Saturday, January 21

Some Military Family History Resources That You May Not Know About



1st LT Tom Holland, Vietnam


The US Military has some huge databases online. 


A few of them contain extensive historical records of military actions, and reports by, or about, individual soldiers, platoons, units, companies and every other category used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines (and the Reserves, Coast Guard, etc). These are available to the public, and they're free.

Perhaps it's no surprise that these datasets are also rather bureaucratic and not the most user-friendly. Maybe that's why they're not often used by genealogists or those casually searching for family history records. But still...they contain so much information that they are definitely worth a look. So, without further ado...

The Army Heritage Collection Online is a military history website that is both a pointer system to offline records, as well as a large library of digitized information that is fully searchable. There's an incredible assortment here: oral histories, field reports, letters and diaries, memoirs, along with a large body of photos and artifacts. Poke around this site, as there are other resources here as well.

The Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) is another useful resource that includes many soldiers by name, such as the collection of yearbooks from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Click on the Digital Library tab to restrict your search to online content.

I've covered a number of other terrific sources of military information in earlier posts. Have a look at:


Good luck, everybody.


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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.


Some Civil War Genealogy Resources You May Not Know About



Civil War soldiers of the Sixth Maine Infantry


The Civil War. War Between the States. War of Northern Agression. The Southern Rebellion. War for Southern Independence.


Whatever you call it, this was one of the great conflicts in history. It was also the beginning of modern military record-keeping, so that there are deep family history resources available from this era, regardless of whether your ancestors wore Blue or Gray. Some mid-19th century resources that you should be aware of include:

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS), which I wrote up in an earlier blog post.


The Making of America collection (a joint project of Cornell University, and the University of Michigan) has a number of important collections from the Civil War era that are useful for family history. The War of the Rebellion reports are comprehensive records of the Union and Confederate actions, including prisoners, correspondence, field actions, etc. Note than many first names tend to be abbreviated (eg Danl for Daniel). Civil War Naval Records also are a deep resource.

Cornell also houses an important Anti-Slavery collection. The materials here can be especially useful in researching African-American family history.

You can view, or download, the official List of pensioners on the roll January 1, 1883: giving the names of each pensioner, the cause for which pensioned, the post-office address, the rate of pension per month, and the date of original allowance (whew!). These records can be easily searched for your family names; just use the "Search in this book" feature on the left hand side of the page when you visit the above link. This is only one of several volumes; see the "Other editions" links at Google Books for additional volumes in this series.

Also from Google Books, here's a listing of fully-searchable Directories from the Civil War era. Think of them as phone books for the days before the phone was invented! There are directories here for Boston, Rochester, Hartford, Madison, Doniphan County (Kansas), and many other places. There's even a directory of clergymen.

And take a look at the Special Collections page of Free Newspaper Archives, where you'll find several online newspaper archives focused on the Civil War from both a North and South perspective.

Happy exploring.


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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

Revolutionary Genealogy Research



Molly Pitcher, famous Revolutionary War gal


The Daughters of the American Revolution -- the venerable D.A.R -- has one of the most comprehensive and well-respected collections of genealogical resources in the United States.  


Just about all of it is hard-copy or microfilm, meaning you'll have to visit the main DAR library in Washington, DC to take full advantage of their resources.

However...there are two free, online resources from the DAR that you should definitely take a look at.

The first is the DAR Online Library Catalog.   A search here on an exact name or surname will quickly show any library holdings that are by, or about, the name in question.  If you're familiar with my Bourne Test, I turned up 50 Bourne's in the catalog.

Just as easy to search, but a seemingly much larger dataset, is that of the GRC -- the Genealogical Records Committee of the DAR.  There are more than 35 million names recorded here, including 785 Bourne's in New York, alone (and thousands in the US, though the search results max out at 1,000).

From what I can tell, other libraries (such as FamilySearch.org) have copies of the GRC records, but do not have the full index that is available at the DAR GRC lookup page.

The DAR library also has special collections devoted to African-American, Native American, and Jewish family history resources.  Might be worth a visit, if your heritage lies along those lines.

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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

National Gravesite Locator for Veterans




The US Department of Veterans Affairs has amassed an online database of the burial sites for more than five million veterans.


The Nationwide Gravesite Locator can help families, friends, and fellow veterans locate the cemeteries and plots for veterans from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and any other military service.

Records can be searched on last name (full name, or a 'begins with' search). You can search the US as a whole, or specific cemeteries.

Search results include name, rank, date of birth and death, war service, and burial location.

For overseas burials, use the databases maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which include foreign burial records for the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. 



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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

English Soldiers of the 14th and 15th Centuries






Sure, anyone can search back in time a hundred years or so. But how often do you get the chance to search family history dating to the 1300's?


A wonderful online genealogy resource, The Soldier in Later Medieval England, lets you do exactly that. The system, covering the years 1369-1453, currently has almost 250,000 records in three distinct databases: historic muster rolls, garrison database, and something known as the protection database. The whole thing is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK.

The records, from the UK National Archives, include military campaigns and duties like the King's Remembrancer Expedition to Brittany in 1375, or the Standing Force of the King's Bodyguard, in 1398. You remember those....right?


Searching here is easy, by first or last name, or with other parameters such as year, military rank, commanding officer, and so on. Just remember that things weren't spelled quite the same way back then as we might expect today, so be creative. Still, if your family has any roots in England, and perhaps a knight or two in the woodwork, this is a database to have fun with.

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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.