effectively use military records for genealogy, you have to understand the
different kinds of records that are available. Draft cards, service records,
and pension files can all provide different information about your ancestor who
served in the military.
World War I, all eligible men were required to register with the government and
fill out a draft card, whether they actually ended up fighting in the war or
not. These draft cards list a man's name, birth date, nationality, physical
description, and citizenship status. These records are available from the
Family History Library or the National Archives.
your ancestor actually did serve in the military, whether in wartime or
peacetime, you can look up his service record. Service records list what unit
or regiment your ancestor served in, making it easier for you to find him in
pension records and unit histories. Service records also list your ancestor's
age, place of birth, physical description, and rank, although they rarely
provide information about a soldier's family.
files are the best military records to use for genealogy purposes. Pensions
were provided by the federal or state governments to disabled veterans, widows
and orphans of veterans, or veterans who had served for a certain amount of
time or achieved a certain rank. In order for a family to receive pension
benefits from the government, they had to prove their relationship to the
veteran, so many pension files include marriage certificates and other vital
records. Pension files always list the veteran's surviving spouse, and they
often list his children as well. If you have found your ancestor in a service
record and know what unit he served in, it is relatively easy to find his
you know an ancestor's unit, you can also find his regiment history. These
histories are available for many regiments, and they provide information about
where soldiers enlisted, what battles they fought in, where they traveled, who
the officers were, where veterans died, and where surviving veterans lived
after the war.
communities were fiercely proud of their men who had served in the military, so
if you know your ancestor's hometown, you can find him in the county or town
history. All county and town histories published biographies of prominent
citizens, and military veterans were included there. You can find published
county and town histories for your locality in the Family History Library Catalog, in your local library, or on HeritageQuestOnline.com.
your ancestor served in the military in early American times, you can find him
in bounty land records. After the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the
Mexican War, the federal government did not have money to pay its soldiers, so
it paid them in land instead. Veterans were given bounty land warrants, or
deeds to pieces of land in separate military districts in Ohio and other
Midwestern states. A veteran could either settle the land himself or sell his
deed, but either way you can look up his bounty land application and view the
information there. Start by identifying your ancestor's unit in service
records, and then you'll have access to the wealth of information that military
records can provide.
We hope in honor of Veterans Day you will take time to researching those in your family who fought for our freedom.