U.S. MILITARY GENEALOGICAL SOURCES
Compiled by Alan Aimone
Rev. June 8, 2013
TIPS for using the internet:
Verify the authenticity of any site and use caution when dealing with unfamiliar addresses. Establish the author’s credentials, the web page affiliation, and date of creation. Look for contact details since reputable museums and archives always provide a way to request additional information. Avoid the anonymous author, and watch for indications that the source is not legitimate. Find out where the information comes from, and determine if the site provides documentation. Beware of a site that contains information from an unnamed source. Always look for a known or respected authority or a well-known organizational support group. Be sure the source provides convincing evidence. As the internet grows, so do the opportunities for researchers to experience twentieth-first century technology.
Notice who sponsors a site: Look for sites connected with universities, museums or libraries – here, the author’s professional reputation is riding on his or her words. (these sites usually end with edu., org,, gov,, and mus.).
Use plenty of terms in your search. For example, typing the line ‘civil war” saber OR saber +cavalry +tactics – militaria – dealers – sales in the search box will bring up a few hundred sites on cavalry saber tactics, while cutting out most of the saber salesmen. Read the “search tips” before starting.
Watch out for plagiarism. The original site almost always has a better index, better spelling and more links to other worthwhile sites than the stolen site.
Questions to find out when researching a military veteran:
Company, Battery and Troop
Regiment (many had nicknames including companies) and
Communities he lived in - the last residence was often where the veteran was buried
Grave number, if any
County - veteran records are arranged alphabetically by community name of veteran and name of county within each state
State (many veterans moved west as transcontinental railroads
encouraged veterans to settle on their lands). Hint: New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois have the largest number of military veterans.
Other questions to ask:
Always verify every fact and anecdote.
names of parents
locations of their births
sometimes names of siblings
other close relatives (wedding witnesses)
names of neighbors
what they owned
begin at age 21 for a man - did he disappear from the tax roll?
Tax records are found in county courthouses.
Vital records are kept by each state: birth, death, marriage and
Aimone, Alan C. “Genealogical Sources,” in American Civil War: A Handbook of
Literature and Research, ed. by Steven E. Woodworth. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1996: 46-55.
Contact Mr. Aimone via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Military Academy Library
West Point, New York 10996-1711
American Autobiography, 1945-1980: A Bibliography, ed. by Mary Louise
Briscoe. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.
A companion volume to Bibliography of American Autobiographies by Louis Kaplan. Includes works not cited in Kaplan. Entries are annotated.
American Diaries of World War II, ed. By Donald Vining. NY: Pepys Press, 1982. Includes a name index.
American National Biography, John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., 24 vols. NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. Replaces the Dictionary of American Biography. The source has 17,500 men and women from all eras, all walks of life who have influenced every corner of American history. It is the most inclusive and most comprehensive biographical reference source available. The new series includes people connected with United States history but were not citizens.
Ancestry. com [Pay resources]
Civil War Research Database is a collection of genealogy databases.
The project to date has digitized, indexed, and inter-linked the roster records of 2,100,000 soldiers (out of approx. 4 million who served), 2,719 regimental chronicles, 1,010 officer profiles; 3,343 battle synopses, and 1,012 soldier photographs. As the database continues to grow, so will the impact of this unique genealogical resource.
Arksey, Laura...ed. American Diaries: An Annotated Bibliography of Published
American Diaries and Journals to 1980, vol. 1, diaries written from 1492 to 1844,
and vol. 2, diaries written from 1845 to 1980. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co., 1983 and 1986. Over 2,500 analyzed entries. The two-volume series supersedes William Matthew’s American Diaries...1945. Both volumes have subject, name, and place name indexes.
About 20,000 names, past and resent with some illustrations and video clips.
Biography Index: A Cumulative Index to Biographical Material in Books
and Magazines. NY: H. W. Wilson, 1949 to date, quarterly with annual
cumulating. This is a valuable aid because it includes mostly Americans
mentioned in books or periodical literature in English. Index is by
occupation such as “Generals, American” or “Navy Officers, American.”
Callahan, Edward W., ed. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and the
Marine Corps from 1775-1900. Comprising a Complete Register of All Present and Former Commissioned, Warranted, and Appointed Officers of the United
States Navy, and the Marine Corps, Regular and Volunteer, 1901 reprint.
Gaithsburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1988.
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System from the National Park Service
Found also at Civil War National Battlefield Parks.
This database is under construction but aims to eventually contain basic facts about soldiers who served on both sides during the Civil War and regimental lists for both the Union and Confederate armies. It also intends to summarize 384 significant battles of the war. Sources of the information in the database will be listed as well as suggestions for where to find more information.
Confederate Pension Index.
This search able database provides the names, counties of residence, and pension numbers of some 54,634 pension issued by the Texas government between 1899 and 1975.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Documentary Heritage program
The southeastern New York Documentary Heritage Program (DHP) serves
historical records repositories in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.
Family History Library
Look through Mormon records of 400 million names of people who lived as long ago as 1500, many of them with pedigree charts as well as through 4,000 other web sites devoted to genealogy.
Gale virtual reference library/Encyclopedia of world biography
Vassar – Gale Cengage Learning
Genealogical Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
35 North West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Gawne, Jonathan. Finding your father’s war: A Practical guide to researching and understanding service in the World War II U.S. Army. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2006.
Roster of certified persons. Board for certification…
Falmouth, VA 22403-5816
Genealogical Index - GENDEX
Numerous databases containing genealogical data.
Genealogical Sites on the Internet
Access to over 31,000 links, categorized and cross referenced, in over 90 categories. Compiled by web master Cyndi Howells. She is the author of Netting
Your Ancestors: Genealogical Research on the Internet.
Genealogy Exchange and Surname Registry
This site helps the researcher find specific persons and exchange information.
Genealogy Home Page
Links and directions for the genealogist seeking introductory to advanced sources of information.
Genealogy Resources by State
Gregory, Winifred Gerould, ed. American Newspapers, 1821-1936; A
Union List of Files Available in the United States and Canada. NY:
H. W. Wilson Co., 1937.
Sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America.
Groene, Bertram Hawthorne. Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor. Winston- Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Hamersly, L. R., comp. Military Album: Containing Over One Thousand Portraits of Commissioned Officers Who Served in the Spanish-American War NY: L. R. Hamersly Co., 1902).
www.hbar.com; e-mail: Ronnie@hbar.com or (800) 432-7702
The genealogy database includes extensive details on “How to Conduct Genealogy Research” and “Where to find those Vital Records.”
Headstones of Union Civil War Veterans Graves of 166,000 Union Soldiers
M1845. National Archives microfilm reel; $34 per roll, order by phone: 1-800- 234-8861
A card records each headstone provided for deceased Union Civil War veterans, from 1879 to 1903. The 22 rolls include soldiers buried in private villages or city cemeteries. The microfilm series is arranged alphabetically by
surname, then by first name. Information also includes the contractor who supplied the headstone and the date of the contract under which the stone was provided.
Helm’s Genealogy Toolbox has an exhausted catalog of software and CD’s ranging from state marriage records to desktop programs that organizes your search.
Find a variety of articles and images devoted to heraldry.
Heraldry on the inter-net
This site is designed to help you conduct heraldic research on the inter-net.
Historical Records Repositories of Southeastern New York Directory
300+ organizations in the 18 southeaster New York county region.
International Tracing Service
Rod Arolsen, Germany
Johnson, Richard S. How To Locate Anyone Who Is Or Has Been In the Military: A Guide to Locating Present, Former and Retired Members of the Armed Forces, Reserves and National Guard, 8th ed. Spartanburg, SC: MIE Publishing, 1999.
Includes unit reunion information and a directory of veterans, military and patriotic organizations.
Location of a U.S. Army veteran
The U.S. Army does not maintain such information, and the release of personnel information is strictly governed by the Privacy Act. You might find the information you are seeking by placing an advertisement in a veterans magazine, which do have special reunion columns. Another possibility would be to use one of the free “People Finders” search engines available through the internet.
McGlone, John, ed. In Search of Confederate Ancestors: The Guide. Murfreesboro, TN: Southern Heritage Press, 1993.
Descendants of Mexican War Veterans
Ben Myers Military Associations and Alumni Database
Associations/find old buddies/reunions
Morebeck, Nancy Justus.
Locating Union & Confederate Records. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 2002.
Nationwide gravesite locator
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration. The agency has put 3.2 million burial records online for veterans buried at 120 national cemeteries since the Civil War. The site also has records for some state veterans cemeteries as well as burials in Arlington National Cemetery since 1999. Records include names, dates of birth and death, military service dates, service branch and rank if known, cemetery information, and grave location in the cemetery.
Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1994.
New Jersey State Archives
PO Box 307, Trenton, NJ 08625
609.292.6260; fax: 609292.9105
British Library Online Newspaper Archive
Long Island (N.Y.) News Day
Historical articles including military related stories
New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
122-126 East 58th Street
New York City, NY 10022-1939
The state offers limited search services for records series which are accessible by name and comprehensive in their coverage.
New York State Archives Reference Services.
Gateway site: www.nysarchives.org
New York State Archives: www.archives.nysed.gov
Archives Partnership Trust: www.nysarchivestrust.org
New York State. Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA)
330 Old Niskayuna Road Latham, New York 12110-2224 (518.786.4502)
New York State Library.
Material consist of private papers of families, soldiers’ diaries and letters, public newspapers, broadsides, engravings, lithographs, photographs, imprints and some state government documents. The collection is described and can be accessed electronically via the online public access catalog called “Excelsior”.
New York State Military Heritage Institute and Veterans Research Center,
61 Lake Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
New York State Newspaper Project
New York State Records Center
New York State Veteran Oral History Program
New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858-1968 (NY: New York Times, 1970).
For obituaries since 1968, check the annual New York Times Index under the heading “Deaths.” A highly helpful cumulating of 353,000 names although there are inconsistencies and omissions of a few prominent names.
New York War Records, Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) Public Security Building, State Campus, Albany, New York 12226 (518.457.2039)
Plante, Trevor K., “an Overview of records at the National Archives relating to military service,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, vol. 34, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 230-239.
Officers and crew of the U.S.S. Monocacy in 1871, during the expedition to Korea.
When researchers contact the National Archives to conduct research on their ancestors, they often ask about records relating to military service. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The inquiry, in fact, leads to more questions: What branch of service did the person serve in? Do you know the conflict they fought in or their dates of service? Was the person in the Regular Army or a volunteer unit? Did the individual serve as an officer or enlisted man? Did the person apply for or receive a pension? These questions are important, for the answers help determine which search paths to follow.
The two main repositories for records relating to military service are the National Archives and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
The National Archives Building, Washington, D.C., holds records relating to
The National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri, holds military personnel files of
To request copies of an individual's military personnel file held at the National Personnel Records Center, use a Standard Form 180, "Request Pertaining to Military Records." For more information on what records are available at NPRC and who may request them, consult their web site.
The following information is intended to serve as a useful starting point for those researching individuals whose service records may be in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
When researching volunteers, start with the compiled military service records. A volunteer's compiled service record consists of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. The abstracted information may include references to wounds, hospitalization, absence from the unit, courts-martial, and death.
The general name index and compiled service records for Revolutionary War soldiers are both available on microfilm.1 The indexes to the War of 1812, early Indian Wars, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, and the Philippine Insurrection are on microfilm, but the compiled military service records for these conflicts are not. The Philippine Insurrection is the last conflict for which the War Department compiled military service records for volunteers.
Civil War records are more complicated. There is no overall general name index for Union soldiers, but there are microfilmed name indexes for each state. Most of the compiled military service records for Union soldiers have not been microfilmed. Consult state archives for records of state or local militias or National Guard units that were not federalized.
Begin your research by consulting the appropriate name indexes on National Archives microfilm. These index cards are arranged alphabetically by surname and show the soldier's name, rank, and the unit or units in which he served. There are also cross-references to names that appear in the records under various spellings. Consult the National Archives' Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (2000) for a list of microfilmed name indexes and compiled service records.2 Military Service Records: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (1985) is also a helpful resource.3
If the compiled military service records have not been reproduced on microfilm, researchers may request to see the original records at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Researchers unable to come to Washington may request copies of these records by using NATF Form 86, "National Archives Order for Copies of Military Service Records."
For medical information about soldiers who fought in the Mexican and Civil Wars, consult carded medical records found in Record Group (RG) 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917, entry 534. These cards relate to volunteers admitted to hospitals for treatment and may include information such as name; rank; organization; complaint; date of admission; hospital to which admitted; and date returned to duty, deserted, discharged, sent to general hospital, furloughed, or died. This series is arranged by state, there under by the number of the regiment (cavalry, infantry, and artillery are filed together under the common regiment number) and then by initial letter of surname. For example, the First Pennsylvania Cavalry is filed under "1 Pennsylvania" along with the First Pennsylvania Infantry, First Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, First Pennsylvania Light Artillery, and First Pennsylvania Reserves.
Carded medical records of volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection are filed with the individual's compiled military service record.
The War Department did not compile military service records for those who served in the Regular Army. The place to start researching enlisted men is the Regular Army Enlistment Papers, 1798–1894 (RG 94, entry 91). This series is arranged alphabetically by name of soldier and generally shows the soldier's name, place of enlistment, date, by whom enlisted, age, place of birth, occupation, personal description, regimental assignment, and certifications of the examining surgeon and recruiting officer. Soldiers usually have multiple enlistment papers if they served two or more enlistments.
Researchers should also consult the Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798–1914, National Archives Microfilm Publication M233. The register of enlistments is arranged chronologically and there under alphabetically by first letter of surname. The register usually shows the individual's name, military organization, physical description, age at time of enlistment, place of birth, enlistment information, discharge information, and remarks. For more detailed information concerning service, consult the unit muster rolls, which are arranged by arm of service; there under by regiment number; then alphabetically by company, troop, or battery; and there under chronologically. The muster rolls are found in RG 94, entry 53, Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784–October 31, 1912.
For medical information, consult carded medical records found in RG 94, entries 529 (for the years 1821–1885) and 530 (1894–1912). These cards relate to Regular Army personnel admitted to hospitals for treatment and may include information such as name, rank, organization, age, race, birthplace, date entered service, cause of admission, date of admission, hospital to which admitted, and disposition of the case. This series is arranged by the regiment number (cavalry, infantry, and artillery are filed together under the common regiment number) and then by initial letter of surname.
When researching army officers, researchers should first consult Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903, two volumes. Volume one, a register of army officers, provides a brief history of each man's service. Volume two contains a "chronological list of battles, actions, etc., in which troops of the Regular Army have participated and troops engaged."
The War Department did not maintain or compile personnel files for Regular Army officers until 1863. For service prior to that date, records are in several different series in RG 94. The best place to start is the series of letters received by the adjutant general, microfilmed as M566, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1805–1821; M567, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1822–1860; and M619, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1861–1870. The registers have been reproduced on M711, Registers of Letters Received, Office of the Adjutant General, 1812–1889.
For an officer's military service after 1863, consult the Commission Branch (CB) and Appointment, Commission and Personal Branch (ACP) records, both found in RG 94, entry 297, Letters Received, 1863–1894. There is a card index arranged by name of officer for each of these files. CB files are reproduced on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1064, Letters Received by the Commission Branch of the Adjutant General's Office, 1863–1870. A select number of ACP files have been reproduced on National Archives microfiche M1395, Letters Received by the Appointment, Commission and Personal Branch, 1871–1894. For service after 1894, consult M698, Index to General Correspondence of the Adjutant General's Office, 1890–1917. The index provides document file numbers to RG 94, entry 25, Document File, 1890–1917.
If the officer attended West Point, consult M688, U.S. Military Academy Cadet Application Papers, 1805–1866, and M91, Records Relating to the U.S. Military Academy, 1812–1867. For medical information, consult carded medical records found in RG 94, entries 529 (for the years 1821–1885) and 530 (1894–1912). These cards relate to Regular Army personnel admitted to hospitals for treatment and may include information such as name, rank, organization, age, race, birthplace, date entered service, cause of admission, date of admission, hospital to which admitted, and disposition of the case. This series is arranged by the number of the regiment (cavalry, infantry, and artillery are filed together under the common regiment number) and then by initial letter of surname.
Additional information about Regular Army enlisted men and officers may be found in post and unit returns. National Archives Microfilm Publication M617, Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800–1916, contains returns for many military posts, camps, and stations. Returns generally show units stationed at the post and their strength, the names and duties of officers, the number of officers present and absent, and a record of events.
Returns for Regular Army units are reproduced on M665, Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, June 1821–December 1916; M744, Returns from Regular Army Cavalry Regiments, 1833–1916; and M727, Returns from Regular Army Artillery Regiments, June 1821–January 1901.4 These monthly returns of military organizations report stations of companies; names of company commanders; unit strength, including men present, absent, sick, on extra duty or daily duty, and in arrest or confinement; and significant remarks.5
Court-martial records are a great source of information not only for a particular individual but also for providing insights into the trials and tribulations faced by soldiers. Records related to the proceedings of U.S. Army courts-martial, courts of inquiry, and military commissions can be found in Record Group 153, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army). To find an individual's case file, first consult National Archives Microfilm Publication M1105, Registers of the Records of the Proceedings of the U.S. Army General Courts-martial, 1809–1890. The registers direct you to an alphanumeric series of case file numbers. The case files are located in RG 153, entry 15. Only a few select cases have been reproduced on microfilm.6
Begin your research on navy enlisted men by looking in the pension files. A pension file may provide leads such as dates of service and the ship(s) or duty station(s) where the sailor served. Pensions usually provide the most genealogical information. The section on pension files, found later in this article, describes how to use those records.
Your next step is to search rendezvous reports. A rendezvous was the recruiting station where the men signed up to enlist in the navy. Officers at the rendezvous kept a record of each man enlisted and reported the information weekly to the Navy Department. These documents, known as the "rendezvous reports," provide the following information: name of recruit, date and term of enlistment and rating, previous naval service, usual place of residence, place of birth, occupation, and personal description. The index to these records are available on microfilm T1098, Index to Rendezvous Reports, Before and After the Civil War, 1846–1861, 1865–1884, and T1099, Index to Rendezvous Reports, Civil War, 1861–1865. Next search Record Group 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, entry 224, Keys to and Register of Enlistment Returns, 1846–1902. The keys to enlistment show names of men enlisting at rendezvous or on board vessels, enlistment data, and a summary of service.
Another good source is jackets of enlisted men found in RG 24, entry 204, Records Relating to Enlisted Men Who Served in the Navy Between 1842 and 1885, 1885–1941. The correspondence in these "jackets" are arranged alphabetically by sailor's name and contain correspondence that was collected on men who served in the navy between 1842 and 1885. The jackets also contain material for the years 1885 to 1941 if the sailor applied for a pension, filed a claim, or requested verification documents. Jackets may contain letters received, copies of letters sent, endorsements, applications for certificates of honorable discharge, or copies of other types of certificates.
To track the service of an enlisted man in the navy, consult the muster rolls and payrolls. There are several series of bound volumes of muster rolls and payrolls of ships and stations. Muster rolls generally show the name of the enlisted man, the ship or station on which he was serving, his dates of service, and in some cases, the ship or station from which he had transferred. Payrolls generally show the name of the enlisted man, his station or rank, date of commencement of his service, and terms of service. To use muster rolls and payrolls, you should know where your subject was stationed during the time pertinent to the research. Generally, muster and pay rolls are arranged alphabetically by name of ship or station and thereunder chronologically.
For medical information, consult Record Group 52, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (Navy), entry 21, Medical Journals of Shore Stations, 1812–89; entry 22, Medical Journals of Ships, 1813–1910; entry 30, Reports of Diseases and Deaths, July 1828–December 1846; entry 31, Certificates of Death, Disability, Pension and Medical Survey, June 1842–January 1896; and entry 51, Registers of Patients, 1812–1929.
For Revolutionary War sailors, the War Department compiled service records, but these records are very fragmentary. Begin with the index on M879, Index to Compiled Service Records of American Naval Personnel Who Served During the Revolutionary War. The compiled service records are reproduced on M880, Compiled Service Records of American Naval Personnel and Members of the Departments of the Quartermaster General and the Commissary General of Military Stores Who Served During the Revolutionary War.
When beginning research on U.S. Navy officers, first consult the List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, edited by Edward W. Callahan.7 Then consult the pension files, which are discussed later in this article. The pension file may provide leads such as dates of service and the ship(s) or duty station(s) where the officer served.
Your next step is to consult the abstracts of service. These records have been reproduced as National Archives Microfilm Publication M330, Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers ("Records of Officers"), 1798–1893, and M1328, Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers ("Records of Officers"), 1829–1924. The descriptive pamphlet for M1328 provides a name index to the abstracts. If the officer attended the Naval Academy, check M991, U.S. Naval Registers of Delinquencies, 1846–1850, 1853–1882, and Academic and Conduct Records of Cadets, 1881–1908. You can also consult various records relating to applications and appointments of naval cadets found in several series in RG 24.
Additional information on naval officers can be found in examining board and retiring board files in Record Group 125, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Navy). The records of these boards are found in entry 58, Records of the Proceedings of Naval and Marine Examining Boards, 1861–1903, and entry 56, Records of Proceedings of Naval and Marine Retiring Boards, 1861–1909.
For Revolutionary War naval officers, the War Department compiled service records, but these records are very fragmentary. Begin with the index on M879, Index to Compiled Service Records of American Naval Personnel Who Served During the Revolutionary War. The compiled service records are reproduced on M880, Compiled Service Records of American Naval Personnel and Members of the Departments of the Quartermaster General and the Commissary General of Military Stores Who Served During the Revolutionary War.
Navy court-martial records in Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy), RG 125, relate also to officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps. The records include transcripts of proceedings of general courts-martial. A name index identifies the case file of a particular person and the records relating to a court of inquiry. Each dossier, when complete, contains the precept appointing the court; letters detailing or detaching its several members; a letter dissolving the court; the charges and specifications; minutes of the court, consisting chiefly of a verbatim transcript of testimony; the plea of the defendant (often printed); copies of correspondence introduced as part of the minutes; the finding of the court; the sentence in case of a finding of guilty; and various endorsements. Earlier records are available as M273, Records of General Courts-martial and Courts of Inquiry of the Navy Department, 1799–1867. Later records can be found in entry 28, Registers of General Courts-martial, 1861–1904; entry 27, Records of Proceedings of General Courts-martial, 1866–1940; entry 30, Records of Proceedings of Courts of Inquiry, Boards of Investigation, and Boards of Inquest, 1866–1940; entry 31, Registers of Courts of Inquiry, Boards of Investigation, and Boards of Inquest, 1866–1940; and entry 49, Index to Summary Courts-martial, 1895–1904.
Navy Deck Logs
U.S. Navy deck logs typically provide information on a ship's performance and location, weather conditions, personnel (names of officers, assignments, transfers, desertions, deaths, injuries, and courts-martial), supplies received, and miscellaneous observations. Consult the National Archives Special List 44, List of Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Miscellaneous Units, 1801–1947.
For brief histories of U.S. Navy vessels, consult the multivolume Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. In this publication you will find an alphabetical listing of navy ships that includes a brief history of each vessel and provides statistics such as type or classification, tonnage or displacement, length, beam, draft, speed, complement, armament, and class. Consulting the dictionary allows you to confirm that the ship was a U.S. Navy vessel and verify dates of service. Before starting your search in archival records, make sure you have information on the correct vessel. Because several ships served at different times under the same name, the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships can help you find the dates of service of the vessel you are looking for.
Generally, service records for enlisted marines who separated from service prior to 1905 are held in Washington, D.C. Service records or "case files" of enlisted marines at the National Archives are found in Record Group 127, Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, entry 76. Service records may include enlistment and reenlistment papers, descriptive lists, conduct records, notice of discharge, military history, and the issuance of campaign badges and awards. There are two series of case files. The first (marines who enlisted prior to 1895) is arranged by date of enlistment or last reenlistment. If the enlistment date is unknown, researchers can use the card index found in RG 127, entry 75, Alphabetical Card List of Enlisted Men of the Marine Corps, 1798–1941. The second series of case files, for those marines who enlisted after 1895, is arranged alphabetically. It was not unusual for enlisted marines to use aliases during this period. Service records and enlistment cards are filed under the name the marine used while in service.
To track a marine's service, consult the Marine Corps muster rolls. The muster rolls, 1798–1940, are arranged chronologically by year and month, and there under by post, station, ship detachment, or unit. There are indexes in most volumes to the names of ships, stations, and units. A muster roll generally shows name of ship, station, or unit and provides name of officer or enlisted man, rank, date of enlistment or reenlistment, and if applicable, date of desertion or apprehension, sentence of court-martial (and the offense), injuries sustained or illness and type of treatment, and date of death or discharge. Depending on the date, the researcher must know the vessel on which the marine served, the unit in which he served, or duty station. Marine Corps muster rolls have been reproduced on microfilm publication T1118, Muster Rolls of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1798–1902, and T977, Muster Rolls of Officers and Enlisted Men of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1893–1940. For more information, consult the correspondence files in RG 127.
A good source to verify service of a marine officer is the List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, edited by Edward W. Callahan. A one-volume register in RG 127 in the National Archives shows the name, rank, and state of birth of commissioned officers of the Marine Corps in each year from 1819 to 1848. A similar register for each year, 1849–1858 (contained in the front part of the first of two volumes of abstracts of military service of Marine Corps officers), shows the same information plus date of entry into service, state from which appointed, and state of residence. The remainder of that first volume pertains to officers serving during the period 1869–1873, and the second volume, to officers serving during the period 1899–1904. Entries are arranged by rank, but there are name indexes in the volumes. The entries give information about promotions, appointments to boards, assignments and transfers, and retirement. The second volume also shows, for each officer, date and place of birth, state from which appointed, state of residence, and date of commission. Another series of two volumes contains press copies of military histories and statements of service of officers that were prepared by the Marine Corps during the period 1904–1911 in response to inquiries from military officials. The records are arranged chronologically, but there are name indexes.
Correspondence files in RG 127 will also be of interest. Several series of letters received or general correspondence files covering the years 1799 to 1938 may contain letters or reports written by or about Marine Corps officers.
The National Archives has records relating to the Coast Guard and its predecessor agencies: the Lighthouse Service, Revenue Cutter Service, and the Lifesaving Service. These records are found in Record Group 26, Records of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Registers of Lighthouse Keepers, 1845–1912, were compiled chronologically and have been reproduced on M1373, Registers of Lighthouse Keepers, 1845–1912. Each volume has an index, arranged alphabetically by surname of keeper or name of lighthouse. The registers include the names of keepers and assistant keepers. The registers typically consist of the person's name; the district and the name of the light; date of appointment; date of resignation, discharge, or death; and sometimes annual salary.
Correspondence Concerning Keepers and Assistant Keepers, 1821–1902, are arranged alphabetically by surname. These letters may contain nominations of keepers and assistant keepers with testimonials, lists of examination questions, notifications of appointments, oaths of office, requests for transfer, recommendations for promotion, complaints, petitions, reports of inspectors, and letters of resignation.
Records relating to officers of the Revenue Cutter Service include records of officer personnel, 1791–1919, indexed alphabetically by name of officer. These volumes provide dates of service, citations to pertinent correspondence, and charges. There are also copies of commissions, 1791–1910, in two series. One, for 1791–1848, is arranged chronologically as commissions were issued; the other, for 1815–1910, is arranged chronologically, and there under alphabetically by surname of officer.
The records relating to enlisted crew members of the Revenue Cutter Service include muster rolls, payrolls, and shipping articles. In one series of muster rolls are unbound monthly reports, 1848–1910, arranged by name of vessel and there under chronologically. Because they are not indexed, they can be searched only by name of vessel and the individual's approximate date of service. Muster rolls and payrolls show the name, and when appropriate, signature or mark of each crew member. Muster rolls for the Revenue Cutter Service/Coast Guard, 1833–1932, provide for each crew member: name, rating, date and place of enlistment, place of birth, age, occupation, personal description, and number of days served during the reported month, along with notes if the crewman was detached, transferred, or discharged or if he deserted or died during the report period. The records are arranged alphabetically by name of vessel.
The shipping articles, 1863–1915, are volumes arranged alphabetically by name of vessel and are not indexed. To use these records, you must know the name of the ship and the approximate date of crewman's service. Information includes crew member's name, rating, wages, date and place of enlistment, place of birth, age, occupation, personal description, and signature or mark.
Useful records relating to the Lifesaving Service include registers, service record cards, and articles of engagement. The registers of employees, 1866–1913, usually show name of employee (keeper or surf men), post office address, previous occupation, year of birth, year when employee would reach age fifty-five, present age, military service if any, state from which appointed, date of appointment, compensation, date discharged, and reason for leaving.
The service record cards, 1900–1914, show name of employee, legal residence, place of birth, place and status of employment, changes of status, and salary. The cards are arranged alphabetically.
Articles of engagement for surf men, 1875–1914, are arranged chronologically and there under by district. The articles show a list of surf men, terms of engagement, and compensation. They may include reports of changes in crew, along with the reason for the change, and biographical information on new crew members. Often, medical inspection reports providing physical descriptions of the surf men examined are also included.
The National Archives has pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows, and other heirs. The pension records are based on service in the armed forces of the United States between 1775 and 1916. Application files often contain supporting documents such as discharge papers, affidavits, depositions of witnesses, narratives of events during service, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, pages from family bibles, and other supporting papers. Pension files usually provide the most genealogical information for researchers.
The pension files in the National Archives are divided into these major series: Revolutionary War, Old Wars, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, and Civil War and later.8 The records in each series are arranged alphabetically by name of veteran, except those in the Civil War and later series, which are arranged numerically by application, certificate, or file number. All series of pension application files have alphabetical name indexes.
For the Civil War and later pensions, consult National Archives Microfilm Publication T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934, which is arranged alphabetically by the individual's last name. The index cards include the individual's unit(s), making it easier to decipher individuals with the same name. Once you find the application number or pension certificate number, you can request to view the pension file. Pension files (including application files) often contain valuable personal information on soldiers, sailors, and marines not found in other records. For a listing of microfilm publications to other pension indexes and pension files, consult the National Archives' Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (2000). For more information on pension records, consult chapter seven of the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (2000).
Bounty land warrant application files relate to claims based on wartime service between 1775 and March 3, 1855. If your ancestor served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, early Indian Wars, or the Mexican War, a search of these records may be worthwhile. Documents found in these records are similar to those in pension files. Please note that many of the bounty land application files relating to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 service have been combined with the pension files. There is also a series of unindexed bounty land warrant applications based on service between 1812 and 1855, which includes disapproved applications based on Revolutionary War service. This series is arranged alphabetically by name of veteran.
All indexes and compiled military service records relating to service in the Confederate Army are available on microfilm. The general name index has been reproduced on M253, Consolidated Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers. There are also name indexes to soldiers who served in organizations from each of the Confederate states plus the Arizona Territory, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. For a listing of microfilm publications of indexes and compiled service records relating to Confederate service, consult the National Archives' Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (2000) under Record Group 109.
Confederate pensions are not at the National Archives. Pensions based on military service for the Confederate States of America were granted by the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. To search these records, contact the state where the veteran lived after the war. Descriptions of state pension laws and addresses and telephone numbers of state archives that hold these records are available on the National Archives web site.9
U.S. Government Still Pays Two Civil War Pensions
By Lauren Fox
February 9, 2012 RSS Feed Print
Despite the fact that the Civil War ended April 9, 1865 (53,630 days ago, for reference), the government is still paying out veterans' pensions.
Records from the Department of Veterans' Affairs show that two children of Civil War veterans, as of September, are receiving pensions from their fathers' service.
[Read more secrets about the Civil War.]
Department of Veteran Affairs spokesman Phil Budahn says the VA last checked in on the benefits recipients in the fall. Both were alive, but in poor health.
Budahn says it's likely that the children of the Civil War veterans, who have wished to remain anonymous, both had illnesses that prevented them from ever becoming self-sufficient.
Trevor Plante, a reference chief at the National Archives says it's also possible that the beneficiaries were young when their fathers died and had no living mothers to care for them, which would also qualify them for their fathers' pensions.
Plante says unlike current times, where pensions are granted to dependents based off military service numbers or social security numbers, in the late 19th century, people had to prove their connection to a deceased veteran by sending the government evidence of their relationship. Children, parents and spouses submitted photographs, love letters, marriage certificates, diaries and gifts to prove they were eligible for pensions.
"Genealogists love pension files because you never know what you are going to get. Civil War pensions are especially fascinating because of the wide array of things people submitted as evidence."
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, only Union soldiers were eligible for military benefits. It wasn't until the 1930s that confederate soldiers began receiving pensions from the federal government. Prior to that, confederate soldiers could apply for benefits through the state they resided in.
The last verified Civil War veteran, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at age 109. The last widow, Gertrude Janeway, died in 2003 at age 93.
Budhan says he respects the request for privacy, but would be fascinated to learn about the lives and memories of the last two people receiving pensions from the Civil War.
Locating the Records
The records and microfilm publications described in this article are available at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Some microfilm publications are available at NARA's regional facilities. Consult the online Microfilm Catalog to find out which facilities may have the microfilm you are looking for.
For researchers unable to visit the National Archives, copies of compiled military service records, pension files, and bounty land records held by NARA can be obtained through the mail. To obtain the proper request form, please write to Old Military and Civil Records, National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001. NATF Form 80 is now obsolete and has been replaced by NATF Form 85, "National Archives Order for Copies of Federal Pension or Bounty Land Warrant Applications," and Form 86, "National Archives Order for Copies of Military Service Records." Forms can also be requested through our web site.
If requesting information on military records related to Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard personnel, please do not use a form; send a written inquiry either by mail to the address above or by email to Contact NARA.
For additional information beyond the scope of this article, consult the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States (2000). There is a section on military records containing chapters on records of the Regular Army, service records of volunteers, naval and marine service records, pension records, bounty land warrant records, and other records relating to military service.
1 M860, General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, and M881, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War.
2 The contents of the catalog are available online as the Microfilm Catalog.
3 The Military Service Records catalog is available online and lists the contents of all the microfilm rolls. Microfilm Resources for Research is more up to date but does not have the contents of each publication.
4 There are also returns on these National Archives Microfilm Publications: M690, Returns from Regular Army Engineer Battalions, September 1846–June 1916; M691, Returns from Regular Army Coast Artillery Corps Companies, February 1901–June 1916; M727, Returns from Regular Army Artillery Regiments, June 1821–January 1901; M728, Returns from Regular Army Field Artillery Batteries and Regiments, February 1901–December 1916; M851, Returns of the Corps of Engineers, April 1832–December 1916; and M852, Returns of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, November 1831–February 1863.
5 For additional information on records related to posts and units, consult Record Group 391, Records of United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821–1942; Record Group 393, Records of U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821–1920; and Record Group 395, Records of U.S. Army Overseas Operations and Commands, 1898–1942.
6 See M1523, Proceedings of U.S. Army Courts-martial and Military Commissions of Union Soldiers Executed by U.S. Military Authorities, 1861–1866. The court of inquiry for Marcus Reno is reproduced on M592, and the general court-martial trial of George Armstrong Custer is reproduced on T1103.
7 Also consult M2078, General Register of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1782–1882.
8 The series of "Old War" pensions relate primarily to claims based on death or disability incurred in service in the Regular Army, U.S. Navy, or Marine Corps between the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The series of "Indian War" pension application records relates to service performed in the Indian campaigns between 1817 and 1898. Consolidated with this series are some Indian War pension application files that were formerly in the Old War series.
9 The federal government did not authorize pensions for former Confederates until 1959. Pension records for 1959 and later have not yet been transferred to the National Archives.
Trevor K. Plante is an archivist in the Old Military and Civil Records unit, National Archives and Records Administration. He specializes in military records prior to World War II.
Reference and Users Services Association
Mrs. Emily Ramrattan (1.800.545.2433, x-4398) is the contact person for knowledgeable professionals who know genealogical software, web site listings and contact information for resources across the country and specific to various ethnic groups.
www.ala.org/rusa/fenealogy.html or e-mail: eshroyerala.org.
Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865, 16 vols. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot,
Over one and half million names are listed with unit identifications. Available on one CD.
Roster of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865, 33 vols. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997-1999. Over three million names are listed with unit identifications.
Available on CD. Individual soldier can be searched from one state, from all
states, from selected states, from selected units, down to the company level.
Secret, Janette Braxton. Guide to Tracing Your African American Civil War Ancestor,
3rd ed. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1997.
Soldier Service Records
Each soldier’s service record consists of a jacket or envelope that gives his name, rank at entry into and exit from service, and the unit in which he served. Cross references at the bottom of the jacket sometimes mentions other units to which a soldier belonged. (Multiple units are very common for Confederate soldiers who’s units were merged with other units late in the war.) Within the National Archives jacket are such things as extracts. Some men, though, have original items pertaining only to themselves that turn up in the service record. The most common sorts of the latter are requisitions signed by commissioned officers for forage or other supplies, pay vouchers, and copies of special or general orders.
Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Lubking. Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy: Revised Edition. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Inc., 1997.
Telephone numbers – inter-net telephone directories
Thrapp, Dan L., ed. Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, 3 vols. Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1988. Also available on CD-ROM which contains 5,700 articles and 270 portraits related to frontier biography of the American West.
“20th Century Veterans’: Service Records Safe, Secure – and Available,” by Norman Eisenberg, Prologue, vol. 37, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 52-56.
The Official Personnel Folders (OPFs) have civilian employees data back to the
OMPF (official military personnel folders) document enlistment contracts, duty locations, performance evaluations, award citations, training records, and especially important report of separation (DD Form 214 or earlier equivalent).
Since 1973 the National Personnel Records Center has obtained alternative sources of documents to verify; the dates of individual military service:
Final pay records
Enlistment registers from induction stations
Index of WWII service numbers and dates they were assigned
United Kingdom. Public Record Office.
U.S. Air Force service member locating Active duty:
Air Force members, retirees, and Civil Service active duty: social security number for identification.210.565.2478/2660 or DSN: 665.2660 between 7:30 and 4:30 CST.
By mail: 550 C St., West, Ste. 50, Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4752
Separated or retired:
9700 Page Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Includes history, organizations, relocation, location of a soldier and family, images, publications and related sites
U.S. Army - alumni organizations/associations includes links to private homepages
U.S. Army Military Reunions Page
U.S. Army Official Unit Records
Operational records of U.S. Army organizations created prior to 1940 are in the custody of the Military Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408.
Requests regarding records created during WWII and the Korean War should be addressed to the Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphia Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
Operational records of US Army units that served in Southeast Asia are also in the custody of the Textual Reference Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration website at: www.nara.gov
Information relating to operational records created since 1954 by those US Army organizations that did not serve in Southeast Asia may be available through the DA Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Office, 7798 Cissna Road, Suite 205, Springfield, VA 22150-3166. You may be able to access additional information concerning policy related to these records on the website at:
Certain Unit Rosters and Morning Reports are also in the custody of the National Personnel Records, information about these collections can be found at:
Personnel records are maintained for officers who served after 1 July 1917, and enlisted personnel in service after November 1912 and who are no longer in service, by the
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
The center houses the military records of some 56 million individuals, beginning in the 19th century and extending into the 20th. Until recently these records were open only to the veteran, the next of kin, or the individual’s service branch. In 1999, however, the Pentagon and NARA reached an agreement that would begin the process of systematically opening these records. NARA was able to negotiate an agreement that provided for all such military records to remain sealed 62 years past the date an individual left active service. Because of a fire at the records center back in 1973, some files of Army and Air Force veterans will be withheld even longer – until 2023. Coast Guard records will probably not be available until 2026, and because some individual files contain fragile or crumbling paper, such files will probably be kept on hold for some time. Information concerning the required procedures and forms is available through their website at:
Over 80 million records at the National Archives dating back to the Spanish American War. See video: http://www.archives.gov/ress-releases/2011/rr11-20.html
Useful information includes:
Approximate years of service
Social Security Number
Authorization signature and date
DD Form 214: separation document that contain:
Character of service
Military occupation specialty;
Key to veteran benefits such as
civil service appointments
education and training
Records for individuals who served prior to those dates are in the custody of Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB), National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408. Inquiries regarding those records can be sent to:
U.S. Army units and alumni organizations:
U.S. Army Worldwide Locator
Army Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center
8899 East 56th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46249-5301
U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office
U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Modern Military records
Attn: Dr. Larry McDonald or other archivists
8601 Adelphi road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001
National Archives web site provides descriptions of National Archives facilities nation wide, information on agency holdings, publications and general information leaflets, and some Federal records regulations. A new system is projected for 2007 called “ARC” (Archival Research Catalog) it will replace the existing NAIL (National Archival Information Locator) system. The ARC system will use the external authority files such as the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) and the Getty Institute’s Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) and internally-produced authority files such as the topical subject and organization name authority files.
Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States:
SF 180 (NARA web site: www.archives.gov/facilities/mo/st_louis/military_personnel_recordss/standard_form_180.html
U.S. Naval Historical Center.
Historical Research Branch, Building 57, Washington Navy Yard
Washington, DC 20374-0571; 202.433.2210
frequently asked questions
history of the U.S Navy
navy traditions, trivia, and customs
naval history bibliography series
naval history -- related web sites
The Center’s collection emphasizes naval science, international law, all aspects - operational, administrative, biographical, scientific - of U.S. Naval history, foreign naval material, current pertinent non-fiction literature and extensive reference sources. The center maintains a library, an archives, a museum and curator facilities. It sponsors research, writing and publishing of American naval history.
The U.S. Naval History Sources in the United States last published in 1979 is now updated and corrected on its web site:
With links to more than 2,000 internet resources. Among the major keyword search categories are biographies, battles, African Americans and slavery, flags, weapons and artillery, and documents. There is also helpful advice for genealogists who are researching Civil War ancestors.
U.S. Medal of Honor
Stevens, Paul D., ed. Congressional Medal of Honor: The Names, the Deeds
Forest Ranch, CA: Sharp & Dunn, 1984.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
National Cemetery Administration
Burial Location Request
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
Veterans or next of kin are encouraged to use eVetRecs (vetrecs.archives.gov) to submit record inquires via the internet.
The VA has made it easier and faster for the public to get answers about family history, old war buddies or famous war heroes. The agency has put on the Web 3.2 million records for veterans buried at 120 national cemeteries since the Civil War. The VA's Nationwide Gravesite Locator also has records for some state veterans cemeteries and burials in Arlington National Cemetery since 1999. The navigator includes names, dates of birth and death, military service dates, service branch and rank if known, cemetery information and grave location in the cemetery. The VA will withhold some information, such as next of kin, for privacy purposes. For more on military death and burial programs, see the Death & Burial Overview.
U.S. Library of Congress Local History & Genealogy Reading Room
Access to one of the world’s premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical sources of information.
U.S. Library of Congress. National Union Catalog of Manuscript
Collections. Washington, D.C.: 1962 to date, annual.
An annotated survey of the larger United States and Canadian manuscript collections which have been reported to the Library of Congress. Includes both private letters and diaries. Can be access through the Library of Congress web site: www.loc.gov/
U.S. Library of Congress Veterans History Project
American Folk life Center collecting and preserving audio and video taped oral histories along with documentary materials such as letters, diaries and photographs from veterans and support personnel of WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Working with the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI) on this project.
MHI has developed a specific questionnaire to help with interviews
U.S. Nation Archives. Microfilm T288
General index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. This is a source for overall pensions indexed by the name of the soldier with additional possibilities that are almost endless. National Archives microfilm reels now cost $36 per reel.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
NARA is the official depository for records of military personnel separated from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. The records are housed in three locations:
The National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.
Washington National Records Center in Suitland, MD
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO
U.S. National Archives. Military Service Records: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications. Washington, D.C.: 1985.
Useful for determining groups and unit military records of Revolutionary War soldiers through the Philippine Insurrection as well as veterans’ claims and related military service records which are available on microfilm. One example is microfilm T288 that is a general Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. This is a source for overall pensions indexed by the name of the soldier with additional
possibilities that are almost endless.
U.S. National Archives – Northeast Region
201 Varick St., NY, NY 10014; 212.337.1300; email@example.com
Includes records for New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virginia Islands.
Archives & Records Administration
7th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW,
Washington, D.C. 20408 (202.501.5430)
To obtain copies of NATF-80, “Order For Copies of Veterans
Records” by contracting the above. Do not send any money with the
request. National Archives staff will inform you of any costs after
they have researched your request. Separate NATF-80s must be
filled out for each file of which you request a search.
U.S. National Archives Web Site: www.nara.gov
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently revised its web site which now has multiple entry points for the public to access NARA’s vast historical resources. The site has something for everyone: the veteran trying to collect a pension, the scholar searching for previously unexamined documents; members of the public searching for their ancestors, and journalist looking for historical documentation relating to current events. Users of this page will learn how to order publications and reproductions of National Archives documents, get access to textual, electronic, audiovisual, and microfilmed records. The page covers NARA’s resources in the Washington, D.C. area, and at NARA locations in 16 states throughout the country.
Visitors enter NARA’s Research Room thorough “Information for All Researchers” and can take a basic lesson on “How to Do Research at NARA.” They can then select a research strategy based on the organization of the Federal government whose records NARA holds (Presidential materials, Congress, Executive Agencies, Federal Courts); the record medium (textual, microfilm, cartographic and architectural, electronic, film-video-sound, photographs, government documents and library materials); or by selected topics, including “Holocaust Era Assets.” A sidebar provides quick links to “Genealogy and Family History,” “Veterans” Service Records,” NARA Publications,” and “Reproductions.”
U.S. National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
The center is a permanent depository for non-current Department of Defense personnel records since 1900. The Center only releases records to former service members or immediate family members. Genealogical requests for information should be submitted on Standard Form 180, “Request Pertaining to Military Records.”
Forms maybe obtained from Veterans Administration offices, or the
National Personnel Records Center
Civilian Personnel Records
111 Winnebago Street
St. Louis, MO 63118-4199
Requesting copies of military personnel records
The Center includes Civilian Records, Federal employees. www.gopher.nara.gov.gov/nara/frc/cpershld.html
The NPRC contains records relating to:
U.S. Army officers separated after June 30, 1917, and enlisted Army personnel separated after October 31, 1912
U.S. Air Force officers and enlisted personnel separated after September 1947
U.S. Naval officers separated after 1902, and naval enlisted personnel separated after 1885.
U.S. Marine Corps officers separated after 1895 and enlisted personnel separated after 1904.
U.S. Coast Guard officers separated after 1928 and enlisted personnel separated after 1914. Civilian employees of predecessor agencies (Revenue Cutter Service, Life-Saving Service and Lighthouse Service) of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1864- 1919.
The fire at the NPRC in St. Louis on July 12, 1973, destroyed about 80% of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960. Approximately 75 % of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from “Hubbard” through “Z” discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964, were also destroyed.
What was lost: It is hard to determine exactly what was lost in the fire, because there were no indices to the blocks of records involved. The records were merely filed in alphabetical order for the following groups:
WWI: Army: November 1, 1912 – Sept. 7, 1939
WWII: Army: Sept. 8, 1939 – Dec. 31, 1946
Army: Jan. 1, 1947 – Dec. 31, 1959
Air Force: Sept. 25, 1947 – Dec. 31, 1963
Millions of records, especially medical records, had been withdrawn from all three groups and loaned to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire. The fact that one’s records are not in NPRC files at a particular time does not mean the records were destroyed in the fire.
Reconstruction of lost records:
If a veteran is advised that his or her records may have been lost in the fire, he or she may send photocopies of any documents they posses to the NPRC, particularly separation documents. This enables the NPRC to re-establish files by adding those documents to the computerized index and filing them permanently.
Alternate Sources of Military Service Data:
In the event a veteran does not have any records in his or her possession, the essential military service data may be available from a number of alternate sources.
The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains records on veterans whose military records were affected by the fire if the veteran or a beneficiary filed a claim prior to July 1973.
Service information may also be found in various kinds of “organizational” records such as unit morning reports, payrolls and military orders on file at the NPRC or other NARA facilities.
There is also a great deal of information available in records of the State Adjutants General other state “veterans services” offices.
By using alternate sources, NPRC may often be able to reconstruct a veteran’s beginning and ending dates of active service, the character of service, rank while in ser ice, time lost while on active duty, and periods of hospitalization. NPRC is usually able to issue NA Form 13038, Certification of Military Service, considered the equivalent of a Form DD-214, Report of Separation From Active Duty, for the purpose of establishing eligibility for veterans benefits.
Necessary Information for File Reconstruction:
The key to reconstructing military data is to give the NPRC enough specific information so the staff can properly search the various sources. The following information is normally required:
Full name used during military service
Branch of service
Approximate dates of service
Place of entry into service
Last unit of assignment
Place of discharge
Long-Sealed Military Files Will Be Opened
By Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Senior Writer, June 6, 2005
Archivists are about to unseal a mother lode of military history along Page Avenue in Overland.
A ceremony Saturday at the National Personnel Records Center will mark the opening of military files that until now have been off-limits to most Americans.
Among the gems:
* Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's rating in mid-1944 of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. The report closes with these words on Patton: "A brilliant fighter and leader. Impulsive and quick-tempered. Likely to speak in public in an ill-considered fashion."
* Gen. Omar Bradley's radiogram in 1951 to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo, in which Bradley quotes President Harry S Truman: "Deeply regret that it becomes my duty as president and commander in chief of United States military forces to replace you . . ."
* Lt. Jackie Robinson's request in August 1944 for a discharge on medical grounds -- a college football injury. He writes, "In checking with the Special Service Branch I was told there were no openings for Colored Officers in that field."
* A Pentagon recommendation in May 1959 against a request from a group of disc jockeys that the Army let Pfc. Elvis Presley leave his duty station in Germany for a convention in Miami. "Prior to his induction, it was established that he would be handled exactly as any other inductee," the memo says. It adds that "any indication of unusual treatment would impair this highly favorable public impression. This would be particularly true of a trip to Miami at the height of the Berlin Crisis."
What's more, historians, biographers -- even the merely curious -- will soon have access to the military personnel records of about 150 well-known Americans. Among them: John F. Kennedy, Gen. Mark Clark, Clark Gable, Herman Wouk, Audie Murphy, Steve McQueen -- even Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Why the sudden openness at the records center?
Because millions of old personnel records no longer belong to the armed forces. Now, they're the property of the National Archives, which runs the records center here.
Until now, says archivist Eric Voelz, "we were the physical custodians, but the services were the legal custodians."
The archival program's assistant director, Brian K. McGraw, says: "For years, historians and genealogists have wanted access. But they weren't public records. We could open them only to the veteran himself, to his next of kin or to his branch of the service."
But in 1999, the Pentagon and the National Archives decided in principle that the records deserved to be public. Last summer, the final details were worked out.
Now, the records "cease to belong to the military and instead belong to the American people," says Bill Seibert, chief of the archival operations branch. "They're public documents."
The center houses military records on 56 million individuals, beginning when the 19th century rolled over into the 20th. "That's when the system of individual military records began," says Seibert. (Earlier records -- most of them handwritten ship's rosters and regimental rolls -- reside in Washington.)
But McGraw, Voelz and Seibert are quick to note that most of what's here will remain closed for years to come.
In their drawn-out negotiations, the Pentagon and the National Archives decided to keep the records sealed until 62 years past the date an individual left active service.
That puts most World War II records out of reach for several more years.
And because of complications from a fire at the records center in 1973, files of Army and Air Force veterans will be withheld even longer -- until 2023. Coast Guard records will be unavailable until 2026.
In other cases, what Voelz calls "preservation issues" -- fragile, crumbling paper -- will keep some records on hold.
What's opening up as of Saturday are individual records in three batches:
*Navy enlisted men from 1885 until Sept. 8, 1939.
*Marine Corps enlisted men from 1906 until 1939, in general.
*The first 150 of about 3,000 Americans identified as "persons of exceptional prominence" -- Patton, Presley and the rest. All of these VIPs have been dead for at least 10 years. President Richard M. Nixon "barely missed the cut," says Seibert.
The VIP records are sure to attract scholars and writers. In fact, early word of the opening has sparked premature interest. Voelz says: "I've already had historians and biographers calling to get in. I'm telling them that they have to wait until June 11."
Once the researchers get in, they'll be restricted to a 24-by-14-foot glass cubicle that resembles one of the smoking lounges at Lambert Field, albeit tidier. The cubicle holds four desks, four chairs, a computer with Web access -- and attendant Jackie Ostrowski, who'll ensure that visitors handle the records with care.
Ostrowski has already tasted the excitement among those interested in military history. "I was talking a few days ago to my physician, who's a WW I buff," she says, "and he went, 'Oooohh!'"
In truth, little of the stuff is likely to elicit an "Oooohh." A hasty sampling last week of the files of MacArthur, Patton, Robinson and Presley turned up page after page of repetitious trivia -- military prose, filled with abbreviations, acronyms and such military minutiae as travel orders.
Still, some surprises pop up.
MacArthur's travel orders for his return to the United States after his sacking in 1951 authorize him to take along "Mrs. Jean MacArthur and Master Arthur MacArthur," his wife and son. The authorizing signature: Douglas MacArthur himself.
Patton's officer efficiency rating for 1919 is of the sort that soldiers call "walk on water." Only in the category of "judgment and common sense" did Brig. Gen. S.D. Rockenbach give Capt. Patton a less-than-perfect grade -- "above average" rather than "superior." The overall take on Patton: "Intelligent, active and gallant. Possessing great dash and courage."
Robinson's file shows that he won his medical discharge, getting out in November 1944. The old college football injury failed to stand in the way of a Hall of Fame career in baseball.
And Presley's file includes a letter to Mamie Eisenhower from a couple in California, begging her to "ask Ike to please bring Elvis Presley back to us from the Army. We need him in our entertainment world."
It also has a letter to U.S. Rep. Harold Collier from a woman in Oak Park, Ill., incensed about a newspaper report that Presley would get an early discharge -- "even though our son has been in the Army one month longer than Elvis."
Veterans History Project – Library of Congress
Veteran (U.S.) search
Designed to reunite American servicemen and women.
Veteran of the month
Walsh, Robin. “New York State Genealogy and Local History on the Web: Wonderful Web Sites and Genealogy Mega-Sites,” CAA Newsletter: Newsletter of Capital Area Archivists of New York (October 1988).
Who Was Who In American History - The Military. Chicago: Marques Who’s Who, 1975.
The biographical information was, in most cases, supplied by the biographies themselves and later was revised by relatives. Personal data not obtainable elsewhere can often be found here. People of military significance from colonial North America to mid-1973 are included in the 90,000 plus entries.
Wood, Charles Anthony, comp. Marine Corps Personal Papers Collection Catalog. Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S.
Marine Corps, 1980.
World War II Veterans Committee
WWII Biographical Sources
Bialer, Seweryn, comp. Stalin and His Generals: Soviet Military Memoirs of World War II. NY: Pegasus, 1969. Hist. Dept. D764.B47 Selected bibliographies are included with a biographical index.
Bird, Keith W. Weimar, the German Naval Officer Corps and the Rise of National
Socialism. Amsterdam: Gruner, 1977. VA513.B53
Boatner, Mark M., III. Biographical Dictionary of World War II. Novato, CA:
Presidio Press, 1996. Over 1,000 sketches of notable allies, axis and others.
Bohanan, Robert D., comp. Dwight D. Eisenhower: A Selected Bibliography of
Periodical and Dissertation Literature. Abilene, KS: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, 1981. Ref. Z8258.47.B63 A bibliography covering World War II and the Cold War. Dissertations are not annotated but articles are briefly annotated.
Chambers, Steven D. Political Leaders and Military Figures of the Second World War: A Bibliography. Hants, Dartmouth Publishing Co. Ltd., 1996. Ref Z6207.W8.C48/1996
Cogar, William B. Dictionary of Admirals of the U.S. Navy, 2 vols. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989-1991. Ref U62.U64.1989 Biographical material as well as information on admiral’s writings, location of manuscript materials and a list of relevant secondary works.
Coletta, Paolo, ed. American Secretaries of the Navy, 2 vols. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980. UB23.A57 Composed of documented biographical sketches for the 62 men who have served this office since 1775.
Cooke, James J. Pershing and His Generals: Command and Staff in the AEF. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997. D570.C66/1997 Relates the development of the U.S. command and staff in World War I.
Copp, DeWitt S.
“A Few Great Captains”, Men and Events that Shaped the Development of U.S. Air Power, 2 vols. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980. Particularly thorough with American air leadership up to 1939 in volume 1.
Forged in Fire: Strategy and Decisions in the Airwar Over Europe, 1940-1945. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982. D790.C66/1982
Davis, Henry Blaine, Jr. Generals In Khaki. Raleigh, NC: Penland Press, 1998. Biographical anthology of the 476 active U.S. generals in World War I.
Dictionary of American Military Biography, Roger J. Spiller, ed., 3 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,1984. Ref. U52.D53/1984 Provides the best annotated sketches for prominent American military leaders.
Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt, Curt Johnson and David L. Bongard. Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. NY: Harper Collins, 1992. Ref. U51.D87/1992 Entries include brief bibliographies.
Hall, George Morgan. Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. E745.H35/1994 An account of ten Americans who rose to five-star rank: Pershing (who chose to wear only four stars), Leahy, Marshall, King, Arnold, Mac Arthur, Nimitz, Halsey, Eisenhower and Bradley. Reviews the Military highlights of each man; the second part analyzes and compares the ten to identify common features of the elements of command and of leadership.
Herwig, Holger H. and Neil M. Heyman. Biographical Dictionary of World War I. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982. Ref. D507.H47/1982 Particularly useful for European names not easily found in English sources. A bibliography of sources is included.
Hess, William N. Famous Airmen: The Allied Aces of World War II. NY: Arco Publ. 1966. D785.H463f A quick reference source arranged by country and then alphabetical by flying ace.
Howarth, Stephen, ed. Men of War: Great Naval Leaders of World War II. NY: St. Martin Press, 1992. Essays from 26 eminent naval historians sketching 31 naval and Marine Corps leaders during WWII from all nations.
James, D. Clayton and Anne Sharp Wells. Time for Giants: Politics of the American High Command in World War II. NY: Watts, 1987. D773.J36/1987 James’ assessment of seven army generals, five admirals, four air commanders and two marine generals. The survey includes bibliographical material on Arnold, Bradley, Clark, Eaker, Eisenhower, Halsey, Kenney, King, Leahy, Mac Arthur, Marshall, Nimitz, Patton, Smith, Spaatz, Spruance, Stilwell and Vandegrift.
Johnson, Richard S. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been In the Military: Armed Forces Locator Directory. Burlington, NC: Military Information Enterprises, 1992. Ref. UA23.J58 Many directory types of data for government offices, patriotic associations, and military reunions.
Keegan, John and Andrew Wheatcraft. Who’s Who in Military History: From 1453 to the Present Day. NY: Morrow, 1976. Ref. U51.K43/1976a
Larrabee, Eric. Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War. NY: Harper & Row, 1987. Spec E807.L26/1988 A series of well written accounts covering Marshall, King, Arnold, Vandegrift, Mac Arthur, Nimitz, Eisenhower, Stilwell and Le May.
Leary, William Matthew, ed. We Shall Return! Mac Arthur’s Commanders and the Defeat of Japan, 1942-1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Reserve Book Room D767.9.W42/1988 The key roles that Generals Walter Kruger, Robert L. Eichelberger, Ennis C. Whitehead, air strategist George C. Kenney and Admirals Thomas C. Kinkaid and Daniel E.Barbey have been largely forgotten. They served under General Douglas Mac Arthur, a military genius with an enormous ego who dominated publicity from the Southwest Pacific.
Mason, David. Who’s Who In World War II. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1978. Ref. D736.M38/1978b A useful biographical work of military, political and scientific personalities with illustrations. No sources are given for sketches.
Mitcham, Samuel W. and Gene Mueller. Hitler’s Commanders. Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1992. D736.M56/1992
Mitcham, Samuel W. and Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. Hitler’s Field Marshals and Their Battles. Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1990. D736.M57/1990
New York Times Index. NY: January 1911 to date, monthly, quarterly and annual editions. Index Area A master-key to the news. It is extremely useful in
tracking events or following the play by play developments. The news is classified alphabetically by subjects, persons, and organizations. The general availability of the New York Times on microfilm makes this a particularly useful reference tool. The index also provides clues to the dates of articles about the same subject that appeared in other newspapers. The Personal Name Index eases the search for personalities in the newspaper.
Persons, Benjamin S. Relieved of Command. Manhattan, KS: Sunflower, 1997. Study of relieved U.S. commanders of brigades, division or corps during World War II and the circumstances surrounding each incident.
Rasor, Eugene L.
Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 1900-1979: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
General Douglas Mac Arthur, 1880-1964: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. Spec Z8531.2.R36/1994 The annotated bibliography section containing 759 numbered entries is organized into one alphabetical listing. Included are individual entries that describe the most productive centers for research on Mac Arthur and appropriate journals likely in include articles about the life and times of Mac Arthur.
Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978. V62.R48 Source includes portraits and a listing of all senior naval officials and flag officers.
Schuon, Karl. U.S. Marine Corps Biographical Dictionary. NY: Watts, 1963. E182.S39
Sweetman, Jack, ed. Great Admirals: Command At Sea, 1587-1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997. Collection of nineteen biographical essays with
portraits, maps and charts.
U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Official Army Register. Washington, DC: GPO, 1818 to date. U11.U5.U46 The title has varied, and no issues were published between 1917 and 1919. It is valuable for concise military information. The contents vary. Some issues
include unit officer rosters, equipment data, and existing installations. The register is also issued in the U.S. Congress House Documents series.
U.S. National Archives - Presidential Libraries with WWII holdings:
Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
511 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Harry S. Truman Library
U.S., Highway 24 and Delaware Street
Independence, MO 64050-1798
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
200 Southeast Fourth Street
Abilene, KS 67410
II. U.S. National Personnel Records Center (Military
Records) 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132 The center is the permanent repository of non-current Department of Defense personnel records since 1900. Only releases only records to former service members or immediate family members. Official source for World War I and II service records. Although some records were burned in a fire, the staff can sometimes suggest additional sources for incomplete or missing service records.
Weigley, Russell F. Eisenhower’s Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany, 1944-1945. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. Spec D761.W4/1990 The best assessment of American officers in Western Europe done by a noted American military historian.
Yerger, Mark C. Waffen-SS Commanders: The Army, Corps, and Division Leaders of a Legend, Augsberger to Kreutz. Schiffer, 1997. Forty-four biographies of the most senior Waffen-ss commanders.
MINORITIES IN THE ARMED FORCES
American Women and the U.S. Armed Forces: A Guide to the Records of Military Agencies in the National Archives Relating to American Women. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992. Ref. U21.75. S44/1992 Wide scope, covers women in various fields and occupations, military and non-military.
Anderson, Martin, ed. Conscription: A Select and Annotated Bibliography. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1976. UB340.A53 A list of 1,385 annotated entries covering military manpower procurement in most countries.
Davis, Lenwood G. and George Hill, comp. Black's in the American Armed Forces, 1776-1983: A Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985. Ref. Z1249.M5.D38/1985 An overview of the military heritage of black American military men from 1528 through 1981.
Dever, John P. and Maria C. Dever. Women and the Military: Over 100 notable Contributors, Historic to Contemporary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1995.
Frield, Vicki L., comp. Women in the United States Military, 1901-1995: A Research Guide and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. Includes world wide web pages and women military associations.
The Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff. All recipients in the database are verified by source material such as official award citations, narratives and/or synopses from individuals or records from the National Archives. The Hall of Valor is an ongoing project. It is a monumental effort to identify the half-million men and women who received the highest U.S. military awards, in addition to the millions of others who received other awards.
Military Times is adding medals in accordance with their place in the order of precedence. The database currently includes all recipients of the Medal of Honor and all of the second-tier valor awards: Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross and Air Force Cross. We are in the midst of a multi-year effort to identify recipients of Silver Star and below. For these awards, absence of a name should not be considered evidence that an individual did not receive an award. Track our progress on our Awards page.
To have a name added, please send official documentation (citation, narrative and/or synopsis) to firstname.lastname@example.org. The database is updated frequently, but please be patient as records must be vetted and may not be posted immediately.
Part of the National Archives, the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis is the repository of millions of military personnel, health and medical records of veterans of all services from the 20th century. (Records prior to World War I are located in Washington, D.C.) For information on how to submit a request for records, visit the following site: http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/. If you are unsuccessful in your attempts to locate records, please contact us.
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