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.
They say a newborn baby’s name can influence the course of his life for good or for bad. Well you certainly can’t blame Mr. and Mrs. Hook for trying. After all, they probably were hoping for a distinguished maritime or football career from little “Captain Percy Hook”, and weren’t quite banking on him going the pirate ship route.
But kids will be kids, and what kid, when given the option, would not choose to be a pirate, right?
Little Captain Hook you’ve got a choice to make: Would you rather be the captain of the Tunbridge Footballers or the Jolly Roger?
I know you think I am making this up, right? But I have proof. The Fairy Tale Genealogist always has “proof”. Yes, I know J.M. Barrie’s character was named James, but this is a minor detail when the Fairy Tale Genealogist is presented with such a tantalizing set of records for a fictional character. Who ever dreamed a British birth record, census record, and army enlistment papers for Peter Pan’s archenemy could be produced? Little Captain Percy Hook first appears in the Free BMD Birth Index for England and Wales, for the March quarter of 1899 in Tunbridge district.
Information from the FreeBMD Birth Index (district, volume, and page) can be used to order a birth certificate from the General Register Office or view one online, and from there we could obtain his mother’s maiden name and father’s name. We can also see both his parents’ names on the 1911 England census, where twelve year-old Captain Percy Hook, the future pirate, has an occupation of “school boy” and a birthplace of Brenchley, Kent, England.
Five short years later he has “received notice” to enlist in the British army for World War I. One can only imagine the navy would have been his first choice had he been given one. Wisely, Captain Percy Hook has elected to start giving his name as Percy Captain Hook, thereby avoiding the confusion and redundancy a promotion to the rank of Captain would have caused. (Captain Captain Hook reporting for duty, sir!) Interestingly, he gives his occupation as gardener, giving us a glimpse into his early, gentler side and leaving us to wonder where it all unraveled for him. As a bonus, we get his signature on this document!
Two years later the war has ended and Captain Hook has been awarded the British War Medal and/or the Victory Medal.
Further ideas for research would be looking in the FreeBMD index for marriage and death records, as well as the 1921 census. The 1931 census was destroyed in WWII, and the 1941 census was not taken due to the war.
By all accounts Captain Hook was an upstanding citizen, and I am wondering if he was just a misunderstood character with a gardening implement for a prosthetic device. Sure, he was a pirate and forced Peter Pan to walk the plank, but like Jack Ripper and Attila Hun he faced long odds at birth when he was named.
We must look at him through the long lens of literary license and know J.M. Barrie had a story to tell, and perhaps the actual records hint at a more gentle, noble man behind the mustache. OR perhaps the Fairy Tale Genealogist has had some fun again 😉 Sorting out the fairy tales from the facts is what a good genealogist does. Arrrrgh!
Today I received an email with content updates for Fold3.com, a terrific website I have a subscription to. I have had some success using Fold 3 in my research over the years (it was formerly known as Footnote), and wanted to share this update with you. Although it is a subscription site, some of their content is free. If you want to use the subscription content you can get a trial subscription, or you can visit your local LDS Family History Center which has free access to the site. Fold 3 is unique in that its content is obtained through a partnership with the National Archives, so the digital collections are images of original sources, much of it with primary content.
I include here the email I received from Fold 3 regarding the Fold3 Photographic Collections, and hope it is okay that I copied it in its entirety because I thought it was so informative. I don’t think they will mind me giving them a plug:
“Fold3 is known for its unique collections of military records and historical documents, yet there are a vast number of photographs on the site as well. They are filed within more than a dozen photographic collections, as well as within some of the document collections. The most recent updates to digitized photographs include those from the Civil War and others from within the WWII Navy Muster Rolls.
If you’re a fan of the WWII Navy Muster Rolls—a new title featured in last month’s content update email and Fold3 Blog post—you may have noticed photographs of ships and personnel distributed within these record images, as well. The photo categories are not included with every ship, so the easiest way to locate them is to type the word “photos” in the search box on the WWII Navy Muster Rolls title page and view the resulting matches. Using the filmstrip at the bottom of the Fold3 viewer, you can browse to see the wide range of offerings for each ship. Examples include a view of the USS Coral Sea underway in 1986, Doolittle raiders aboard the USS Hornet, and Rear Admiral Moffett on the USS Langley.
These photographs are rich in historical content and complement the document images on Fold3. Using them in tandem provides an enhanced perspective of U.S. military history.”
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).