4 Resources to Find Military Records

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, so it’s an appropriate time to share several resources to help researchers find the military records pertaining to family members.

This post isn’t about sharing the usual subscription sites, it’s about sharing lesser used resources that can help tell the story of military service.

1. Newspaper Articles – Military information, particularly when “local boys” were serving, was a popular subject for numerous news articles. Of course, the further back in time, the less likely it is to find stories that named specific men. During the Revolutionary War, there weren’t that many newspapers and, for those that have survived, it is more likely that battles and military movements made the news.

However, in modern times, newspapers have published not only the “big” news, but often included stories about locals who were currently serving, particularly during World Wars I and II. I have a couple of articles about my mother, who served as a WAVE during World War II.

Of course, some of the news wasn’t good. When young people in service died, the article detailed the person, his/her career and surviving family members. These news items were a hybrid of military news and obituary.

Obituaries of veterans were published, too. The 20th century was the era in which most newspapers didn’t charge at all, or charged nominal amounts, to publish obituaries. Veterans were rightly proud of their service and their obituaries frequently made mention of rank, deployments and battles.

2. Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War both maintain Grand Army of the Republic databases on their websites.

3. Joe Beine maintains a number of excellent sites with genealogical resources. Visit Online Military Indexes and Records – U.S. to browse the links to wars in which the U.S. participated, from the American Revolution to the Vietnam War.

4. The last resource is the local County Courthouse and is one which I rarely see mentioned. Did you know that military veterans (Civil War through modern times) are able to have their discharge papers recorded in their local county courthouse? By filing their military discharge form (today the DD214), a permanent record is maintained for future proof of service for veterans’ benefits. Military discharge records are generally not public information, but “qualified applicants” may request copies and there are exceptions. For example, there is a Military Discharges Index 1864-1947 for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is free to access.

As we reflect and honor the memory of those who died in service, take some time to learn more about his/her service to the United States of America.

2 thoughts on “4 Resources to Find Military Records”

  1. TY for these great ideas…I know my Dad and uncle both registered their WWII DD214 documents with local courthouses, as did my aunt, who was a WWII WAC.

  2. Thank you, Linda. As usual, your posts give me food for thought and action. Very helpful stuff.

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