Have you ever wondered if you had an ancestor who served in a past war like the American Revolution, the War of 1812, or the Civil War? Perhaps you heard stories passed down through relatives and have wanted to know if the stories were true or just family folklore. Digging into history and finding out if you have military genealogy can be a fascinating process. You’ll learn things about your family you never knew about and uncover information that can give you better insights into your own life and who you are today.
Here are some tips and resources you can use to help trace your military genealogy:
Interview your older relatives
Speaking with your eldest relatives is a great starting point. Ask them what they know about an ancestor’s military service, peruse photographs or news clippings they may have, and inquire about any birth or death certificates. If possible, find out where the person lived, where they were buried, and if they were known by more than one name or nickname. Any tidbit of information may be helpful to your military genealogy investigation.
Search military service records
The next step is to search military service records. The National Archives holds Federal military service records from the Revolutionary War to 1912 at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Military records from WWI through the present are held at the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.
The National Archives also offers a wealth of advice on how to conduct military genealogy research. It suggests looking at:
Aside from the National Archives, there are other sources of military records, including:
Ancestry – Search military records and narrow down by categories and data collections such as draft registration cards and muster rolls.
Archives.com – Investigate military enlistment records, vital records, censuses, marriage, divorce & death records, etc.
Find my past – Explore World War II Army Enlistment records, U.S. Civil War Sailors, draft card records, Naval Enlistments and other collections.
Fold3.com – Search U.S. and British military records.
(Some of the above are subscription services)
Additional resources for military genealogy research:
It can also be helpful to check your local library, historical society or government offices for information.
Tracing your ancestors is easier than ever thanks to many online resources. Good luck in your search!