With the National Veterans Day celebrations annually on November 11th, it is time to may sure that you have identified any military veterans on your family tree. First, become knowledgeable of when the United States was engaged in any war. There is a good timeline and explanation of military operations online with wikipedia. This includes the years of Indian wars fought across America.
Once you have a time frame for certain events, you are better ability to estimate when an ancestor might have served in a military conflict. For example, the Second Seminole War in Florida which began in 1835 and went to 1842. There were more than 40,000 regular U.S. military, militiamen and volunteers who served in the war. Looking at an ancestor born between 1807 to 1813 they would have been of the right age to serve. They would have been too young for the War of 1812, but might have served in the Mexican-American War of 1846 or the Utah War of 1857 with the Mormons of Utah.
With a few possibilities you would check the National Archives on their Genealogy Research site. It offers full details on how to obtain military service records and / or pension records. Of course their largest listing of records cover the War of 1812, the 1860s American Civil War, World War I from 1917-1919, World War II from 1941-1945, Korean War from 1950-1953, Vietnam War from 1960-70s, plus some of the other wars (American Revolution, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection and Boxer Rebellion).
The National Archives in Washington, D. C. holds the records for servicemen and women with all the military branches from the American Revolution of 1776 to just before World War I. Records covering from 1912 to present-day are at the National Military Personnel Records Center located in St. Louis, Missouri.
The type of documents held at the National Archives include listings of when a soldier was mustered in and out of service, their rank, basic personal information and the regiments they served with. In the pension records is where a greater wealth of information can be found. The applications that either the serviceman filled out, their widow or minor children had completed can contain marriage dates, birth dates, death certificates, entries from family Bibles, written events of actual service and many other items to support that person’s service to qualify for a government pension.
There are also Bounty Land records for those individuals who served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, early Indian Wars or the Mexican-American War; those serving between 1775 to 1855. Applications are included even for those who were declined the bounty land.
Most of the records can be ordered for a fee and those photocopies can be mailed to you. The Archive also has a good selection of online documents from various military conflicts on their site. This is a good place to start searching for an ancestor’s military records and remembering their service on this Veteran‘s Day.
The above image is of the First Kentucky Volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War of the 1890s (source – Library of Congress).