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Military records identify millions of individuals who served in the military or who were eligible for service. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family traditions, census records, naturalization records, biographies, cemetery records, and records of veterans’ organizations. Military records can give birth, marriage, and death dates; spouses’ and children’s names; and places of residence throughout the life of the family.
Military records are found at the Family History Library, the National Archives, and other federal and state archives. The Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort (which is part of the Kentucky Historical Society, listed in the "Societies" section) also has many military records. The United States Military Records Wiki article provides more information about the federal records and search strategies. For Kentucky the following sources are also available.
- Fort Boonesboro (1775)
- Fort Jefferson
- Fort Nelson -- French and Indian War (1754–1763)
- Newport Barracks -- Textual records of this post, 1833-1894, 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).
Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
- Taylor, Philip Fall. A Calendar of the Warrants for Land in Kentucky, Granted for Service in the French and Indian War. FHL fiche 6019959 FHL book 976.9 R21t 2001 (See Kentucky Land and Property.) This record contains an alphabetical list of soldiers, mostly from Virginia, who received warrants for bounty land in what is now Kentucky from about 1774 to 1789.
If a person supported the Revolution, he may be mentioned in records as a rebel, patriot, or Whig. Those who opposed the Revolution were Loyalists or Tories.
Service and pension records and indexes for patriots are available on film at the National Archives and the Family History Library. See the United States Military Records Wiki article for these sources.
The Revolutionary War was fought before Kentucky became a state in 1792. Many veterans came to Kentucky and may be listed in:
- Quisenberry, Anderson Chenault. Revolutionary Soldiers in Kentucky: Containing a Roll of the Officers of Virginia Lines Who Received Land Bounties, a Roll of the Revolutionary Pensioners in Kentucky, a List of the Illinois Regiment Who Served Under George Rogers Clark in the Northwest Campaign, also a Roster of the Virginia Navy. Baltimore, Maryland.: Southern Book, 1959. FHL film 908017 item 5; fiche 6051503; book 976.9, These lists are arranged by county and alphabetically within each county by the name of the pensioner.
- Virginia State Library. Department of Archives and History. List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia: Special Report of the Department of Archives and History for 1911 and 1912. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954. FHL film 29893. The contents of this record are arranged in alphabetical order by surname.
An Internet site entitled “Revolutionary War Warrants is available to determine the names of Virginia veterans (or their assignees) who received bounty land warrants as payment for military service. The database also includes scanned images from the Warrants Register and the file identification for the patents authorized by the evolutionary War land warrants.
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 of Kentucky, which includes Revolutionary War pensioners and heirs of War of 1812 casualties, is available online:
- Report from the Secretary of War... Vol. III (Google Books)
- The Pension Roll of 1835, Vol. III (Ancestry) ($)
- Kentucky Pension Roll for 1835 (Ancestry) (free)
For Loyalist records see the Canada Military Records Wiki article.
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, Kentucky in the War of 1812, for information concerning military records, histories, links to relevant web sites, etc. for Kentucky.
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.
- Kentucky. Adjutant General. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky: Mexican War Veterans (1846–1847). Frankfort, Kentucky.: Historical Society, 1966. FHL film 551064 item 3. These are arranged by company and regiment and then alphabetically by the name of the soldier. It includes his name and rank, dates and length of service, the places he was mustered in and out of, and the dates this mustering took place.
Civil War (1861–1865)
See Kentucky in the Civil War for information about Kentucky Civil War records, web sites, etc. with links to articles about the Kentucky 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.
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Kentucky, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865 (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Kentucky, Civil War Service Records of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865 (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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.
- Kentucky. Adjutant General. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky: Kentucky Volunteers, War with Spain, 1898–1899. 1908. Reprint, Frankfort, Kentucky.: Historical Society, 1966. FHL film 551064 item 2. These unindexed records are arranged by company and regiment and then alphabetically by name. They include the soldier’s name, rank, date and place of enrollment, and dates and places of mustering in and out.
- Volunteer Officers and Soldiers of the Spanish American War, 1898–1899. Frankfort, Kentucky.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1966. FHL film 482881. These are arranged alphabetically by name within the company and regiment. The soldier’s name, rank, and enlistment and muster dates and places are listed.
- 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.)
Click on the link to learn more about the Spanish American War.
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.
- United States. Selective Service System. Kentucky, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M1509. Washington DC: National Archives, 1987–1988. FHL films 1643933 (first of 92 films). Also available at:
- United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (FamilySearch) - free
See WWI Draft Records for more information.
- Haulsee, W. M. Soldiers of the Great War. 3vols. Washington, DC: Soldiers Record Pub. Association, 1920.FHL book 973 M23s. Digital copy Vol 2 - free Roster of soldiers who died in the war. Kentucky soldiers are listed in volume 1, pages 375 to 408. It gives the soldier’s name, residence, rank, and cause of death, and it includes pictures.
Following World War I Kentucky attempted to keep three sets of records by county. They were:
- Records filled out by soldiers.
- Records from the government with service number.
These records are scattered, though a full set may be found in the Department of Libraries and Archives in Frankfort, Kentucky.
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:
- A series of books entitled "Young American Patriots", published shortly after the war, documented the service of soldiers from different states including Kentucky. 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.
- Register of Vietnam War Casualties from Kentucky. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, 1988. FHL book 976.9 M28k. This book lists soldiers alphabetically and by county. It includes lists of soldiers who came from other states and those who were missing in action. The soldier’s name, rank, birth date, residence, and casualty date are given.
Other Military Records
For a published list of militia officers from 1792 to 1811, see:
- Clift, Garrett Glenn. The Corn Stalk Militia of Kentucky, 1792–1811: A Brief Statutory History of the Militia and Records of Commissions of Officers in the Organization from the Beginning of Statehood to the Commencement of the War of 1812. Frankfort, KY.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1957. FHL film 1035658 item 4; fiche 6051254; book 976.9 M25c. This book is indexed and includes an alphabetical list of soldiers by year, showing each soldier’s name, regiment, and enlistment date.
For an index to Kentucky veterans from the War of 1812 to World War I, see:
- Kentucky Historical Society (Frankfort, Kentucky). Index to Veterans of American Wars from Kentucky. Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Historical Society, 1966. FHL films 471728–74. This microfilm is arranged by war and then alphabetically by the name of the veteran. It references published rosters for the various wars.
- For a comprehensive description of both federal and Kentucky state military records, see James C. Neagles’s book U. S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Pages 246 to 254 provide details of military records (many of which are not microfilmed) housed in various archives in Kentucky.
Additional military information and sources can be found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
KENTUCKY- MILITARY HISTORY
KENTUCKY- MILITARY RECORDS
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY]- MILITARY RECORDS
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- MILITARY RECORDS
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