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
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
Records available for Individual Wars
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.
- Colonial Wars, 1607 to 1763
- Revolutionary War, 1775 to 1783
- War of 1812, 1812 to 1815
- Mexican War, 1846 to 1848
- Civil War, 1861 to 1865
- Indian Wars, 1780s to 1890s
- Spanish-American War, 1898
- Philippine Insurrection, 1899 to 1902
- World War I, 1917 to 1918
- World War II, 1941 to 1945
- Korean War, 1950 to 1953, and Vietnam War, 1964 to 1972
- For Further Reading
- FamilySearch Record Search. Free. Includes Civil War Pension Index Cards (no images), Louisiana War of 1812 Pension Lists (images only), World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (images only), Vermont Enrolled Militia records, 1861-1867 (images only).
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. Free National Park Service site with a nationwide index to Union and Confederate servicemen, including U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).
- HeritageQuestOnline. Search selected records from the Revolutionary War era pension and bounty-land warrant application files. This subscription site is also available at selected libraries.
- Ancestry.com ($) A subscription site with records from most major American wars, including DAR Rolls of Honor, the Civil War Collection, and World War I Draft Registrations. Also includes selected Loyalist and Confederate sources.
- Fold3.com ($) (formerly Footnote) Subscription site to digitized and indexed National Archives documents including Civil War Service Records, Civil War Widows Pensions, Mormon Battalion Pension Files, Pension Index-Civil War to 1900, Revolutionary War Pensions, Southern Claims Commission, WWI and WWII records.
- Family History Library, Register of Revolutionary War Records (Salt Lake City: FHL, 2006) Shows National Archives and other sources available through the Family History Library.
- Library of Congress: Veterans History Project
- National Veterans History Archival Institute
- National Archives
- Cyndi's List U.S. Military Links
- Mary's Genealogy Treasures
- See More
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.