Thursday, May 13, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: #19 NARA Military Resources

Week 19 of Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy brings us to NARA Military records.  The instructions are as follows:
"Examine the “Genealogy and Military Records” page on the National Archives page. (Non-U.S. folks: examine the military records information from your country’s national archives.) Click the links and read everything you can. If you’ve ordered a military file before, read this page again and refresh you memory so you can help others. Authors of genealogy blogs can write about records they’ve received, comment on the National Archives page, or ask questions of their readers via their blog."
I have had great success with ordering military records from the National Archives.  I have four ancestors who served in the Civil War and I have been able to obtain their military records and/or pension files by completing the appropriate form and submitting to the NARA in Washington, D.C.  If I recall, the documents were received within the stated amount of time and I had no problems.  They are fascinating accounts of their service records and their struggles with the Federal Government to obtain their pensions.  The red tape existed back then, too!

On the other hand, I have had one less-than-positive experience concerning my grandpa Lee's military records that I wrote about here.  I still don't know what to do about this.  I had some email communication with the personnel in St. Louis but it was to no avail.  If I want to pursue this again, I have to submit a new request.  I wonder if they have the capability of searching their database for just a date of birth and first name.  I can't imagine that many men named Lee having his birthdate served in the Navy in the 1930s....I mean what are the odds of that?  If that was possible, I bet he could be found.

My most recent encounter with military records happened today as I completed the Standard Form 180 to request my grandpa Fred's WWII records and my great-grandfather, Helmer Hiby's WWI-era records.  They were both in the Army so I sent the forms to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (the same people who can't find Lee).  I hope to write again soon about the discoveries I made about their military careers.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to read the instructions carefully on the necessary forms.  If you do your part correctly, your success will be much greater!


  1. Excellent post! I think I am inspired to send off for more of these records. I have had great results in the past, so what am I waiting for?

  2. Yes, Lisa, you just never know what you may discover. Two of my ancestors fought somewhat unsuccessfully for their pensions which resulted in files that were over 100 pages each. The one in particular was a goldmine of information and finally helped prove his two wives. Thanks for stopping by.