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The U.S. Military Records Research Outline 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. The United States Research Outline provides more information about federal records. For information on records from the colonial period to 1863, see the Virginia Research Topics.
The Archives and History Library has the original adjutant general's records for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Civil War (Union and Confederate), and Spanish-American War. These include muster and descriptive rolls, enlistment records, and correspondence.
Fort Fincastle, Fort Henry, Fort Vanmetre
Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
Two particularly helpful sources for West Virginia ancestors who participated in the Revolutionary War are:
Johnston, Ross B. West Virginians in the American Revolution. 1959. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1977. (Family History Library book 975.4 M2j; the 1959 edition is on fiche 6087736). This includes sketches of over 1,300 soldiers who lived in West Virginia at some time in their life.
Reddy, Anne Waller. West Virginia Revolutionary Ancestors Whose Services were Non-military. 1930. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1963. (Family History Library book 975.4 N2r; film 1321057 item 6.) This book lists persons in the Revolutionary Public Claims records who gave aid and support, “provisions and other necessaries”, to the revolutionary forces. Most of these patriots do not appear in other Revolutionary War sources.
Civil War (1861-1865)
For an excellent discussion of West Virginia's part in the Civil War see Boyd B. Stutler, West Virginia in the Civil War. Charleston, West Virginia: Educational Foundation, 1963. (Family History Library book 975.4 M2s.)
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.
Union. Indexes to service and pension records of Union volunteers are available at the Family History Library and the National Archives. The library also has 261 microfilms of the Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of West Virginia. The records are arranged alphabetically by the soldiers' names within each unit. Use the index (Family History Library films 881595-607) to learn which unit your ancestor served in. The pension records are available only at the National Archives, however the Family History Library has the index on microfilms.
Confederate. West Virginia did not organize any confederate regiments nor did they grant pensions to confederate veterans. The approximately 9,000 West Virginians who chose to fight for the Confederate States of America generally joined the confederate regiments of Virginia. Virginia's 22nd Infantry was composed almost entirely of soldiers from West Virginia. The 31st and 46th Infantry also had large numbers from West Virginia. Some confederate veterans may have received pensions from Virginia (records, with an index, are on 219 Family History Library films beginning with 1439763.)
The Archives and History Library has a list of Confederate soldiers and an alphabetical card index to Confederate graves.
Southern Claims Commission. If a Union sympathizer in West Virginia claimed a loss during the Civil War due to Union military confiscation, he could apply to the Southern Claims Commission for reimbursement. Only a few applied per county, but their neighbors were called as witnesses and asked dozens of questions. Hundreds of the residents of all kinds in a county may be mentioned in answers to Commission questions, and their wartime activities described. To learn how to find records mentioning these neighbors in West Virginia counties during the Civil War see the Southern Claims Commission.
World War I (1917-1918)
World War I draft registration cards for men age 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 West Virginia, see:
United States. Selective Service System. West Virginia, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M1509. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987-1988. (On Family History Library films beginning with film 1992327.)
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.
These are online at a subscription website:
Additional Military Records
Various rosters of soldiers for the French and Indian War, Indian Wars, Lord Dunmore's War, Revolutionary War, Whiskey Insurrection of 1794, War of 1812, Mexican War, and the Civil War, are in Virgil A. Lewis, The Soldiery of West Virginia. 1911, Reprint (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978; Family History Library book 975.4 M2L). A separate index has been published. This book has also been reprinted (and updated through the Vietnam War) as Volume 9 of The West Virginia Historical Encyclopedia: Supplemental Series (see the “History” section of this outline).
West Virginia Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.