MILITARY RECORDS:

History of and How to Use Them

 

© Linda Haas Davenport May 1998 (revised Sep 27, 1998 & Feb 2000)

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Information War by War (Cont)

 

There are service records for the War of 1812, Indian Wars and the Mexican War. The information included, similar to that in the service records of soldiers in the colonial wars and the Revolutionary War, have been indexed and microfilmed. Copies of these indexes and microfilmed service records and pension Indexes can be found at NARS or the LDS Family History Centers.  Each of these wars produced Pension Application Records which are on file at the National Archives.

Pension records for all wars from the close of the Revolutionary War to the Civil war are located in the National Archives. Most of these have been indexed and the index is available from the LDS FHCs (check the Military Records Register for the call numbers). Order the full pension file from the National Archives. Pension files for these wars contain such items as the veteran's name, age, place of residence, if married or not, name of wife, the unit he served in, the date and place of enlistment, and the date and place of discharge. The widow's file will contain such items as her name, age, place of residence, marriage information, date and place of veteran's death and the date and place of his final discharge. Other information may be affidavits for character, etc.

Pensions for the War of 1812 were not authorized until 1871 and were granted to all of those still living in 1871. However, disabled soldiers from the War of 1812 received pensions under the Old Wars Act prior to 1871.

The Indian War Pensions are microfilmed and most are indexed. They are found under; Indian Survivor's Originals; Indian survivor's certificates; Indian widow's originals and Indian widow's certificates.

The Mexican War Pension files are much the same as other files, except they required the maiden name of the wife, the names of any former wives, death or divorce information about previous wives and the names and dates of birth of all living children.

There cannot possibly be a war that has produced as many books as the Civil War, especially in the Southern States. Walk into any library in the south (regular or genealogical) and you will find shelf after shelf of books about the Civil War. This War touched so many families and wrought such devastation in so much of the young USA that it has produced an unbelievable amount of information. This War produced a multitude of records that contain valuable genealogical information. The majority of these records have been indexed and many of the actual compiled service records have been filmed. When a record for an ancestor is found in one of the indexes the actual service record abstract card(s) may be ordered from the National Archives. Some of the Compiled Service Records have been microfilmed and are available to you to search, but some states records have not been filmed. Most of the confederate, all Union in Confederate States and all border states are on film. Smaller states are still in the process of being filmed. Check to see what states and areas are available.

Union Army Records: By act of Congress, March 1863, the federal draft system was created. Men between the ages of 25 and 40, both white male citizens and aliens who had declared their intent to naturalize, were eligible for the draft. Males 20-35 and unmarried males 35-45 had to serve unless physically disabled. Males 17-20 could serve with the permission of a parent or guardian. The draft applied only to men residing in the US under Union control.

The draft created 3 kinds of records: (1) Consolidated Lists: These are the most important individual records. An entry gives his name, place of residence, age as of 1 Jul 1863, occupation, marital status, state, territory, or country of birth, and the military organization (if already a volunteer) of which he was a member. The records are arranged by state and thereunder by congressional or enrollment district. (2) Descriptive Rolls: These rolls give additional information of men eligible for service. Although many of the entries are not completely filled out, they may give a personal description, exact place of birth, and whether accepted or rejected for service. These records are also filed by state and thereunder by congressional district. To the best of my knowledge neither of these Lists has been microfilmed yet. They are a part of Record Group 110 and are available only at the National Archives in Washington, DC. To use these records you must know the number of the congressional district for the county in which a man lived. This can be determined by using Congressional Directory for the Second Session of the 38th Congress of the United States (Washington DC: For the Joint Houses of Congress, 1865) available in many large genealogical libraries, in many local libraries and most college libraries and from the Government Printing Office. Once the Congressional district has been determined a request for a search can be sent to the National Archives. (3) Case Files on Drafted Aliens. These files concern only aliens who were drafted and released between 1861-64. These files may include name, district from which drafted, country of citizenship, age, length of time in the US and a physical description. The records are in alphabetical order by surname in record group 59 available only at the National Archives. (5)

Union Army (for non regular army men) records contain enlistment papers, muster rolls, prisoner-of-war papers, death reports and others. The records are indexed by state and by military units for those units organized within a specific state. You must know the state in which a solider served or the unit with which he served to obtain his service record. Enlistment papers often contained a description of the soldier and the place where he enlisted. Typically, a soldier enlisted near his home.

 If you cannot find your ancestor's military information and you know he was eligible (or the right age) for military duty in the Civil War remember, many men were rejected from Civil War service because of illness or injury. Medical records of drafted and rejected men are at the National Archives, Record Group #110. They are arranged by Congressional District as of 1863. Data may include residence, occupation, age, place of birth, physical characteristics or reasons for rejection.

 

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