United States Military Records

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Military records are from times of war and times of peace. They identify individuals who served in the armed forces or who were eligible for service. Military records can help you learn more about your ancestors who served their country. These Wiki pages teach terminology and describe the contents, uses, and availability of major sets of records created mostly by the federal government. You can use them to learn about federal and nationwide sources. The Wiki pages discuss only sources that identify personal information about individuals in the armed forces and their units. They do not discuss historical sources about military institutions, weapons, battles, or tactics. The Wiki pages for the separate states have more information about state military records.

Getting started with United States Military Records research

If you are just beginning research, you may need some introductory information before using this set of Wiki pages. You may want to see the Wiki article Guide to Research.

The Basic Search Strategies page of this set suggests steps you should take to find your ancestors in military records. This section is especially valuable if you are just beginning your research. The Record Selection Table can help you choose types of records to search. The Family History Library's collection is described on that page, and there is also a page explaining how to use the Family History Library Catalog to find specific records.

Use military records to:

  • Find evidence of military or patriotic service
  • Find residence at time of military service or pension 
  • Find birth information
  • Find evidence of family relationships
  • Find relatives who served and left clues about my family

Types of Military Records

Service Records

Records after Service

Records available for Individual Wars

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There is an explanation of general types of military records available for most wars. Not all military records sources are mentioned in the wars pages. Records not specific to a particular war but to a branch of the service are described on the page for that service branch. These pages do not include sources for the Coast Guard and Air Force.

Research Tools

FamilySearch Historical Record Collections

Online collections containing these records are located in FamilySearch.org

Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:

State Military Records


On August 18, 2011 Footnote.com became Fold3.com See the website for more information.
Fold3.com has free military collections on their site including their Civil War maps collection and Brady Civil War photos. They also have a free Vietnam Service Awards collection and Vietnam Veterans Memorial collection with over 58,000 images of soldier's names from the memorial.

Did You Know?

As of June 30, 2008, about 1,427,546 people are on active duty in the United States military with an additional 1,458,400 people in the seven reserve components.