Using Rootsweb: Military Records
Flesh Out Family Histories

When you begin your family history research, if you are like most of us, you were thrilled merely to learn the names of your ancestors back a few generations, to discover the dates they were born, married, and died; and to learn where they lived. When those basics are recorded, however, you will want to learn more information to flesh out what your ancestors' lives were like, their occupations and whether or not they ever served in the military -- and possibly saw active duty in war-time.

If military records can be located they often provide insight into important events and commitments in your ancestors' lives. Military service records can bring your ancestors to life though they may have served long ago and far, far away. The challenge is to identify which military records exist and then figure out how to search for them.

Perhaps you didn't even know your ancestor served in the military until you began to delve into the family history and stumbled across the information or an older family member told you how handsome your grandfather looked in uniform as he marched off to war. Now you'd love to find a photograph of him in his uniform and learn more about his wartime experiences.

If you have found a hint that your ancestor might have served in the military, how can you go about obtaining military records? How can you learn where your ancestor served, and in what battles he may have fought? What would have happened if your soldier ancestor died overseas or at sea? What is the significance of the service medal that has been passed down in your family or his unusual uniform?

You might find answers to such questions in the archives of RootsWeb's military mailing lists, on the military topic message boards, in RootsWeb's user-contributed databases, or in RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees.

Mailing Lists

To find the RootsWeb military-related mailing lists,
start here [at the URL] and look under Other for the following categories:

Military: 20th Century, Military: Aus-NZ, Military: Canada,
Military: Canada Miscellaneous, Military: Europe,
Military: Europe Miscellaneous, Military: Miscellaneous,
Military: Naval, Military: UK, Military: US Civil War,
Military: US Miscellaneous, and Military: US Revolution.

As you probably can tell from the above, the military list topics run the gamut from BATTLESHIPS to WARBRIDES, and from the BOER-WAR to numerous U.S. Civil War lists. All are indexed on the above pages and all have links to the list archives where you can search or browse for information of interest.

Message Boards

Military topic message boards may be found here [at the URL] These boards are categorized primarily by war and country with individual boards for a wide variety of subjects including branches of military service such as the Army and the Merchant Marines. An every-word search as well as advanced searches may be made either for all boards within the military topic boards from the above page, or for a specific board from that board itself. Surname searches are also enabled on the boards.

User-contributed Databases

The military master database may be searched
starting here [at this URL] .
You must enter a surname (last name) to be searched but you can select from an exact match, a match of the beginning letters of the surname (you must enter at least the first three letters -- do not use wild cards, just enter the letters), and a "sounds like" match (Soundex). You may also narrow your searches by listing a given name (optional) and/or a war (optional).

A list of all military databases that have been contributed, included in the above search of the master military database can be found here [at the URL] (click on Military Records) These user-contributed records listed on the above page are as diverse and varied as some World War I and World War II rosters, ships' crew listings, lists of soldiers in various training classes and lists of some who were killed in various battles. In addition, there is a separate POW-MIA master database searchable from this site [ at the URL]: .Also see the RootsWeb Guides No. 13 (Military Records -- worldwide) and No. 14 (Military Records -- U.S.) at [and]

Nothing brings history to life as vividly as being able to place your ancestors at the scene of history in the making on the battlefield, helping to shape the world in which we live today.

(Posted 14 February 2007; Reproduced with permission from Rootsweb Review. Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 8 November 2006, Vol. 9, No. 45.)

HCS readers can view other genealogical articles and releases in our extensive, permanent archives at the URL For more information about genealogical methodology, especially in researching Hellenic ancestry, see especially the main genealogy page or the section about Hellenic Historical and Genealogical Association at the URL

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