History of and How to Use Them


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

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Now I Know About Military Records What Do I Do?

If you have managed to read this far you should have an excellent idea of what to do to find your ancestor in the existing Military Records. But a few tips may help.

  1. Never assume an ancestor DIDN'T serve in a war. Many young men lied about their age to get into the service.
  2. Never overlook a non-direct ancestor if your direct ancestor's age or health shows he couldn't have served.
  3. Keep on the look-out for mention of military service in local court records, land records, tax lists, etc. Check all State Militia lists.
  4. Always check unit rosters even if you believe you ancestor never served in the military, watch for names of neighbors and misspellings of family names.
  5. Once an ancestor is found in a military unit, find all information available about the unit. Use this information to "flesh out" your family history. Check printed sources for information about your ancestor. Remember that if you ancestor disappeared right after a war he may well have moved to a location where he was stationed during the war which appealed to him. He might have taken his Military Bounty Land Warrant and moved. He may have married while in the war and moved to the area where his wife had family.
  6. Check for Pension or Military Bounty Land files. Check NARA indexes for both.
  7. If an entry is found in the Index - order the pension file (remember the 10 page rule)
  8. If your ancestor lived in the South, check local court records for confiscated land and slaves. Don't overlook the records for the "Freedman Bureau".

There are many War Sites on the Internet, especially for the Civil War. Many have searchable records on-line, information submitted by people who have already found their serviceman and these sites continue to add information daily. Be sure to visit all of the sites you can find for the War you are interested in.

The Source ed. Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny has a wonderful chapter on Military Records with examples of Compiled Service Records, Pension Files and Bounty Land files. This book is available at most Genealogical Libraries or can be ordered from Ancestry

I wish you the best of luck in uncovering your ancestor!! If anyone has additional information, corrections, site addresses, etc., please notify me.




The Source ed. Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny; (Ancestry Publishing Company, Salt Lake City, UT 1984) pgs 255-298

(1) ____ pg 255

(2) ____ pg 272

(4) ____pg 257

(5) ____ pg 261

(7) ____ pg 265

(3) "Mothers of Invention; Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War" by Drew Gilpin Faust; published by The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill & London; 1996

(4) Wallace Brown, The Good Americans: The Loyalists in the American Revolution. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1969

(6) National Archives web site ( May 1998

My own personal copies of many articles, notes, etc. that I have accumulated over time.



Great Article on a successful search of the Pension Files. Cindi Howell has a wonderful article that details, step by step, her successful search in the Pension files. A lot of detailed information on what I covered in general.

The US Congressional Documents 1774-1873. Search these records for your ancestor's name.

A Site that lists addresses and Form Numbers to request Service Records:

Scanned Examples of Service Records, etc.

My List of Military Links




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