|From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega|
Of course, on Genealogy Roadshow we had a number of stories that involved people in the military, so some explanation of the uniqueness of military records was called for. Sometimes we were asked for records that simply were not available to us so an explanation of that was also needed:
Military records - Why they are valuable to genealogists
- Vietnam War is too recent for us to have access to the records, unless direct relations.
- Korean War is also too recent for most records.
- WWII is also very recent (comparatively) so the records available to us are limited. For WWII, older men were expected to register for the draft (called the “old men’s draft”) and we can access those draft records, but not the ones for the younger draftees (in general).
- WWI draft records, among others, are more accessible to us. Most men, age 18 and over, had to register for the draft and their records are available on line. The exceptions are those who enlisted before needing to register for the draft; there are no draft cards for most of these.
- Civil War records, housed at NARA 1 (Washington, DC) require on-site pulling for our purposes (we can order these, but it can easily take 2 months to receive). There are 2 types of records:
Military - generated at the time of the event. These include muster rolls, captures, injuries, deaths in the field, etc. If it happened during the War, it should be in this collection.
- Pension - generated after the War as a result of the Pension Acts (one passed in 1862, but rarely involved as most soldiers were unaware of that one; and one passed in 1890, which most veterans - invalids, they were called . . . that is INvalid, not inVALid). These records require the veteran and/or his widow, to prove eligibility - that they can no longer work to supply a living for themselves and/or their families. They require affidavits signed by those who know the applicant(s) and medical examinations. They also include letters and documents detailing needs - lists of children, spouse, and dates and places of births, marriages, and, as applicable, deaths. These provide invaluable information for genealogists. Files range from a page or two to reams of letters, applications, and affidavits. If there is a pension record, it should be pulled! Also included: any bounty land information.
- War of 1812 - Same as above (Civil War) - Bounty Land more likely to be involved.
- Revolutionary War - Same as above (Civil War).
Females who can prove direct line relationship to Revolutionary War soldiers are eligible for the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and males who can provide that proof, the SAR (Sons of . . .). The value of these groups: scholarship money for their children or themselves; proof must be indisputable. (Only for Patriots, not Loyalists; many of these soldiers are already listed in the Patriot Index of the DAR and, when that happens, the acquisition of the application can provide much additional family information. Applications can be retrieved within a couple of weeks; maybe less.)
Many military records or indexes (telling us that people were in the military and that records exist but not giving specific data) are available on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and, most extensively, Fold3.com. When we find references at these locations, we are encouraged and suggest pulling the records (if not posted . . . which many are not and won’t be for some time). All military records are kept at the National Archives and Records Administration 1 (Washington, DC). Some are kept in other NARA offices, but not here in So. Calif.