After establishing that an ancestor once served in a U.S. military organization the next step is to check if registration or draft cards are available. To better understand your ancestors experiences in the military I highly suggest researching the branch, division, regiment, battery, ship, or battalion they served in. Knowing their dates of service you can determine which battles or events they participated in. The next step is to write to the National Archives [http://www.archives.gov/research/military/veterans/online.html] for your ancestors records. I recommend requesting the PENSION file for genealogy information and the MILITARY file for scholarly research. The pension file usually contains information concerning children, neighbors, relatives, or widow information and can be instrumental in locating unknown children and siblings. The pension file might also include affidavits from relatives, friends, and neighbors concerning illness or disabilities, marriage dates and places, and/or wounds, injuries, or illnesses. Prisoner of War information may also be included. Pension records often contain birth and death records of the individual, their occupation, children’s names and residences, service information, discharge reason and date, and other genealogical information.
Don’t forget to look for brothers, cousins, uncles, brother- and sons-in-law who may have enlisted together. Family members often went into the service together. Especially, during the Revolutionary, 1812, and Civil Wars.
Use national Archives Standard Form #180 (SF180) to request the soldiers files. Costs are approximately $25.00 flat fee (5 or less pages) and, $75.00 flat fee (6 – 70 pages).
Required Information for national Archives request: Your request must contain certain basic information for the National Archives to locate your service records. This information includes:
•The veteran’s complete name used while in service
•Social security number
•Branch of service
•Dates of service
•Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
•Place of discharge
•Last unit of assignment
•Place of entry into the service, if known.
All requests must be signed and dated by the veteran or next-of-kin. If you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran, you must provide proof of death of the veteran such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary.