US Military Records: Trace Your Ancestors’ Service

With so many military conflicts throughout America’s history, it’s likely your ancestors were involved. Finding records of their service will help you round out the portraits of their lives and honor their memory. Military files also can reveal information about widows and children—and even ancestors who didn’t serve might have left behind draft records. This course will teach you what to look for and how to locate the records you seek.


  • Definitions and terminology used in military records
  • Service records
  • Pension records
  • Bounty land records
  • Draft records


$99.99 ($89.99 for VIP)

Course Length:

4 Weeks


Diana Crisman Smith

Start Date:

View upcoming course schedule for dates.


“I was extremely surprised and delighted at the amount of information provided in this course. It was a lot, and I really feel like I got my value’s worth in this class. A+!”


  • Genealogists with known military veteran ancestors
  • People with ancestors who lived during the time of major wars


  • Access to records in the National Archives is ideal for military records research, since most (federal) records are in the National Archives in the original form. Only a minor portion have been microfilmed; even a smaller portion are available in digitized form. For this course, examples will be provided for many records, but it will be helpful to have access to practice and search through one of the following sources:
    • has partnered with NARA to digitize military records. There are several options for viewing these images: a free seven-day trial; a $11.95 monthly subscription; and a $79.95 annual subscription. Access is also available at Family History Centers.
    • also has some NARA military records available to US package subscribers. A 14-day free trial is available, or a one-month subscription is $19.95; a three-month subscription is $16.95/month; and a 6-month subscription is $14.95/month.
  • Access to the Bureau of Land Management/Government Land Office website is free and no registration is required.
  • This course assumes you understand the basics principles of genealogy and have done some investigation into your family history. If you are a total beginner, consider taking the Discover Your Family Tree course before enrolling in this class.


Lesson 1:  Military Records Overview

A.    Military Basics
I.    Military Records Glossary
II.    Military Branches and Ranks
III.    Structure of a Military Unit
IV.    US Wars Timeline

B.    Accessing Military Records

I.    Records at NARA
II.    Finding Military Records

C.    Tips and Tricks for Success
D.    Exercise

Lesson 2: Military Service Records

A.    What is a military service record?
B.    Do service records exist for my ancestor?
C.    Service Record by War
I.    Revolutionary War
II.    War of 1812
III.    Mexican War
IV.    Civil War
V.    Spanish-American War
VI.    Phillippine Insurrection

D.    US Regular Forces Service Records

I.    Regular Army
II.    Regular Navy and Marine Corps

E.    Tips and Tricks for Success
F.    Exercise

Lesson 3: Miltary Pension Records

A.    Pension Records Overview
I.    What is a military pension?
II.    Do pension records exist for my ancestor?
III.    Contents of Pension Files

B.    Military Pensions by War

I.    Revolutionary War
II.    War of 1812
III.    Mexican War
IV.    Indian Wars
V.    Civil War

C.    Requesting Pension Records From NARA
D.    Tips and Tricks for Success
E.    Exercise

Lesson 4: Miltary Bounty Land Records

A.    Overview of Military Bounty Lands
I.    What are military bounty lands?
II.    Military Bounty Land Warrants
III.    Did my ancestor receive military bounty lands?

B.    Finding Military Bounty Land Records

I.    Sample Search of GLO Records Database
II.    Requesting Bounty Land Records From NARA

C.    Tips and Tricks for Success
D.    Exercise

Lesson 5: Military Draft Records

A.    History of the Draft
I.    Civil War
II.    World War I
III.    World War II
IV.    "Peacetime" Conscription

B.    How to Find Draft Records

I.    Online
II.    On Microfilm

C.    Tips and Tricks for Success
D.    Exercise

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