2013 – Military Records: From Cradle to Grave

Coordinator: Craig. R. Scott, CG, MA
Instructors: Richard “Rick” G. Sayre, CG, CGL; Debra Mieszala, CG

2013 July 25 - Military course - Sandy Rumble 2013 July 25 - path to library 2013 July 25 - Military course - Amy Arner 2013 July 25 - Military course - Madelynn NixDescription: Most military courses look at a war and the records that were created by it. This course is different. This course looks at the history of a type of record and walks it through its life cycle. Most researchers are content to rely on compiled military service records and pension application files alone in their look at the military service of their ancestors. This course takes the researcher into the records that would allow them to compile their own military service records. It takes the pension process and follows it from application through last or final payment.

REQUIREMENTS: While not required, it is suggested that you bring along a netbook, laptop, or iPad for taking notes and for the week’s projects. Make sure you bring along some of your own family research (either as a database or in paper form). A copy of the Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Preliminary Inventory 17 would be useful to your understanding of the records.


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Research Strategies (Scott)
There are sources, there is evidence, and there is fact. Without a thoughtful research strategy in place before arriving at a repository, conducting research can be very inefficient. Defining the relationship between the individual of interest and the records is key to a good research plan. Understanding record groups and finding aids and how to locate them and use them to your advantage helps maximize your research time in the records.

10:15–11:30 a.m. The Wars (Scott)
Knowing the war you are working with is key to understanding the records. Sometimes there is confusion about what kinds of records are available and where they are located. In this session we will look at conflict from colonial times through the present.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  The Organizations: Records of Units (Scott)
Understanding the character of the service of the individual is important to your research. Knowing the different kinds of military organizations that participate in each conflict will efficiently lead you to information about the soldier, sailor or marine.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Insignia and Ephemera (Scott)
Knowing how to evaluate photographs and uniforms is an important part of understanding the service of the individual. Clues found in these items can lead to other information about the  person.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Class Roundtable Discussion; Q&A


8:30–9:45 a.m.  The Facilities: Records of Forts (Sayre)
Facilities create their own records. So in addition to unit records there are records about places where units are stationed.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  The Compiled Military Service Records (Sayre)
The place to start researching a volunteer officer or enlisted soldier’s service is the compiled military service record.

1:00–2:15 p.m. Enlistment Papers (Scott)
Enlistment papers are the contract between the government and the individual which provides information about the type and duration of the enlistment. They also provide information about the individual prior to enlistment. They are not always found in compiled military service records but should be located.

2:45–4:00 p.m. The Muster and Payrolls (Scott)
The muster and payrolls are the basic documents that prove military service. They are a basis for a majority of the contents of a compiled military service record.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Small Group Discussion (Scott)


8:30–9:45 a.m.  The Courts-Martial Records (Scott)
Understanding military justice is an important step in research. Many times there is no indication that there has been a court-martial in the complied military service record. Courts-martial transcripts can provide interesting insight into our ancestors and their behaviors.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Medical Certificates and Records (Scott)
Disability is unfortunately sometimes a part of a soldier’s life in the service and long after his service. These records provide insight into the medical experiences of our ancestors whether they are found in medical logs, carded medical records, medical certificate or certificates of disability.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Discharge Certificate (Scott)
Discharge certificates are the documents that end military service contracts. A person can have more than one and come in various flavors based on the quality of service. They are also used to document service in order to obtain additional benefits after service is completed.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Prisoner of War Records (Scott)
Being captured by the enemy is not a pleasant experience. Sometimes confinement can be avoided through parole and exchange or sometimes an oath of allegiance can terminate confinement. Records are created either way, confinement or not.


8:30–9:45 a.m.  The Pension Application File (Mieszala)
Pension application files are by far the richest source of genealogical information among military records. But many researchers fail to use them fully. They are full of information about the family from people who knew the pensioner.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Bounty Land (Sayre)
Bounty land is an incentive for military service whether it is used as an inducement to enlist or as compensation for service.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Fraternal Organizations (Mieszala)
Post war involvement in fraternal organizations provide insight into the post-service lives of servicemen.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Accounting Records (Scott)
The government maintains an additional set of records outside of the military departments. Sometimes these records are the only proof of military service.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Problem Solving Discussion


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Pension Ledgers, Vouchers and Payments (Scott)
These records tell us about the pensioner during the remaining years of their life. They provide the opportunity to track their movements and possibly identify their other family members and unmentioned military service.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Final Recon (Scott)
Time to make sure that all questions remaining have been answered.

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Course certificates and Institute Wrap-Up followed by Luncheon