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Military Records 

Genealogical Tips

For those researching family histories, military service records are a tremendously valuable and reliable source. Military records document a person's military service as well as their life outside of the military. 

These records are varied and extensive. Muster rolls, discharge papers, pension files, and regimental histories, may include hints of the patterns of migration, births, marriages, deaths, divorces, and more. 

Brush up on your History

Determine the war in which your ancestor may have been involved and review general history of that war and specific battles. You need to know patterns of enlistment, types of military units and organizations, states that were involved, the time period and where your ancestor lived at that specific time. 

If your ancestor lived in Massachusetts in the 1770s, it is likely they participated in the Revolutionary War. If the person lived in California in the 1860s, they may or may not have been involved in the Civil War. 

You should not assume an ancestor was uninvolved because they lived far from a conflict location.



Colonial Wars 1607-1774
French & Indian War 1754-1763
Revolutionary and Frontier Wars 1775-1811
War of 1812 1812

(Wisconsin Involvement)

Winnebago War 1827
Sac and Fox War 1831
Black Hawk War 1832
Mexican-American War 1846-1848
Civil War 1861-1865
Spanish-American War 1898-1899 (1901)
Philippine Insurrection 1899-1902
WWI 1914-1918
WWII 1941-1945
Korean War 1950-1953
Vietnam War 1961-1975

Learn About Military Records

  • Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present , Ancestry, 1994.
  • Cerny, Johni; Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt; Thackery, David, editors. Research in Military Records in The Source , Ancestry, 1997. Chapter 9, pp. 289-334.
  • Meyerink, Kory L. ed. Printed Sources: a Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah : Ancestry, 1998.

Research Tips

Use pension records of brothers, uncles, cousins, and neighbors. These may contain testimony that refers to your direct lineage.

Remember to research military activities or involvement during peacetime as well as wartime. Review the chart below as a guide to the conflict in which your ancestor may have participated or observed, on the battlefield or home front:

If born between . . .


1720-1763  American Revolution
1740-1791  Indian Wars of 1790-1811
1762-1795  War of 1812
1796-1828 Blackhawk War
1806-1849  Civil War
1848-1880  Spanish-American War
1875-1902 World War I
1895-1930 World War II
1910-1935 Korean War
1940-1957 Vietnam War

Except for a few records on the appointment of militia officers, the Library-Archives generally lacks personnel records from the Winnebago, Black Hawk, and Mexican Wars.

It is crucial to note that, except for World War I, our holdings consist of records of military personnel in the service of the State (National Guard), and not of those state residents directly called to duty in military units of the Federal Government. Moreover, most military personnel records are confidential by law until they are 75 years old.


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