| Researching Military Records
This article is part of a series.
|Overview of Military Records|
|Records of Veterans' Benefits|
|Miscellaneous Military Records|
|List of Useful Military Resources|
There are three goals that will help the genealogist to discover information about a military ancestor: (1) acquire a view of historical context; (2) identify the original records that require searching; and (3) examine secondary sources, such as compilations of material not easily found elsewhere.
Hundreds of volumes pertain to the military history of the United States and to the service and pension/bounty-land programs that were in effect prior to the modern wars. These provide the setting and the conditions, legal and social, which your military ancestor would have experienced; hence, the historical context.
Records may be identified in two highly recommended sources: James C. Neagles's U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present and Anne Bruner Eales's and Robert M. Kvasnicka's Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the Untied States. Both describe in detail the specific records that hold primary evidence of military involvement. Also useful, although less detailed, are Trevor K. Plante's "An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service," and United States Military Records in the FamilySearch Research Wiki. The essential website for finding information on federal records and finding aids is www.archives.org, the website of the National Archives and Records Administration.
The final goal, to examine secondary sources, is accomplished by exploring transcripts, indexes, and compilations that bring together a variety of information. These may be published as online databases or in print, CD, or microform editions. While there is no known comprehensive bibliography to compiled sources, a partial list of printed materials and websites is provided in List of Useful Military Resources.
- James C. Neagles, U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1994); Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka, Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000).