States, Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
- United States, Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
- Robarts, William Hugh. Mexican War Veterans : A Complete Roster of the Regular and Volunteer Troops in the War Between the United States and Mexico, from 1846-1848… Washington, D.C. : Brentano’s, 1887. FHL book 973 M2rwh Digital version available at Internet Archive.
- An alphabetical list of soldiers enrolled in Pennsylvania is in Pennsylvania Archives, series 6, volume 10, pp. 249-458. Volumes 36-38 of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine (see the "Periodicals" section) also has a list of names.
The Family History Library has the following records and an index to pensions, but the actual pension records are at the National Archives.
- United States. Record and Pension Office. Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations from the State of Pennsylvania. FHL films 1314139-51.
- Pennsylvania. Adjutant General's Office. Mexican Service Index, 1846-1848. FHL film 1032842 item 2 This contains muster rolls of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteers.
- Pennsylvania. Bureau of Audits. Mexican War Military Accounts, 1846-1880. FHL films 1020496-500.
- An excellent history is Randy W. Hackenburg, Pennsylvania in the War with Mexico (Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Pub. Co., 1992; FHL book 974.8 M2h. It includes the rosters and brief biographies of the men who served.
Civil War (1861-1865)
See Pennsylvania in the Civil War for information about Pennsylvania Civil War records, web sites, etc. with links to articles about the Pennsylvania regiments involved in the Civil War. The regimental pages often include lists of the companies with links to the counties where the companies started. Men in the companies often lived in the counties where the companies were raised. Knowing a county can help when researching more about the soldiers and their families.
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System allows name searching for soldiers. The result set gives the regiments for the soldiers. Then you can check the Wiki regiment pages to determine counties. Often knowing the counties that had men in a regiment will help you determine if a soldier was your ancestor.
Veterans of Multiple Eras (1867-1921)
- Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania National Guard Veterans' Card File, 1867-1921. Arranged alphabetically by surname of veteran. Names generally read from left to right: Last, Middle, First. Consists of 4" x 6" cards originally maintained by the Office of the Adjutant General. Data generally shown about each veteran includes name, rank, age, physical description (height, complexion, hair and eye color), occupation and residence; the date and place of enlistment; the date and reason for discharge; and the unit (company and regiment) to which assigned. Information about federal service rendered by the veteran and the date of death or first appearance in the military records also routinely appears.
- CarnegieCarnegie has an online manuscript collection of the Capt. Thomas Espy Post 153 Department of Pennsylvania. They have the following:
Spanish-American War (1898)
The Spanish-American War was largely fought in Cuba and the Philippines. Spanish-American War records might exist in the state from which the soldier served or in a state where the veteran later resided.
- Pennsylvania. Department of Military Affairs State Veteran's Compensation Division. Spanish American War Veteran's Compensation File. FHL films 1032848 (first of 46 films) (Ancestry) ($).
- Pennsylvania. Adjutant General's Office. United States Volunteers of the Spanish American War, 1893-1901. FHL film 1266814
- United States, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (NARA T288). (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. The index covers veterans of the Civil War, Spanish‑American War, Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion (1900 to 1901), and the regular Army, Navy, and Marine forces. (Learn more.)
- United States, Index to Service Records, War with Spain, 1898 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
- A card file of veterans who participated in the Spanish-American war is Pennsylvania State Archives. Spanish American War Veterans' Card File of United States Volunteers. These records were created by the Office of the Adjutant General in 1941 from information taken from the official records of the United States War Department. Information found about each veteran includes name, race, residence, place and date of birth, date and place of enlistment, military organization to which attached, rank, and dates serving overseas in either Cuba or the Philippines. Sometimes extensive comments at the bottom of the cards provide information on the reasons for, and the type of, discharge as well as a record of prior military service.
- A published roster of soldiers, listing name, residence, and muster-in and muster-out dates, is Thomas J. Stewart, Record of Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Spanish-American War, 1898, 2nd ed. (Harrisburg, PA: Wm. Stanley Ray, 1901; FHL book 974.8 M2r and FHL film 982200 item 1.
Click on the link to learn more about the Spanish American War.
Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902)
- A card file of veterans who participated in the Spanish-American war is available online from the Pennsylvania State Archives. The Spanish American War Veterans' Card File of United States Volunteers includes records for soldiers that served during the Philippine Insurrection.
- Pennsylvania. Department of Military Affairs State Veteran's Compensation Division. Spanish American War Veteran's Compensation File. FHL film 1032848 (Ancestry) ($) - includes veterans of the China Relief Expedition and the occupation of the Philippines or Guam from 1898 to 1902.
Mexican Border Campaign (1916)
- Pennsylvania State Archives. Mexican Border Campaign Veterans' Card File. These cards, bearing the title "Mexican Emergency, Call of President, June 18, 1916," contain the following information about veterans: name and rank, regiment and company, age and place of birth, a physical description (height, complexion, hair and eye color), date of commission or enlistment into service, home station and date of rendezvous, and date of acceptance into United States service. Additional remarks may indicate the date that the soldier's enlistment was to expire and the name and address of a person to be contacted in case of an emergency. All of the cards also bear a stamp indicating that a Mexican Service Medal was issued to the veteran, along with a corresponding number.
World War I (1917-1918)
World War I was a global war fought on multiple continents with several nations involved. Over four million men and women served from the United States.
Draft Registration Cards
- United States, Selective Service System, Pennsylvania, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987-1988; FHL films 1852246 (first of 319 films). Also available at:
- United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (FamilySearch) - free
See WWI Draft Records for more information.
Service Medal Applications
- Pennsylvania State Archives. World War I Service Medal Application Cards. These cards were originally submitted by veterans and their survivors who applied for service medals in accordance with the Act of April 21, 1937 P.L. 331, sections 1 and 2. Information provided about each veteran consists of name and serial number, place of residence at time of entry into service, date and place the veteran entered into service, rank, military unit to which attached, place and date of honorable discharge, and the signature of the applicant. Also present are the initials of the person by whom the remittance was received and of the person acting on behalf of the Adjutant General, and each card is stamped with the date of approval. The reverse side of each card shows the name of the veteran or survivor applying for the medal, and the residence to which the medal was to be mailed.
World War II (1941-1945)
On April 27, 1942, the Selective Service conducted the fourth of six draft registrations related to WWII. The "World War II Selective Service Draft Cards: Fourth Registration, 1942" is often referred to as the “Old Man’s Registration” or the “Old Man’s Draft" because it included men with a date of birth from April 28, 1877 to February 16, 1897. Since there is overlap in the WWI and WWII Selective Service registration, men born in the years 1877 to 1900 may have registered twice and have both WWII and WWI draft records.
- United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (Image Browse) (FamilySearch) - free
- United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (images with partial index) (FamilySearch) - free
- Also available at:
For a brief history of Pennsylvania's involvement, see S. K. Stevens, Marvin W. Schlegel, and Joseph T. Kingston, Pennsylvania's Second Year at War; December 7, 1942 - December 7, 1943 (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1945); FHL book 974.8 M2sk. It includes biographies of Pennsylvanians who won the Medal of Honor and a list of Pennsylvania generals, admirals, and commodores.
A series of books entitled "Young American Patriots", published shortly after the war, documented the service of soldiers from different states including Pennsylvania. The series of books included photos and a short biography of some of the soldiers from the state.
World War II United States Military Records provides additional information.
Korean War (1950–1953)
The Korean War was a conflict between North Korea (and its communist allies) and South Korea (with support of the United Nations, primarily the United States). See the Korean War wiki article for information on records and their availability.
Vietnam War (1964–1972)
The Vietnam War was a conflict between North Vietnam (and its communist allies) and South Vietnam (with support of its anti-communist allies, including the United States). See the Vietnam War wiki article for information on records and their availability.
Other Military Records
- The State Archives has limited draft and muster records for World War I (not available online). The Family History Library has copies of other files from the State Archives. These include militia files, accounts, claims, and other records created during and between wars.
- The Pennsylvania State Archives (one needs to register to use this site) has digitized a number of military records (does not need to register to access the military records)
- Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 155-156. Free digital version at PA's Past: Digital Bookshelf at Penn State.