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Collection Information

When researching in military records, it is helpful to determine when and where in the armed service a soldier served, and whether he or she was in the enlisted ranks or an officer. Clues may be found in family stories, old newspaper clippings, correspondence, scrapbooks, journals or diaries, service medals and memorabilia, and photographs of the soldier in uniform. The grave marker of a veteran may contain information about military service as well. Military records may have been created in peacetime or during time of war, depending on the record type, and you may even find military records for ancestors who never served. For example, the U.S. World War I Draft Registrations include records for 24 million men, both immigrant and U.S. citizens, who were born between about 1872 and 1900. Many of these men were never called up for service.

Military records are wonderful sources that provide unique facts and insights into the lives of men and women who have served in the armed forces. They may include dates of birth and death, residence, names and addresses of family members, military rank and affiliation, among other details. The types of records you’ll find in this category include draft records, service records, pension records, bounty land records, claim records, and military histories.

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Search Tips

  • Because military records often hold such rich and detailed information, you’ll want to look for all family members who served—direct ancestors and collateral relatives as well. Look through your family tree for men who would have been of the right age to serve and search for all of them in records related to that conflict.
  • To see what collections are available for a specific branch of the service, enter words like Navy, Naval, Army, Air Force or Marine in the title field of the Card Catalog.
  • To see what collections are available for a particular conflict, select the filter for Military Records and then the decade of the conflict from the date filters in the Card Catalog.
  • When searching all military records from this page, you can narrow your search by entering a median year for the conflict in the field for Military Service, and select +/- 1, 2, 5, or 10 years to expand the range. For example, if you’re looking for a Civil War veteran, try the year 1863 and select a range of +/- 2 years to search 1861-1865.
  • Some census records include information on military service. The 1840, 1910, and 1930 U.S. Censuses included questions about military service, and the 1890 Veterans’ Schedule is available for states alphabetically beginning with Kentucky (partial) through Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. It lists the residence, unit, and years of service of Civil War soldiers or their surviving widows.