Does tracing your ancestors’ military service seem like an uphill battle?
For most wars after the American Revolution and the birth of the federal government, you’ll consult the National Archives and Records Administration, which has compiled service records, pension files and other federal records (some are on microfilm and/or digitized, some are still only in paper form).
To see a list of what military records NARA has on microfilm, go to its Order Online system, click Microfilm at the top of the page (ignore the log in fields unless you actually submit an order), click Advanced Search, select Military Service Records from the Subject Catalog pull-down menu, and click Search.
If you see a microfilm you’d like to search, you can look for copies of the film at the Family History Library (and borrow the film through a local FamilySearch Center) or see if the film is digitized on the free FamilySearch.org, or on a subscription website such as Ancestry.com or Footnote.
If an ancestor fought in a Colonial war—that is, any war taking place before the American Revolution—you’re more likely to locate state militia pay lists, muster rolls and military hospital records in state archives and military historical societies covering the war or the place where your ancestor enlisted. It’ll be easier to find records if you can learn which regiment or company your ancestor was part of.
This is a little taste of the advice is from our new Military Research Guide CD, which has Family Tree Magazine’s best in-depth guidance and tools for researching ancestors who served in the US armed forces.