Miscellaneous Military Records
| Researching Military Records
This article is part of a series.
|Overview of Military Records|
|Records of Veterans' Benefits|
|Miscellaneous Military Records|
|List of Useful Military Resources|
The National Archives does not have a record of every soldier who died in service or as a veteran. It does have registers and lists of burials at national cemeteries and post cemeteries of military installations in the United States, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and China. In most cases, if a soldier was buried in a private cemetery, no record of the burial will be kept by the Federal Government. For searching non-federal burials, see chapter 13, “Vital Records.”
The early burial registers primarily record burials of active-duty soldiers except in the case of frontier army posts, where family members and civilian dependents were also buried in the post cemeteries. Learning where a soldier or veteran is buried is the first step to finding a record of the burial. There are two major indexes to assist in the search. The first is a master index to the burial locations of veterans and their dependents who have been buried in the cemeteries under federal jurisdiction. This index is available at the website of the National Cemetery Administration, and is found at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov. It includes entries for burial locations of veterans and their dependents in national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, and various other Department of the Interior and military cemeteries. The second index is at the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). This site offers searches of names of those killed or missing in action. For World War II, the site notes, “We only have the records of those casualties that are buried in our cemeteries or are placed on the Walls of the Missing—a total of 176,399 records. There were 405,399 American casualties in World War II.” The ABMC index includes air force casualties.
One associated collection of burial records that is not part of the two indexes is the group of applications for headstones to be placed at the graves of soldiers and veterans. These range in date from 1879 to 1924. The information in the applications includes the name and address of the headstone applicant, name of the veteran, rank, years of service, place and date of burial, and sometimes the date and cause of death. Most of these applications are filed by state, then by county, then by cemetery. Applications for headstones for soldiers, sailors, and marines buried outside the United States between 1911 and 1924 are arranged by country of burial. Soldiers buried in the cemeteries of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for whom headstone applications were made are arranged by the name of the home.
A card file indexing applications for headstones for 1870 to 1903 has been compiled and includes the serviceman’s name, military organization, date and place of death, name and location of the cemetery, and date of the application. These cards are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the soldier and include Confederate and post–Civil War veterans’ applications. This card file index is available as Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879–ca. 1903.34
The names of 228,639 Union soldiers who were buried in more than 300 national cemeteries during the Civil War are published in Roll of Honor: Names of Soldiers Who Died in Defense of the American Union, Interred in the National Cemeteries, Numbers I–XIX.35 Originally published by the Quartermaster General’s Office in 1868, the entries are arranged by name of cemetery and thereunder alphabetically by name of soldier. The date of death is shown. An alphabetical list of soldiers and a comprehensive, state-by-state index to burial sites is Martha and William Remy’s Index to the Roll of Honor.36 Lists from the national Roll of Honor often appear on state agency or county organization websites. The archives or historical libraries of many states have published their own roll of honor for the Civil War and other conflicts or significant battles fought within the borders of the state. These regional rolls of honor record service personnel whose burial was within state lines, regardless of where the enlistment occurred.
Do not overlook the online and published records maintained by lineage societies and service organizations. Notable are the Sons of the American Revolution Patriot Index CD, Edition III which includes tombstone photographs for over 800 people and 732,000 records; and the “Necrology of the Grand Army of the Republic” index at the Kansas State Historical Society website http://www.kshs.org/genealogists/military/gar/garnecrologies.37 The latter identifies more than 13,000 individuals for whom a notice of death was published in the encampment proceedings of the GAR, Department of Kansas. For more information about the resources of military-related organizations, see [Hereditary and Lineage Organizations], and [Family Associations].
There are card file records of World War I–era soldiers who died overseas between 1917 and 1922. These files consist mainly of grave registrations, records of American names in European chapels, and records of American soldiers who were buried in Russia. They are arranged alphabetically by surname of the soldier or name of the cemetery. The collection of grave registrations includes the name of the soldier, military organization, date of death, a statement that he was killed in action, name and address of the nearest relative or guardian, and name of the chapel. The record of American names in European chapels includes the name of the soldier, military organization, date of death, statement that the soldier was killed in action, name and address of the nearest relative or guardian, and name of the chapel. These records are all on file in Record Group 92, Records of the Quartermaster General, in the National Archives.
The National Archives website provides two databases: “U.S. Military Personnel Who Died from Hostile Action (Including Missing and Captured) in the Korean War 1950–1957” and “U.S. Military Personnel Who Died (Including Missing and Captured or Declared Dead) as a result of the Vietnam Conflict, 1957–1997.” Names in both databases are alphabetically listed and information includes military rank or grade, branch of service, home of record, date and category of casualty. The Vietnam index adds place of death and date of birth.
Names of U.S. and Coalition Casualties during the War in Iraq are posted regularly, with photographs when available, at a War in Iraq section of CNN online. The site may be searched by name at http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties.
Censuses and Listings (Federal)
For a discussion of censuses, see Overview of the Census. Federal census information involving military service was taken in 1840, 1890, 1910, and 1930. At the time of the 1840 federal population census, enumerators were asked to list all living pensioners of the Revolutionary War or other military service. These names and the accompanying information have been published in A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services; with Their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, as Returned by the Marshals of the Several Judicial Districts Under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census.38 This census may be searched online at major indexing and databases sites. The 1840 census provides the veteran’s name, age, and residence.
The schedules for the 1890 census of pensioners for the states of (in alphabetical order) Alabama through Kansas and approximately half of those for Kentucky are missing. The remaining schedules for the latter half of Kentucky through Wyoming (including Washington, D.C.) have been microfilmed as Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War and are available for online searching at major indexing and databases sites.39 This special 1890 census provides the veteran’s name; rank; company, regiment, or vessel; dates of enlistment and discharge; length of service in years, months, and days; aliases; post office address of the institution in which living at the time of the enumeration; and disabilities incurred in service.
Enumerators were instructed to include information on those who had served in the army, navy, or Marine Corps of the United States in the war of the rebellion, and who were survivors at the time of the 1890 census, or the widows of soldiers, sailors, or marines. Contrary to these instructions, many census takers added entries for veterans who served in the Confederacy forces, or the widows of Confederate veterans.
The 1910 and 1930 federal population censuses have a category devoted to military personnel. The 1910 census indicates whether an individual was a “survivor” of the Union Army, Union Navy, Confederate Army, or Confederate Navy. The question was to be asked of all males over the age of 50 who were born in the United States or all foreign born males who immigrated to this country before 1865. The 1930 census also listed veterans. Enumerators were directed to exclude persons who served only during peacetime. The war or expedition was to be entered by an abbreviation: World War, “WW”; Spanish-American War, “Sp”; Civil War, “Civ”; Philippine Insurrection, “Phil”; Boxer rebellion, “Box”; or Mexican Expedition, “Mex.”40 These more recent censuses are less likely to be in print but online searches and microfilm are available.
The U. S. Pension Office was directed by Congress to prepare a list of Pensioners on the Roll as of January 1, 1883. The pensioners were primarily Union veterans from the Civil War and survivors of the War of 1812 but also included veterans of other service. If a family member was receiving pension a based on a deceased veteran’s service, their name was shown. The information recorded included the pension certificate file number, the name and location of the recipient, the monthly amount received, the effective date of the pension and reason for the benefit. The listings of several states are online at http://www.arealdomain.com/pensioners1883.html.
Special state censuses of pensioners were taken in Alabama in 1907 and in Arkansas in 1911. In addition, some general state censuses taken between 1865 and 1905 included questions about military service. Some of these general censuses indicate only if a person had served in the military. Others, such as Wisconsin’s 1885, 1895, and 1905, lists “Soldiers and Sailors of the Late War” giving name, rank, company, regiment, state from which served, and post office address. A listing by state of schedules which included military service queries is in Ann Lainhart’s State Census Records.
Each county in the United States was required to record the honorable discharge of soldiers and sailors who served in World War I and World War II. Some discharges for the Civil War and Philippine Insurrection are also on record, as well as some dishonorable and medical discharges.
The records are kept in local courthouses and usually consist of typed or handwritten transcripts of the original documents given to the soldier. Some of these discharge records from county collections have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, but most have not.
The records may contain the individual’s name, race, rank, serial number, reason for discharge, birthplace, age at time of enlistment, occupation, and a personal description. His or her service record, sometimes included with the discharge record, gives the length of service, prior service, marital status, arms and horsemanship qualifications, advancement, battles, decorations, honors, leaves of absence, physical condition, and character evaluation.
Prisoner of War Records
The National Archives has records relating to British and American prisoners of war for 1812 to 1815, including miscellaneous correspondence and lists of prisoners sent from the Treasury Department to the Adjutant General’s Office and from the Navy Department to the Adjutant General’s Office. Some of these records have been microfilmed by the National Archives as Records Relating to War of 1812 Prisoners of War42. These are indexed in Index to War of 1812 Prisoners of War. The National Archives website offers searches of lists of prisoners for three eras: World War II (service personnel held in Japanese internment camps), the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A database titled “Andersonville Prisoners of War” at Ancestry.com indexes a collection of records compiled by the National Park Service of inmates between 1863 and 1865. For additional information of Confederate prisoners during the Civil War, see “Confederate Deaths as Prisoners of War” following the “Civil War Service Records—Confederates” section in this chapter.
An index to biographies of Civil War veterans who were living in Tennessee in 1922 is at the Tennessee State Library and Archives website http://www.state.tn.us/tsla/history/military/civilwar.htm. These records are filled with valuable information, including the veteran’s name, residence, age, place of birth, occupation, the unit he served in during the war, his parents’ names and birthplaces, the names of his paternal grandparents, and their residence. The residence of the veteran’s father and all facts known about parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents (including when the family came to America, property owned by the veteran and his parents, education, and the general quality of the veteran’s life) are included in these sketches.
The “World War I History Commission Questionnaires” is a fully-searchable database to information on over 14,900 Virginia veterans who responded to a 1928 survey by the Virginia War History Commission. Each record is linked to digitized images of each page of the questionnaire, as well as any accompanying material such as photographs. Detailed information about personal background, including names of parents and their places of birth, names of the veteran’s wife and children, the veteran’s war record, and often one or two photographs are in the files. Separate two-page questionnaires prepared for nurses are in the databases. The database is at the Library of Virginia, http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/mil.
State Militia Records and Private Collections
Military records, which may be referred to as militia records, were also created and preserved by state and local jurisdictions. Their contents are much like those described earlier. These militia records, however, are often the first to be disposed of because local militias no longer exist. They will be found scattered through state archives, historical societies and museums, military forts (both those still active and museums for those discontinued), and among the papers in the county clerk’s office. These records may sometimes be located using state and local record inventories.
Private collections of military records also exist, often housed in a records repository some distance from the location where they were created or refer to. Check the National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections of the Library of Congress (NUCMC).
Records pertaining to the national (federal) veterans homes are dated 1866–1938 and are part of Records of the Veterans Administration (Record Group 15) and Records of the U.S. Soldiers’ Home (Record Group 231). Honorably discharged officers, sailors, soldiers, or marines who served in regular, volunteer, or other forces of the United States (or in the organized militia or in the National Guard called into federal service) were eligible if they were disabled by disease or wounds, without adequate means of support, and incapable of earning a living. These records are available on microfilm as Historical Registers of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866–1938. All or part of the microfilm collection is at the National Archives regional facilities and the Family History Library. Below is a list of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now known as Veterans Administration Centers) and the dates of their creation:
- Eastern Branch, Togus, Maine: 1866
- Central Branch, Dayton, Ohio: 1867
- Northwestern Branch, Wood, Wisconsin: 1867
- Southern Branch, Kecoughtan, Virginia: 1870
- Western Branch, Leavenworth, Kansas: 1885
- Pacific Branch, Sawtelle, California: 1888
- Marion Branch, Marion, Indiana: 1888
- Roseburg Branch, Roseburg, Oregon: 1894
- Danville Branch, Danville, Illinois: 1898
- Mountain Branch, Johnson City, Tennessee: 1903
- Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Hot Springs, South Dakota: 1907
- Bath Branch, Bath, New York: 1894
- Saint Petersburg Home, Saint Petersburg, Florida: 1930
- Biloxi Home, Biloxi, Mississippi: 1930
- Tuskegee Home, Tuskegee, Alabama: 1933
The case files for the veterans who resided in some of these homes have been indexed at the NARA website. Databases include “Sawtelle Disabled Veteran’s Home, Los Angeles Case Files, 1880–1933” and “Records of the Veterans Administration in the National Archives, Kansas City, Mo—Leavenworth Soldiers Home, Leavenworth, Kansas, Sample Case Files of Veterans” (Record Group 15).
A far greater number of veterans homes are managed by state or county governments. These homes are administrated by a state agency that is often part of a larger veterans benefits and care program. The state government website should have contact information under the subject “veterans.” Many of these homes are members of the National Association of State Veterans Homes. The NASVH maintains a website, <www.nasvh.com>, which lists state veterans homes, their date of establishment, a photograph, contact information, and a link to their website. Rosters or admittance records of state homes may be associated with applications for state pensions, as is “Missouri Confederate Pensions and Home Applications,” a microfilm of records from the veterans home at Higginsville. The originals are held by the Missouri State Archives; the microfilm is at the St. Louis County (Missouri) Library. An index to 485 veterans who resided at the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers Home located east of Nashville, and photographs of their tombstones, is online at http://www.tennessee-scv.org, the website of the Col. Randal W. McGavock, Camp #1713 of the Tennessee Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Women in the Military
Women have participated in or been associated with military service throughout the history of this country. They have served the Armed Forces as cooks, hospital matrons, laundresses, seamstresses, and nurses. In smaller numbers, they have been spies, endured combat, military prisons and hospitals, and have been battlefield casualties. One of several titles that documents the combat role of women is De Anne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook’s They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War.
Among the records about women and the military are applications for War Department appointments or employment. These are filed in the Records of the Office of the Secretary of War (Record Group 107). Entries found in Registers and Lists of Appointments and Employees, 1863–1913 may show the employee’s name, state from which appointed, date of appointment, position and office, and remarks about salary, promotions, discharges, or death. Another series of records is in the Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Record Group 112). This holds service information about hospital attendants, matrons, and nurses. These and other series are meticulously described in Charlotte Palmer Seeley’s American Women and the U.S. Armed Forces: A Guide to the Records of Military Agencies in the National Archives Relating to American Women.
World War I Gold Star Mothers
Between 1930 and 1933, trips to Europe for eligible mothers and widows of U.S. soldiers who had died overseas during World War I were paid for by the United States government. The trips were provided so that these women, Gold Star Pilgrims, could see the graves of their sons and husbands. The records that describe the trips and the death and internment of the soldiers are among the Burial Files and Grave Registration records in the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). The files can include letters of application by the women and related correspondence and details of the trip. A database indexed by name of woman is at Ancestry.com titled, “U.S. World War I Mother’s Pilgrimage, 1930.” Each record gives the name of the widow or mother, city and state of residence, and relationship to the deceased. The decedent’s name, rank, unit, and cemetery is also provided. Nearly eleven thousand mothers and widows, including approximately six thousand women who made the trip, are listed.
- Ann Lainhart, State Census Records (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992; reprint, 2004).
- Index to War of 1812 Prisoners of War, NARA microfilm M1747.
- Historical Registers of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938, NARA microfilm M1749.
- De Anne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 2002).
- Charlotte Palmer Seeley, American Women and the U.S. Armed Forces: A Guide to the Records of Military Agencies in the National Archives Relating to American Women, rev. Virginia C. Purdy and Robert Gruber (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).
- Constance Potter, "World War I Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages," Prologue Part I, 31 (Spring 1999); Part II 31 (Summer 1999). Reprinted at www.archvies.gov/publications/prologue