Want to find your ancestor in military records? Here is an efficient way to identify all military records on FamilySearch, and to narrow your search by collection. It is then easy to search within a single collection.
On the FamilySearch home screen click “Search” and then “Records” in the dropdown menu.
Military records are a valuable source of genealogical information—one of the best! Military service records, bounty land files, and pension files are some of the more commonly used in this record group, but don’t stop there. Draft cards, discharge papers, prisoner of war records, veteran cemeteries, soldier homes, and veteran/lineage societies can be rich resources for the researcher.
Do you know if your ancestor served in the military? The FamilySearch Wiki provides an Ages of Servicemen table to help determine this. From this table I created the Table of Wars – Ages of Servicemen downloadable cheatsheet with a timeline of wars servicemen might have been involved with, according to their birth dates at the time of the conflict. This is a table for wars the United States was a part of, but since most of these wars involved foreign countries, it can be a helpful tool for your foreign-born ancestors, as well.
We tend to think of wartime service for veterans, but don’t forget that men and women served in peacetime, too. Use this cheatsheet to determine if your ancestor might have been part of a military conflict, and then check the FamilySearch Wiki for search strategies specific to each war.
Military records are a key record group for genealogists, and pension records in particular can be a rich source of personal information about an individual. The 1883 Pension Roll is a handy index to some of these records. If you have a an ancestor who might have served in the Civil War (Union side only), various Indian Wars, or the War of 1812 (of course, he’d be at least 90 years old by 1883!) you will want to check out this pension roll.
It is available on the subscription site Ancestry.com, but you can find the free ebook online at Google Books. Each volume covers different states. Western States researchers will want to see Volume 4:
Vol 1 Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, District of Columbia
Vol 4 Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, California, Oregon, Nevada, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Dakota Territory (North and South Dakota), New Mexico Territory, Montana Territory, Washington Territory, Idaho Territory, Utah Territory, Arizona Territory, Alaska Territory, Wyoming Territory
Vol 5 Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and foreign countries
Check out the “cause for which pensioned” column – yikes! “G.S.W.” means “gunshot wound.” Here is a list of other abbreviations posted by the Illinois GenWeb project:
The 1883 Pension Roll lists anyone on the U.S. military pension roll as of 1 Jan 1883, including soldiers, their widows, or parents – whoever was receiving a pension check. It gives a certificate number, pensioner’s name, post office address, cause for which pensioned, monthly check amount, and the date of the original allowance.
Here are your ordering options on the NARA website:
1. Compiled Military Service File (NATF 86): $25.00
2. Federal Military Pension Application – Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85A): $75.00
3. Federal Military Pension Application – Pre-Civil War Complete File (NATF 85A): $50.00
4. Federal Military Pension Applications – Pension Documents Packet (NATF 85B): $25.00
5. Military Bounty-Land Warrant Application File (NATF 85C): $25.00
If you are seeking a Civil War pension packet you must choose between #2 and #4. #2 will get you a copy of the entire packet, which can be upwards of 30 pages. It is expensive at $75.00, but cheaper than a trip to Washington, D.C.! #4 will get you 8 documents from that same packet, chosen by the clerk at NARA. They will choose 8 that have genealogical information. If you are on a budget, this will save you some money. If you decide you would like the complete file later, however, you will still have to pay the full $75.00. I know…rip-off!…but still cheaper than that plane ticket.
If you merely want a Compiled Military Service File choose #1. These are valuable, too, but I would go for the pension file first, because there is usually more genealogical information in a pension file.
If you are seeking a pension packet from an earlier war choose #3 or #4, depending on what size file you want.
Today we commemorate a big day in history. Betcha didn’t know! This month War of 1812 databases are available for free at Fold3.com, so check them out. If you find the Fold3 is a website you like, you can access it for free at your local LDS Family History Center .
Here is a re -post from the Mocavo.com Newsletter regarding the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, by Michael J. Leclerc. There is more information about him on the APG website.
War of 1812 Ancestors
By Michael J. Leclerc
Monday, June 18, marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. The bicentennial is being marked with much fanfare in Washington and elsewhere around the country.
The War of 1812 was the first time the United States officially declared war (although the Quasi-War with France and the first Barbary War preceded it, there were no official declarations of war in those instances). The War of 1812 was vehemently opposed by the New England states, who feared the damage that would come to their merchant fleets. Indeed, the War of 1812 had more official political opposition than any other war through the end of the twentieth, including the Vietnam War. Despite this, and the fact that our national anthem was written at the Battle of Baltimore near the end of the war, Americans don’t know much about it.
One of the major problems leading to the war was Britain’s attacks on U.S. ships. The Royal Navy would board American ships, ostensibly looking for escaped British sailors. In reality, they would look for any able seaman and impress him into the Royal Navy. Lists of these impressed seamen can be found at NARA. Because of this problem, Congress approved the issuing of Seamen’s Protection Certificates, which can also be helpful.
The U.S. Navy played a key role in the War of 1812. Because of this, many of the males who served during the war were younger. Anyone who has visited U.S.S. Constitution in Boston knows that ships of that era had small lower decks. Boys were able to scramble around these smaller spaces more quickly than grown adults. Keep this in mind as you examine your family for people who might have served during the war. Males ranging in age from 12 to their 20s are good candidates to have served.
Many of the veterans received bounty land. Until 1842, most of this land was within the present-day boundaries of Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. If you have ancestors who appeared in those areas before 1850, check to see if they received bounty land. The land grants may give you further clues as to where your ancestor originally came from.
The National Archives has a page dedicated to resources to help you research your War of 1812 ancestors. For those of you who can get to Boston, I strongly recommend a visit to U.S.S. Constitution to see what life was like for her crew during the war. The oldest commissioned warship in existence, she celebrates her 215th anniversary in 2013. Each year on July 4th, she takes a cruise through Boston harbor. A contest is held each year for the public to ride during the turnaround cruise (called that because the ship returns to her berth in the opposite position from when she started so that she will weather evenly on both sides).