Love Ancestry.com’s latest slogan: “Independence Day, brought to you by your ancestors”. How true!
Happy 234th birthday America! and many thanks to everyone in the past and present for their service to our country and the sacrifices of the families who wait(ed) for their return home.
Today I am remembering my 5th great grandfather, Lt. Brian Hall. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and according to what has been published of him, one of the first to act and respond. He was a lieutenant in Capt. Hodges’ company, serving in Rhode Island in 1776. He was also a member of the select committee of correspondence, and asked to take into consideration the “Confederation of the Union of States” proposed by Congress and also on the committee to devise means for the formation of a State constitution.
It seems appropriate on this day of our independence to speak of some of my favorite war related genealogical sites:
Before I begin, let me tell you about a great Military research document that can be found on the LDS site http://tinyurl.com/2dwqgu5 The document introduces strategies and records that can help you learn more about your ancestors who served in the United States military.
LDS Family Search offers some great FREE classes. Five of them are related to Military records: http://tinyurl.com/debr9s
Military Records: Civil War
Military Records: Pre-WWI Pension Applications
Military Records: Revolutionary War
Civil War Genealogical Research
Revolutionary War Genealogy Research
1. Ancestry.com has recently published an index of Civil War pensions (1889-1904). Cards are arranged alphabetically with name of soldier, organization in which he served, and name of person who made inquiry. This isn’t an easy database to find!
– Go to “Search all Records”
– Select “Card Catalog”
– Type in the word “Correspondence” in the title box.
– This will bring up the link to: U.S. Index to General Correspondence of the Record and Pension Office, 1889-1904
– You can then select the first letter of your ancestor’s surname and browse through the records.
2. Ancestry.com and Footnote.com have digitized selected NARA microfilm publications and original records. Here is a listing of records that have been either partially or wholly digitized as of March 2010 – http://www.archives.gov/digitization/digitized-by-partners.html
3. Did you know that all US Veterans are entitled to a free Gravestone? You might find your veteran ancestor in the
Veterans Nationwide Gravesite locator: http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/
4. Here are a few of my favorite Civil War links:
5. DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) http://www.dar.org/library/online_research.cfm
If your ancestor was in the American Revolution, check the fairly new DAR online searchable index. Some of the family trees are right on the DAR site. If you find a relative you can order the backup paperwork for a reasonable price.
6. Military personnel files are stored at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Most veterans and their next-of-kin can obtain FREE copies of their DD Form 214 (Report of Separation) and other military and medical records at NARA. The service takes about 3-4 weeks. I just received my dad’s record a few months ago.
7. Pension files, most of which are held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., are often amazingly rich in family history.
To locate a Civil War pension file, you need to have the name of the individual, and his unit, because that is how the pension files are arranged. If you know his name, and the state that he was from, you can probably find his regiment at the Soldiers and Sailors database http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/soldiers.cfm or on Ancestry.com. Confederates seldom received pensions, although there were a few states that provided them. War of 1812 and Revolutionary pension files can also provide rich family data.
I feel that you are much better off hiring a professional researcher to go in and get pension files — as opposed to ordering them directly from NARA. The professional can be less expensive. More importantly, the professional can be either (1) selective or (2) comprehensive, your choice. I can ask the professional just to get the “most genealogically significant pages,” up to – say – 10 to 40 pages. Alternatively, if I want the entire file, no matter how many pages and how many small scraps are in the file, I am more assured that I will get everything.
I am barely scratching the surface of everything related to the military that is available to researchers, but this should get you started. Just remember that (last I heard) only 3% of genealogical data is online. Although the amount available is increasing daily, you will need to seek out and consult offline sources.