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Monday, June 1, 2009

What Military Records Can Tell You About Your Ancestry

Have a soldier in your family tree? Did you know that military records can provide you with a whole host of information about your ancestry? Whether it's draft registration cards, pensions, enlistments, or muster rolls, the vast number of military records out there provide a wealth of information on your ancestry to help populate your genealogy.

For example, don't know anything about your great-uncle. A well-placed search for WWI draft registration cards might reveal the next of kin, parents or a spouse, the occupation of your ancestor, where he worked, where he lived, birthplace and birthdate, and even a brief description of your ancestor. A complete search of Civil War military records unveils not only any military engagements of your ancestors, but a medical history, and if you are very lucky, perhaps a photograph of his military company. Especially valuable to genealogists are the pension records which include spouse's name (if any) and any minor children. In lieu of a spouse, a pension may also have gone to a parent.

It pays to explore the military heritage of your family history. Fantastic glimpses into the past offer the family genealogist an insider view to American and world history on a personal level ... and you never know what you will find. In my case, it turns out one of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812 and was a very vocal veteran advocate. My personal search uncovered a long forgotten speech of his that was published first in a newspaper and later in a book. It turns out that veterans affairs sadly haven't changed at all over the years. It also made me realize just how much of a debt we owe to our military families.

Over the course of this blog, I'll be exploring military records in depth. For now, this brief overview gives you an inkling of what's yet to come.

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