Tracing Family Trees
Guide No. 14
Washington crossing the Delaware River, Revolutionary War
(Americans who remained loyal to the British Crown during the War for Independence)
World War II Poster
Battle Monuments Commission:
World War I
Draft Registrations at RootsWeb
Collects and maintains information on U.S. Navy ships
Military Records Searches Available at Ancestry.com
Links to Military Sources
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"The brave men, living and dead,
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address,
Military records often provide an abundance of genealogical material about our ancestors. However, in some cases, the records simply identify them as having been in the service or indicate where they resided at a specific time.
During the colonial period in America most able-bodied men between the ages of 16 to 60 were called on to be part of the local militia. These groups were organized by towns, counties or colonies. After the Revolutionary War, each state retained a militia organization. These units evolved into the National Guard after the Civil War. Records of militia and national guard units were kept by local and state governments. State archives, state adjutant generals' offices, historical societies, courthouses and libraries may have records of local citizens who served in the military.
Your ancestor's records may be in federal records if he or she:
The federal government and some state governments granted pensions or free bounty land to officers, disabled veterans, needy veterans, widows or orphans of veterans, and veterans who served a specific period of time. Numerous laws affected the requirements pertaining to bounty land and/or pensions, and just because your ancestor served does not mean he was automatically entitled to a pension or bounty land.
Military service records, such as muster rolls or descriptive rolls, while seldom as rich genealogically as pension files, are valuable. They can verify your ancestor's military service and pinpoint where he resided at a particular time. Additionally, descriptive rolls usually include the individual's name, rank, age, physical description, marital status, occupation, city of birth, place of residence, plus the service information. These records may be at the National Archives or in the particular state's office of the adjutant general.
After the Civil War (1861-1865), discharge certificates were given. Copies of these records, especially for the Civil War and Worlds Wars I and II, were often recorded in the local county records sometimes recorded in whatever book was handy. Other military records that may exist pertaining to your ancestors are: pay rolls, hospital, prisoner-of-war, promotions, court martial, draft or conscription and desertion records.
The National Archives has the federal service, pension, bounty land and draft records. While several major indexes and some collections are on microfilm, most of the original records have not been filmed. They are available only at the National Archives. You can obtain photocopies of these records by first obtaining NATF Form 85 and NATF Form 86 available via mail free from National Archives and Records, Administration, Att: NWDT1, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001 or electronically.
Military service records and veterans benefits records must be requested on Form NATF 86: Order for Copies of Veterans Records. The minimum information required for a search is
For Civil War records searches, you must also indicate whether he served in the Union or Confederate forces. A separate copy of the form must be used for each type of record ( i.e. military service, or pension and bounty land warrant applications).
The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis has some information pertaining to those who served in World War I and later. Downloadable forms are available at this site as well as instructions and suggestions for finding specific information. While its military records are not online, details about how to obtain the data are given. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Civil War records abound on the Internet, including Virginia Confederate Pension Rolls, Veterans and Widows: http://lvaimage.lib.va.us/collections/CW.html/CW.html and the Texas State Archives with its searchable index to Confederate pension claims held by this repository: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/app/arc/pensions/
Explore the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System, which is a database containing basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides. It can be reached at: http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/
Also at this site is database of the service records of United States Colored Troops http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/
There are no reliable figures, due to the lack of surviving records, of the total number of those who fought for the South during Civil War, but historians estimate there were from 600,000 to more than one million Confederate soldiers and sailors. Millions of Americans have an ancestor who wore the Confederate gray or butternut uniforms (a light-brown color resulting from a dye made from the butternut tree).
Women also served in various capacities during the Civil War, many of them as nurses and spies. State archives and historical societies are the best sources to search for these records.
The Confederate Research Center in Texas, is an archival depository that contains many files of soldiers' letters, diaries and unpublished manuscripts. While not a genealogical library, researchers have on occasion found pictures of their Confederate ancestors here. Among the center's other treasures are capsule histories of all 3,200 Confederate regiments and special units and ships. It also has an extensive file of magazines and newspaper clippings, including major Texas newspapers published during the Civil War, the military service records of all members of Hood's Texas Brigade, Confederate generals and staff offices, and an index listing of all Confederate soldiers, showing their companies and regiments. Research service is offered, for a fee, but due to the volume of requests received it usually takes several months for a reply. Requests forms first. The center prefers to bill for research service.
Confederate Research Center and Museum
A number military conflicts that took place in the United States occurred in the 19th century and generated records of interest to the genealogist. You may discover you have ancestors who took part in one of the following events:
Creek War (1813-1814). This conflict was between the federal government and the Creek Nation over rights to lands in southern Alabama and Georgia.
Seminole Wars (1816-1818, 1835-1842) Also called the Florida Wars, these were fought in what is now Florida between U.S. troops and the Seminoles. They resulted in the removal of most of the Seminoles to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.
Black Hawk War (1831-1832) This was a conflict between the Sauk and Fox Indians, led by Black Hawk, and U.S. troops over ownership of land in eastern Illinois. The major battle of the war was fought at the mouth of the Bad Axe River in southern Wisconsin. As a result of the war, the Indians relinquished their claim to Illinois land in exchange for a reservation in Iowa.
Cherokee Disturbances and Removal (1828-50) In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Acts which gave the federal government power to remove all Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi River to territories west of the river. Some tribes, especially the Cherokees, refused to leave their homelands, and in 1838, U.S. troops began forcibly rounding them up in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. There are separate indexes to soldiers from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee who participated.
Patriot War (1837-38) This was a conflict between British and Canadian troops and American and Canadian patriots. Most of the skirmishes occurred along the U. S.- Canada border. The final battle occurred at Fort Wellington near Prescott, Ontario. There are separate indexes for Michigan and New York soldiers who served.
Prior to 1892, pension benefits were available to soldiers in the Regular Army who were disabled or the widows of soldiers killed in service. Benefits were based on service between 1783 and 1861. Many claimants were never directly involved in a particular war, but served at forts or military establishments. These pensions are referred to as the "Old Wars Series," and an microfilmed index is available. Also there's the two-volume "Index to Old Wars Pension Files, 1815-1926," transcribed by Virgil D. White, which was published in 1987 and may be available at a nearby library.
The National Archives and many of its regional branches have the microfilmed indexes to these various military records. You also can access them through the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library system. However, copies of the actual records are available only through the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Tracking down military records about your ancestors can at times seem like an up-hill battle. The Military Records section on GenealogySpot can be just the ally you need.
If your interest runs to learning more about the historical aspects of the military units in which your ancestors served, visit:
Burials & Memorials Department of Veteran Affairs
U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present, by James C. Neagles. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1994.
Beers, Henry Putney. The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986.
Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1996.
Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Virginia's Colonial Soldiers. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1988.
Bodge, George Madison. Soldiers in King Philip's War being a Critical Account of that War with A Concise History of the Indian Wars of New England from 1620-1677; Official Lists of the Soldiers of Massachusetts Colony Serving in King Philip's War, and Sketches of the Principal Officers, Copies of Ancient Documents and Records Relating to the War; also Lists of the Narragansett Grantees of the United Colonies Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut. Third edition, 1906; reprinted Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.,1976.
Brown, Brian A. In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook. Little Rock, Arkansas: Brown Publications, 1996.
Brumbaugh, Gaius Marcus. Revolutionary War Records, Virginia: Virginia Army and Navy Forces with Bounty Land Warrants for Virginia, Military District of Ohio, and Virginia Military Scrip; from Federal and State Archives. (Originally published in 1936 as Revolutionary War Records, Volume I, Virginia, but no further volumes were ever printed.) Reprinted Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.,1967, 1995.
Burgess, Louis A. Virginia Soldiers of 1776 Compiled from Documents on File in the Virginia Land Office together with Material found in the Archives Department of the Virginia State Library, and other Reliable Sources (three volumes). Originally published Richmond, Virginia (Vols. I and II, 1927; Vol. III, 1929); reprinted for Clearfield Company, Inc. by Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.
Clark, Murtie June. American Militia in the Frontier Wars, 1790-1796. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1990.
_____ Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774, with an Index by Judith McGhan. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1986.
_____ Index to U.S. Invalid Pension Records, 1801-1815. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1991.
_____ Loyalists of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War (two volumes). Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981.
_____ The Pension Lists of 1792-1795 with Other Revolutionary War Pension Records. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1991.
Coldham, Peter Wilson. American Loyalist Claims Abstracted from the Public Record Office. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1980.
De Hass, Wills. History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia Embracing an Account of the Various Expeditions in the West, Previous to 1795, also Biographical Sketches of Col. Ebenezer Zane, Major Samuell M'Colloch, Lewis Wetzel, Genl. Andrew Lewis, Genl. Daniel Brodhead, Capt. Samuel Brady, Col. Wm. Crawford; and Other Distinguished Actors in Our Border Wars. Originally published 1851, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: H. Hoblitzell; reprinted Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 1960, 1969, 1975, 1980.
Dixon, Ruth Priest. Index to Seamen's Protection Certificate Applications, Port of Philadelphia 1824-1861. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Company, Inc., 1994.
Doddridge, Joseph. Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania from 1763 to 1783, inclusive, together with a Review of the State of Society and Manners of the First Settlers of the Western Country. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Ritenour and Lindsey, 1912; facsimile reprint Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc.,1988.
Dornbusch, C. E. (compiler). Military Bibliography of the Civil War (three volumes). New York: The New York Public Library 1961. Third Reprinting, 1983.
Drake, Samuel Adams. The Border Wars of New England Commonly Called King William's and Queen Anne's Wars. Originally published 1897 by Charles Scribner's Sons; reprinted Williamstown, Massachusetts: Corner House Publishers, 1973.
Drake, Samuel G. A Particular History of the Five Years French and Indian War in New England and Parts Adjacent, from Its Declaration by the King of France, March 15, 1744, to the Treaty with the Eastern Indians, Oct. 16, 1749, Sometimes Called Governor Shirley's War. Originally printed Albany: Joel Munsell, 1870; reprinted Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., no date.
Eckenrode, H. J. List of the Colonial Soldiers of Virginia: Special Report of the Department of Archives and History for 1913. Reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1961, 1965, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980.
Eckenrode, Hamilton J. Virginia Soldiers of the American Revolution, Vol. I originally published 1912 with the title List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia and Vol. II originally published 1913 with the title List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia - Supplement; reprinted Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library and Archives, 1989.
Gwathmey, John H. Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines 1775-1783. Originally published Richmond, Virginia, 1938; reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1973, 1979.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army from its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (two volumes). Originally published Washington, D.C., 1903; reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.
Hopkins, William Lindsay. Virginia Revolutionary War Land Grant Claims 1783-1850 (Rejected). Richmond, Virginia: the author, 1988.
Johnson, Lt. Col. Richard S. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military: Armed Forces Locator Directory [a new version, revised]. San Antonio, Texas: MIE Publishing, 1995.
Kaminkow, Marion and Jack. Mariners of the American Revolution with an Appendix of American Ships Captured by the British During the Revolutionary War. Baltimore, Maryland: Magna Carta Book Company, 1967.
Lewis, Virgil A. The Soldiery of West Virginia in the French and Indian War; Lord Dunmore's War; the Revolution; the Later Indian Wars; the Whiskey Insurrection; the Second War with England; the War with Mexico; and Addenda relating to West Virginians in the Civil War. Originally published as Third Biennial Report of the Department of Archives and History, State of West Virginia, Charleston, 1911; excerpted and reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978.
Mills, Gary B. Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.
Minnis, M. Lee. The First Virginia Regiment of Foot, 1775-1783. Lovettsville, Virginia: Willow Bend Books, 1998.
Munden, Kenneth W. and Henry Putney Beers. The Union: A Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986.
Beers, Henry Putney. The Confederacy: A Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986.
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. DAR Patriot Index, Centennial Edition (three volumes). Washington, D.C., 1990.
Neagles, James C. Summer Soldiers: A Survey & Index of Revolutionary War Courts-Martial. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1986.
_____. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1994.
North Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution. Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution. Originally published Durham, North Carolina, 1932; reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1967, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1988.
Penhallow, Samuel. History of the Indian Wars: A Facsimile Reprint of the First Edition, Printed in Boston in 1726 with the Notes of Earlier Editors and Additions from the Original Manuscript. Originally published 1924; reprinted Williamstown, Massachusetts: Corner House Publishers, 1973.
Peterson, Clarence Stewart. Known Military Dead During the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. Originally published Baltimore, Maryland, 1959; reprinted for Clearfield Company, Inc. by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1992, 1993, 1994.
Quisenberry, Anderson Chenault. Revolutionary Soldiers in Kentucky containing A Roll of the Officers of Virginia Line who received Land Bounties; A Roll of the Revolutionary Pensioners in Kentucky; A List of the Illinois Regiment who Served under George Rogers Clark in the Northwest Campaign; also a Roster of the Virginia Navy. Originally published Louisville, Kentucky in the Year Book, Kentucky Society Sons of the American Revolution, 1896; reprinted for Clearfield Company, Inc. by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1992.
Rankin, Hugh. The North Carolina Continentals. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1971.
Reddy, Anne Waller. West Virginia Revolutionary Ancestors Whose services were non-military and whose names, therefore, do not appear in Revolutionary indexes of soldiers and sailors: An Index from Manuscript Public Claims of the Revolutionary War in the Virginia State Library. Originally published Richmond, Virginia, 1930; reprinted Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1983.
Sanchez-Saavedra, E.M. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library, 1978.
Schaeffer, Christina K. The Great War: A Guide to the Service Records of All the World's Fighting Men and Volunteers. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1998
Scott, Craig R. The 'Lost' Pensions: Settled Accounts of the Act of 6 April 1838. Lovettsville, Virginia: Willow Bend Books, 1996.
Somerville, Mollie. Women and the American Revolution. Washington, D. C.: The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, 1974.
Thwaites, Reuben Gold and Louise Phelps Kellogg (editors). Documentary History of Dunmore's War 1774, Compiled from the Draper Manuscripts in the Library of Wisconsin Historical Society and published at the charge of the Wisconsin's Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Originally published 1905, Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Historical Society; facsimile reprint Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1989.
Tolzmann, Don Heinrich. German Americans in the American Revolution: Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Richards' History [published 1907 in the Proceedings and Addresses of the Pennsylvania German Society]. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1992.
U.S. Government. The Pension List of 1820. Originally published 1820 as Letter from the Secretary of War . . . Cong. Ser. 34-55; reprinted with Index, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1991.
_____. The Pension Roll of 1835 and Index Volume (four volumes). Originally published in 1835 in three volumes as Senate Document 514, Serial Nos. 24951 (23rd Cong., 1st Sess.); reprinted with a new index, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1992.
_____. A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Service with their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, as Returned by the Marshals of the Several Judicial Districts, under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census. Originally published Washington, D.C., 1841. Bound with a General Index prepared by The Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1965.
Virginia Genealogical Society. Virginia Revolutionary War State Pensions. Originally published Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Genealogical Society; reprinted Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1982.
White, Virgil D. Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files (four volumes). Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1991.
_____. Index to Indian Wars Pension Files 1892-1926 (two volumes). Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1987.
_____. Index to Old Wars Pension Files 1815 (two volumes). Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1987.
_____. Index to Revolutionary War Service Records (four volumes). Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1995.
_____. Index to Volunteer Soldiers, 1784-1811. Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1987.
_____. Index to War of 1812 Pension Files (three volumes). Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1989.
Wisconsin Historical Society. Calendar Series Volume VI: Calendar of The Frontier Wars Papers of the Draper Collection of Manuscripts, indexed by Sam McDowell. Utica, Kentucky: McDowell Publications, 1991.
Withers, Alexander Scott. Chronicles of Border Warfare or, A History of the Settlement by the Whites, of NorthWestern Virginia, and of the Indian Wars and Massacres in that section of the State with Reflections, Anecdotes, &c.: A New Edition edited and annotated by Reuben Gold Thwaites. First edition published Clarksburg, Virginia: Joseph Israel, 1831; this edition originally published Cincinnati, Ohio: The Robert Clarke Company, 1895; reprinted Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 1961, 1970, 1975, 1980.
Wright, Robert K. Jr. The Continental Army. Washington, D.C. Center of Military History, 1983.