Veterans Day is Sunday, Nov. 11, a time to honor those military men and women who have served our country.
Chances are strong that someone in your family was a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, guardsman or state militiaman. Even if you don’t have irrefutable evidence of an ancestor’s military service, make a timeline of wars he lived through; check for military records if his age made him eligible to enlist. And, don’t assume your female ancestors didn’t leave records: They may have served in WWII Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, for example.
Because military service was so common, you’ll find lots of online resources—everything from huge, government-sponsored databases to a tiny town’s WWI casualty list. Military records even encompass those who didn’t serve in the armed forces; for example, after the Selective Service Act of 1917, 24 million men ages 18 to 45 filled out WWI draft registration cards between June 1917 and September 1918. Even if he didn’t enlist, your ancestor’s draft registration card is probably available at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
To get started, check out these free military research articles from FamilyTreeMagazine.com:
And, Family Tree Shop also offers military research resources:
Did You Know?
Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Seven years later, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the holiday’s name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars.
Today’s Veterans, By the Numbers
The US Census Bureau shares the following veteran statistics based on its 2011 American Community Survey findings:
- 21.5 million military veterans
- 2.3 million black veterans
- 1.6 million female veterans
When They Served
- 7.5 million Vietnam-era veterans
- 5.4 million peacetime-only veterans
- 5.1 million Gulf War veterans (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990 to present)
- 2.4 million Korean War veterans
- 1.8 million World War II veterans