Mayflower Plymouth Village North Bridge at Concord

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Village

North Bridge at Concord

Military Records for Family History Research

Military Records, Veterans' Pensions, and Bounty Land Grants

Searching for and finding an ancestor's military record will add to your family history in two ways. Sometimes it is a good way to locate a male ancestor if you can't find another record for him. If they were of military age during a conflict or major war, there is a good chance they served in the military. If your ancestor served in the military, obtaining a copy of his records will tell you which branch he served in, the units he was with as well as his rank at discharge. If he received a pension then this will create a host of records to support the pension. The records can and probably do include letters of deposition from those he served with. If his widow received pension benefits after his passing, she would have to prove that they were married, so a copy of the marriage record will be in the pension records. The records I have seen will have a listing of the children if they were minors and still in the house.

Revolutionary War

Rev War pay
The Revolutionary War was the first war that the United States Government acquired, kept and archived records for. For the most part the records are stored at the National Archives in D. C. Some records, like the pay roll, above are in private hands. The above pay roll is from a Rhode Island Unit based at Tiverton, right around the time of the Battle of Newport. The lieutenant listed is my fourth great grandfather. He died in 1802 long before most men filed for a pension from Rev War service. My fourth great never drew a pension, but that doesn't mean he is not mentioned in pension records. Two thirds of the men that served under him did apply for a pension from their Rev War service. All of them mention Captain Cory in the letters of deposition given to prove their War service. One man, Gabriel Hicks, mentions Philip Cory as being his father-in-law, so this is a first hand witness account of a marriage to a daughter of Philip. This example shows us that we want to know who our ancestors served with to help complete the picture of an ancestor. Fortunately for us the Rev War pension records are scanned and online at Fold 3. This is a paid for web site and if you have the full Ancestry package, it is included with it.

Guide for Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Records

  1. Fold 3
    All of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 records are scanned, indexed and online at Fold 3. The records can and do contain information about the person that served as well as who they were married to. They may contain information about parents, and children, but likely do not. If they received a pension, the record will show how much they received and the location they received their pension at. The record will also show if they received Bounty Land.
  2. If you have a military veteran ancestor that filed for a pension or land grant this could lead to a wealth of information. The record packets could contain affidavits from relatives and those they served with. Pages torn from Bibles, anything to validate the pensioners claim.
The claims for Bounty Land were based on military service between the years 1776 and 1855. These land grants were made by land rich but money poor state governments as a way to pay off militia after the Revolutionary War. Colonels could receive as much as 500 acres where a private could claim 100 acres of western wilderness land. This method of payment quickly filled the back countries of Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York.

A list of Military Records at the National Archives

  • Regular Army Service Records, 1800~1912
  • Commissioned Army officer records, 1805~1917
  • Commissioned Navy officer records, 1794~1930
  • Marine officer records, 1798~1941
  • Army officer correspondence to the Adjutant General's office, 1805~1917
  • Army muster rolls, 1784~1912
  • Register of Army commissions, 1792~1899
  • Civil War staff officers
  • Military histories of officers, 1789~1903
  • United States Military Academy records, 1805~1917
  • Records of Annapolis appointees, 1862~1922
  • Army enlistment papers for enlisted men, 1800~1922
  • Marine enlisted service records, 1798~1895
  • Navy service record for enlisted men, 1798~1919
  • Books, manuscripts, and photostats relating to soldiers, wagon masters, and others, 1775~1798
  • Pay Records
  • Payrolls of vessels, 1798~1844
  • Military service records of volunteers
  • Records of the War of 1812
  • Records of the Indian Wars, 1817~1858
  • Records of the Mexican Wars, 1846~1848
  • Records of Naval apprentices, boys aged thirteen to eighteen, 1837~1889
  • Records of the Civil War, 1861~1865
  • Records of the Spanish American War, 1899~1901
  • Records of the Philippine Insurrection, 1899~1903
  • Prisoner of War records
  • Civil War draft records
  • Burial records of soldiers, 1862~1939
  • Service files for Revenue Cutter and Life Savings Services and to the Bureau of Lighthouses (which became the Coast Guard in 1915), 1791~1929

National Archives All of these records plus much more can be obtained by filling out the online forms at there web site. A word of caution on World War I and II records as well as Korea records were lost in a fire at St. Louis in 1973. For records from 1917 to date you will have to either be the veteran or a next of kin and be able to prove relationship.