Resources By Record
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If you want to research family members who served in the armed forces, a search of military records might turn up the information you seek. There is a huge variety of military records available today, covering every war and every branch of the service. These records offer an assortment of information about the men and women that have served this country, from their enlistment dates to the rank they achieved at the time of their discharge. Whether you are looking for military records as a part of building your family tree or simply want to learn more about the service of one of your family members, military records can offer the information you are looking for.
Types of Military Records
Many types of military records are available today, including the following:
These records offer a wealth of information on those who have committed a portion of their lives to military service. Records may include both personnel and active duty records. Some of the records available today date all the way back to the earliest wars fought in this country, offering a glimpse of a piece of history that made this country what it is today.
Information Found in Records
The type of information found in the military records will depend in part on the specific types of files you are researching. Common information found in these files includes the name of the individual, dates of enlistment, award, medals, disciplinary actions, training and qualifications, rank and discharge details. Older military records might even include enlistment data for the Confederate army during the Civil War and rejection records for the Revolutionary War. Pension and veteran records also provide information about individuals who served in the armed forces and information about their lives after their service.
Locations for Military Records
Military records can be challenging to research because they are found at so many different locations. Many of the older public records are on file at the National Archives, where they can be searched online through the website for the organization. The National Archives in Washington D.C. also holds a broad assortment of military records, including enlistment records for all of the branches of the armed service, dating back as early as the 18th century. The National Archives also offers a general directory for other resources for military records, which includes agencies like the National Personnel Records Center.
Some military records can also be found through the specific branch of service where the person served. Records on army vets can be found at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, while some Navy files are stored at the Navy Personnel Command. Air Force records may be kept at either the Air Force Personnel Center or the Air Reserve Personnel Center. Records on Marines can be found at the Marine Forces Reserve or the HQ U.S. Marine Corps.
Restriction to Military Records Access
Some military records are a matter of public record and are available to the general public. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, records of active duty military personnel became restricted for security reasons. Currently, those records are only available to the person on the record, immediate family members or civilian personnel or retired personnel for the military.
The National Archives also specifies between archival military records and non-archival military records. Records become archival 62 years after the date when the serviceman separated from the military. Before that time, access to non-archival records is restricted to the person on the records and next of kin to that person. This might include a spouse, parent, child or sibling. Archival records are available to the general public and can be found through many online searches, as well as the government offices where they are held.
Online Military Records Search
Military records can be challenging public records to find, since they may be on file at many different government offices. To make searches faster and easier, online military records searches are now available. The National Archives offers its own online search right at its website. Archive services also provide access to military records and can often be accessed with just the name of the individual. Of course, the information you provide, such as dates of service and military branch, can make the search faster and more accurate. These online military records offer free public records that can be downloaded from your computer. If you need official copies of records, they usually need to be ordered directly from the office where they are filed, and there is typically a fee for the copy.