Your genealogy search may very well include searching for military records. Since the military is a government organization, the information is typically readily available and highly organized. Detailed records exist on nearly every war, thereby providing genealogists with a wealth of information about their loved ones who either served or fought in the military throughout history.
Your Search for Military Records
Your search for military records will begin at the National Archives. Most records regarding veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, including the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, the Navy and the National Guard, can be found here, dating all the way back the Revolutionary War. You may be able to find information such as pension applications, bounty land records, and service records through this one comprehensive site.
However, you may look beyond military service and pension information when searching for military records, and you may therefore have luck searching through everything from obituaries to cemetery records. In other words, your search for military records may take you on an interesting path.
You may be able to find a wealth of information from newspaper obituaries about an individual's military service. However, in order to effectively search through newspaper archives for this information, you must know the individual's approximate date of death and, of course, the town where the death took place. There is a number of fantastic websites that can help you search newspaper archives dating back to the 1700s.
Wills, death certificates and cemetery records will likely contain information about an individual's military service. It is also quite possible to find military information on an individual's gravestone.
There are a number of websites that contain vast amounts of information regarding military records and military record indexes. These websites often feature software that includes vast directories of information, ranging from census records and marriage records to military records and even family trees.
The Value of Military Records
Military records can provide much more information than just an individual's military service, thereby opening a wealth of information that can help your genealogy efforts. You may be able to find information such as: birthplace, age of enlistment, the names of the individual's immediate family members, and even the individual's occupation.
Beyond wartime information and records, you can also obtain a great deal of knowledge from searching for an individual's military service, regardless of whether they were involved in a war. Some of the information that may be obtained from service records include: the individual's rank, unit, medical information, basic biographical information, and even interesting information on pay vouchers and muster rolls.
Military records may also include pension information, including pension applications and pension payment records, and are often valuable beyond basic pension information, as they often contain information about the veteran's widow and other heirs. Pension applications usually provide the most information, as they typically contain a number of interesting documents, including birth records, death certificates, marriage records, pages from family Bibles, affidavits, depositions of witnesses and discharge papers, among other things.
How To Obtain Official Military Records
STEP 1: Download this form. Click Here.
STEP 2: Fill out the application. The application is broken into three sections:
- Section I: Information about the veteran. The more information you have, the more likely you are to get your records.
- Section II: Information requested. If you're looking for a specific reason, choose the data you're looking for. Otherwise, it is best to request "All Documents In Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)"
- Section III: Information about you. Select the option that best describes your relationship to the veteran and provide your mailing information.
STEP 3: Find the proper mailing address using the table on page 3, then print & mail in the completed form.
The more complete your request form, the faster you'll receive your records. Nine out of ten record requests are processed within 10 days, but due to a 1973 fire at the National Archives, requests for the lost data may take as long as 6 months to be filled.
Other Useful Military Records Resources Include:
National Archives and Records Administration - The NARA provides an introductory guide on gathering military records for genealogy research purposes.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - An agency of the federal government, the Department of Veteran Affairs is in charge of tending to the well-being of all U.S. veterans.
National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis - A repository that stores millions of military personnel records for 20th century discharged and deceased veterans.
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