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Military Records

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

The most important repository for United States military records is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Many older military records for wars prior to World War I have been microfilmed, and can be accessed by visiting NARA’s website. From the website, you can also order copies of military records for a specific person, as long as you can provide information, such as the person’s name, birth date, service dates, and residence.

Types of Military Records

Military Service Records: Service records were created at the time a soldier was enlisted an discharged from the military. Other service records may include muster rolls, rank rolls, hospital records, prison records, and payrolls.

Pension Records: Pension records contain payment information about servicemen and their heirs (widows, children, parents, etc.). Supporting documents that may accompany a pension record includes service discharge papers, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, and more. These records are typically the most useful for genealogists.

Draft Registration Records: Draft registration records were created during World War I and World War II. These records can be of great genealogical importance as they may contain information, such as the serviceman’s name, birth date and place, occupation, dependents, and closest relative. While World War I draft registration records are available for public access, many World War II records are not yet available.

Bounty Land Records: Bounty land records were created for servicemen who fought during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, early Indian Wars, or the Mexican War. Bounty land is land that was given to military men as payment for serving in a war.

Fire

A July 12, 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri claimed most Army records from between November 1912 and January 1960, and Air Force records from between September 1947 and January 1964. These records were not copied or microfilmed.

Military Tombstones

Most tombstones for veterans who fought during a war will indicate their military involvement. Information may include the unit in which the veteran served, other involvement in military organizations, or a picture symbol. Military tombstones may or may not be located in a military cemetery.

Military Cemeteries

Military cemeteries, also called national cemeteries, are typically owned and maintained by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of the Army, or National Park Service. Only veterans, their spouses, and other military personnel are buried in military cemeteries. Burial locations can be searched for on the US Department of Veteran Affairs’ website.