Category Archives: Military

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.

Locating Military Gravestones & Burials

Although Saturday, 11 November, is officially Veteran’s Day, America will celebrate the federal holiday on Saturday.

Veteran’s Day is a time to thank, honor and remember all men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces, both living and deceased.

Do you have ancestors or deceased family members who served in the military and wonder where they are buried?

Here are some free resources that might help you locate their gravesites:

American Battle Monuments Commission – Database of 200,000 Americans who died in World War I or World War II

Interment.net – Browse all U.S. national cemeteries

National Cemetery Administration Graveside Locator – Database of servicemen/women (and possibly their spouses) buried in a U.S. national cemetery

There are also several collections on FamilySearch. You will need a free account to access these records, if you don’t already have one:

Roll of Honor: Names of Soldiers Who Died in Defense of the American Nation – 27 digitized volumes that can be browsed (not indexed)

United States: Burial Registers for Military Posts, Camps and Stations, 1768-1921 – Most burials are between 1860-1890.

United States Records of Headstones of Deceased Union Veterans, 1879-1903 – Card collection of gravestone permits of Union soldiers. Description says that some War of 1812 veterans might also be included.

United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949 – 621,000 applications

Be sure to thank a veteran for his/her service this weekend!

Was Your Ancestor a Veteran? Local Newspapers Share Military News

This post is being shared with Elizabeth O’Neal’s November Genealogy Blog Party on Heart of the Family. Be sure to visit and check out the other military family history stories.

Veterans Day is just a few days away. Was a member of your family a 20th century veteran? If so, Chronicling America and subscription-access digitized newspaper websites might fill in details of his/her wartime activities.

People today think society has no privacy anymore. Well, in some ways, it was even worse during the early to mid-20th century. Everybody knew everyone’s business, whether you were visiting out of town, missed church on Sunday or were getting divorced. That’s because it was all reported in the local newspaper that the entire community read!

However, there are some definite positives to all those newsy events appearing in print. We are given a nice clear picture of what life was like for our families at a given point in time.

Reporting news about the “local boys” who went off to Europe to serve in the World Wars was just part of keeping the community informed. Those same tidbits of news might well include our own family members and the types of news articles varied tremendously.

First, it let everyone know who was next to be shipped out:


Part of a long list!

It also brought more distressing news from the war fronts:

Family visits were duly reported:

Everett Bell of Baltimore, Maryland made a trip all the way to the Ozarks to visit his sister while on leave from the U.S. Army.

Correspondence from servicemen was also shared in print:

Did Fred Woodruff survive the flu pandemic and World War I? Yes. After the war was over, he married and set up a medical practice in Denver, Colorado. He married twice and had at least four children. I wonder if his grandchildren ever heard the story of surviving the flu?

The flu was of military concern at back at home, too:

Private James M. Scott wrote his mother from France:

Private Scott survived the war, too, and might have been one of the longest surviving veterans of the Great War, as he died on 21 December 1991 at the age of 98 1/2 years old!

Oliver Planchon, evidently in Navy boot camp, unexpectedly met a neighbor:

Tom Caldwell enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was home on furlough after 18 months of service:

He was stationed on the USS Rhode Island:


Source: Wikipedia

Frank Conley was in Army boot camp at Camp Pike, Arkansas. His parents made a trip to St. Louis and, on the way back home to Monett, Missouri, stopped at Camp Pike to see him.

Camp Pike wasn’t exactly along the way home, but I am sure Mr. and Mrs. Conley were very happy to see Frank, even if for a short time:


Monett to St. Louis to Camp Pike (today Camp Robinson)
Source: Google Maps

Lastly, war cost a lot of money and efforts to raise funds to support the effort were also part of the daily news:

If you have never read vintage newspapers and think that your family won’t “make the news,” you are probably wrong, particularly if you are looking for military service information.

All of these articles came not just from a single issue of the Monett Times of Barry County, Missouri, the articles are all found on page 7 – a single page – of the 4 October 1918 issue.

World War II era papers did the same type of articles as everyone sought news of the local men and women serving and of how the war effort was progressing.

World War I papers are available on Chronicling America, but if you are interested in World War II, watch for free access days on the subscription websites if you don’t already have a membership with them.

There is lots to be learned about those who fought in the world wars and it was all reported in the local newspaper.