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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 (or legends), census records, naturalization records, biographies, cemetery records, and records of veterans’ organizations.
Many military records are found at the Family History Library, the National Archives, the Minnesota Historical Society, and other federal and state archives.United States Military Records provides more information on federal military records and search strategies.
Fort Beauharnois -- 1727-1756
Fort Howard 1816-52
Fort Ridgely -- 1853-1867
Fort Ripley -- 1849-1877
Fort Ridgely -- Textual records of this post, 1853-1865, 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 Sanborn -- 1862-1863
Fort Snelling -- 1819-1946. Textual records of this post, 1855-1922, 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 Wilkins 1844-70
Encyclopedia of Indian Wars Western Battles and Skirmishes 1850-1890. By Gregory F. Michno. Mounatin Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Montana C. 2003 ISBN 0-887842-468-7
Mexican War (1846–1848)
Although Minnesota did not exist as a state during the time of the Mexican War, men who served in that war were eligible for military bounty land in Minnesota. (See Minnesota Land and Property.)
Civil War (1861–1865)
Minnesota was a relatively new state with a small population at the time of the Civil War, but it contributed a substantial number of troops to the Union forces during the war. About 22,000 Minnesotans served; 2,500 died in the war. An article with suggestions and sources for researching a Civil War ancestor in Minnesota is:
- Baker, Mary Hawker. Tracing Civil War Ancestors in Minnesota. Minnesota Genealogist 28 (fall 1997): 98–100. St. Paul, Minnesota: The Society. (Family History Library book 977.6 B2mg.)
- Names of most of those who served are included in:
- Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861–1865. Two Volumes. St. Paul, Minnesota: Pioneer Press, 1890–93. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2bc; Volume 1 on film 1036220 item6; Volume 2 on film 1033917 item 2 and fiche 6046730 [fiche 11–18].)
- Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861–1865. 2d ed. Two Volumes. St. Paul, Minnesota: Pioneer Press, 1891. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2bc 1891; film 1033917; fiche 6046730 [set of 10.)] Volume 1 includes the history of each regiment and regimental rosters listing soldiers’ names, ages, dates of service, and remarks about their service, including whether transferred, wounded, captured, or killed. Volume 2 consists of correspondence and battle reports, arranged chronologically. Indexes at the end of each volume list only some officers and major events. A more complete index to both volumes is at the Minnesota Historical Society.
- Minnesota Adjutant General’s Report of 1866. Roseville, Minnesota: Park Genealogical Books, 1997. (Family History Library book 977.6.) The report lists 26,088 names of men who served during the Civil War period, including citizen soldiers who served in local militias. It gives name, age, state or country of birth, dates of service, and remarks, and is arranged alphabetically. Family history researchers should look at both.
The index to the federal service records of Union volunteers from Minnesota is:
- United States. Adjutant General’s Office. Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Minnesota. National Archives Microfilm Publication M0546. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, [1965?]. (On 10 Family History Library films beginning with 821930.)
- An index to volunteers in the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment. Includes some personal histories and photos.
For a statewide Civil War database search see the Dalby Database.
- Civil War Pension Index Cards - A free Internet index to pension applications of veterans who served in the US Army between 1861-1917 is available on FamilySearch Record Search. Each card gives the soldier’s name, application and certificate numbers, state of enlistment, and might include rank and death information. Other wars, of that time period, may be included.
The index to Union pension records for all states is described in United States Military Records.
Names and residences of some persons receiving federal pensions can be found in:
- List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883: ...as Called for by Senate Resolution of December 8, 1882. Volume 4. 1883. Reprint. Arvada, Colorado: Ancestor Publishers, 1990. (Family History Library fiche 6334560.) No circulation to Family History Centers. The list includes more than 4,000 names of Civil War or War of 1812 veterans or the name their widow. Arranged by county names in alphabetical order, then by post office addresses in alphabetical order; persons’ names are not in any particular order. Information includes the pensioner’s name, post office address, reason for pension, amount of money received each month, and date the pension was originally awarded. Unindexed.
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In 1890, about 40 percent of the Civil War veterans were members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The descriptive books of each GAR post usually indicate each member’s name, age, rank, birthplace, residence, occupation, and enlistment and discharge information. The descriptive books and other records of many GAR posts are at the Minnesota Historical Society.
An important inventory for finding Civil War military histories in Minnesota is:
Civil War Unit Histories:The Union—Midwest and West. (Part 4.) Bethesda, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1993. (Family History Library book 973 M2cwu pt.4.) The library has the large microfiche collection described in this guide. Use the library catalog to find individual items. This may include correspondence, diaries, memoirs, and regimental histories published before 1920. The guide shows the unit name, counties where it was raised, author, title, publication information, number of pages, and source repository. This guide also includes an author index and a major engagements index.
Soldiers Home Records
Records of the state operated soldiers home in Minneapolis are found in the Minnesota State Historical Society Library. They include resident admission and discharge records, history of residents’ military service, and clinical records.
Dakota Conflict (Sioux Uprising, 1862)
The Dakota Conflict, sometimes called the Sioux Uprising or Sioux War of 1862, erupted in Minnesota during the Civil War. Driven by hunger and broken promises, some Dakota Indians attacked settlements in the Minnesota River Valley in mid-August 1862. Although not long, the Dakota Conflict claimed the lives of hundreds of Dakota people and white settlers. The unrest that persisted following the conflict caused many Dakota Indians to flee to the Dakota Territory or to Canada.
Records of troops in federal service who took part in the Dakota Conflict are included with Civil War records. Names of those who served with local militia units are included as an appendix to Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861–1865, volume 1, described above. Names of more than 200 white settlers and many Indians who died in the Dakota Conflict are included in:
- Satterlee, Marion P. A Detailed Account of the Massacre by the Dakota Indians in 1862: with Names of all Victims [and a] Complete List of Indians Killed in Battle.. Minneapolis, Minnesota: M. P. Satterlee, . (Family History Library film 1671601 item 7.)
Spanish-American War (1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902)
Minnesota raised four volunteer regiments for service in the Spanish-American War. About 5,000 men served with those regiments. Four Minnesota soldiers were killed in action; more than 80 died of disease. Minnesota was one of a few states that also provided volunteers during the Philippine Insurrection. Rosters of those who served in both conflicts are included in:
- Holbrook, Franklin F. Minnesota in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota War Records Commission, 1923. (Family History Library film 1654701.) Includes brief regimental histories of the Minnesota volunteer units, followed by rosters of Minnesotans who served between 1898 and 1902 in those units and in other branches of service—more than 8,000 names. Information includes name, age, birthplace, residence, regiment, and dates mustered in and out. Includes an index to names in the rosters and a general index.
Names of those who filed for pensions based on service in these two conflicts are included in the General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934, described in United States Military Records.
World War I (1917–1918)
World War I draft registration cards for men ages 18 to 45 may list address, birth date, birthplace, race, nationality, citizenship, and next of kin. Not all registrants served in the war. For registration cards for Minnesota, see:
- United States. Selective Service System. Minnesota, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987–1988. (On 94 Family History Library films beginning with 1675275.)
To find an individual’s draft card, it helps to know his name and residence at the time of registration. The cards are arranged alphabetically by county, within the county by draft board, and then alphabetically by surname within each draft board.
Most counties had only one board, large cities had several. Maps showing the boundaries of individual draft boards in Minneapolis and St. Paul are included in:
- United States. Selective Service System. List of World War One Draft Board Maps. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 19––. (Family History Library film 1498803.)
Finding an ancestor’s street address in a city directory will help you in using the draft board map. See Minnesota Directories.
Haller’s Army. During World War I, the Polish Army in France, commonly called Haller’s Army, recruited about 20,000 soldiers from among Poles living in the United States. Two forms that contain genealogical information were filled out by the recruits. Form A contains each volunteer’s name, address, marital status, number of children, how his family would be supported if he was accepted into service, whether volunteer was an American citizen, his age, physical description, signature, recruiting station, and the date. Form C contains additional information such as the volunteer’s birth date and place, the addresses of his closest relative in America and of his closest relative in Poland, his previous military service, and remarks. All volumes of the collection are available through:
PGS of America
ATTN: Haller’s Army Request
984N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
A name index is on the Internet at:
- Haller’s Army Index. In Polish Genealogical Society of America [Internet site]. [Chicago, Illinois: PGSA], 1998 [cited 17 July 1999]. You can search by surname and first name. The index shows the volunteer’s surname and given name, the town and state where he volunteered, his form (Form A or C described above, or L [loose papers]), and page number.
A microfilm copy of the Form A records only is:
- United States (with Some from Ontario, Canada) Recruits for the Polish Army in France, 1917–1919 A microfilm copy of the Form A records only is:
United States (with Some from Ontario, Canada) Recruits for the Polish Army in France, 1917–1919: States Represented most Frequently are New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Connecticut, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Nebraska & Kansas (for Complete Breakdown See Film Inventory). Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1995. (On 11 FHL films beginning with 1993525.) The forms are in Polish, but at the beginning of each film is a blank form printed in English. The records are not organized by locality, and Minnesota recruits are represented on almost every film. There is, however, an alphabetical list of volunteers for each item.
World War II (1941–1945)
Lists of dead and missing soldiers who served during World War II, arranged alphabetically by county, are in:
- Minnesota’s World War II Army Dead. Brooklyn Park, Minnesota: Park Genealogical Books, 1994. (Family History Library book 977.6 A1 no.135.) It includes 6,462 names and indicates the soldier’s rank and cause of death.
The Minnesota Historical Society Library has a collection on 88 rolls of microfilm of military service record cards for Minnesotans entering federal service from the state militia or National Guard. These cover conflicts from the Civil War through World War I, including the Spanish- American War. These cards are arranged by war and branch of service, then alphabetically by soldier’s family name. They give name, age or date of birth, sometimes birthplace, and dates and places of service. The microfilms can be used through the interlibrary loan service of your public library. For film numbers, contact the Minnesota Historical Society Library.
The Minnesota Historical Society has a number of other military records, including a few muster rolls dating from the late 1800s for state militia and National Guard units. The Society also has copies of more than half the original induction records of the 60,000 Minnesota men drafted into service in World War I, records of World War I veterans who applied for bonuses, records of the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis, established in 1887, and some records from veterans’ organizations. For descriptions of these and other records, see Genealogical Resources of the Minnesota Historical Society: A Guide cited in Minnesota Archives and Libraries.
Information may also be obtained from Fort Snelling National Cemetery (7601 34th Avenue South, Fort Snelling Minnesota 55111, telephone 612-726-1127). Veterans from the Civil War through recent conflicts are buried at the Fort Snelling cemetery. Minneapolis also has a national cemetery and an office of the Veterans Administration.
Other useful military records are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MINNESOTA – MILITARY RECORDS
MINNESOTA – MILITARY HISTORY
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – MILITARY RECORDS
Minnesota Veterans Graves Registration index - a list of Veterans buried in Minnesota - 1857 - 1975. It also includes a birth and death index.
Minnesota. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001. NOTE: All information in the original research outline has been added to the FamilySearch Wiki, where it is both enhanced and updated by the genealogical community.