Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

The People Closest to You and a FREE Military Record

As genealogists and family historians, we tend to focus on documenting the lives of our g-grandparents, gg-grandparents, etc.  We sometimes neglect our own parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. 

At a minimum, you should secure birth, marriage and death records for these folks (you will need them for your immediate line if you ever plan to join an organization such as DAR, SAR, Mayflower Society, etc.) 

For those with parents, uncles and grandparents who were in the US Military, the following record may be of interest.

Did you know that 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?

Military personnel files are stored at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The NARA website provides a list of the information included on the DD Form 214:

  • Date and place of entry into active duty
  • Home address at time of entry
  • Date and place of release from active duty
  • Home address after separation
  • Last duty assignment and rank
  • Military job specialty
  • Military education
  • Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
  • Total creditable service
  • Foreign service credited
  • Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and re-enlistment eligibility codes)

I submitted a request and received the form (image below) within 3 weeks.  My neighbor wasn’t so lucky, she was informed that her dad’s record was destroyed in the fire and could not be recreated:

Surviving a Fire

A fire on July 12, 1973, left the top floor of the military personnel records facility in ruins. This floor had contained some 22 million personnel folders, filed alphabetically, for U.S. Army personnel discharged from 1912 through 1959 and of the U.S. Air Force discharged from September 1947 through 1963. At the time of the fire, one-third of the air force records already had been relocated and thus saved, but overall, fewer than 4 million records were recovered, either entirely or with as little as one identifiable document. A subsequent renovation included frequent firewalls within the storage areas as well as a comprehensive sprinkler system.

Since 1973, NPRC has obtained alternative sources of documents to verify the dates of individual military service and the character of separation for many of the veterans whose files were destroyed. Among these are final pay records, enlistment registers from induction stations, an index of World War II service numbers and dates they were assigned, morning reports, unit rosters, and discharge orders. Many state and federal agencies, particularly the Department of Veterans Affairs, assist NPRC in the reconstruction effort.

NPRC reconstructs a file only after receiving a request involving that veteran, and even then, replacement of an entire folder is impossible for these one-of-a-kind documents. Medical information is especially difficult to replace. NPRC has provided several million reconstruction replies since the fire, but as the number of living veterans from the affected years declines, so has the volume of requests. Nevertheless, NPRC still processes up to 3,000 reconstruction inquiries each week.

Independence Day

Love’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. 

Volume 7
page 68

Hall, Brian (also given Briant), Norton. 1st Lieutenant, Capt. Isaac Hodges’s (2d) co., Col. John Daggatt’s (4th Bristol Co.) regt. of Mass. militia; list of officers chosen by the several companies in said regiment, dated Attleborough, March 18, 1776; ordered in Council March 21, 1776, that said officers be commissioned; reported commissioned March 21, 1776; also, Lieutenant, Capt. Isaac Hodges’s co., Col. John Daggit’s (Daggett’s) regt.; service, 25 days, in Dec., 1776, and Jan., 1777, on an alarm, including travel (34 miles) from Norton to Tiverton, R. I., and return; also, 1st Lieutenant, Capt. Samuel Robinson’s co., Col. Wade’s regt.; engaged June 18, 1778; service, 25 days, at Rhode Island; company raised to serve for 21 days from June 21, 1778; roll dated Attleborough.


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  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: 

Military Records: Civil War
(35 minutes) 

Military Records: Pre-WWI Pension Applications
(16 minutes) 

Military Records: Revolutionary War
(34 minutes) 

Civil War Genealogical Research
(46 minutes)

Revolutionary War Genealogy Research
(43 minutes)

1. 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. and 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 –

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:

4. Here are a few of my favorite Civil War links:

5. DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution)

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  or on  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.

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