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Finding a Soldier

If your ancestors participated in military service, you are in luck-there are many different records used by the military to keep track of their personnel. Even as far back as the Civil and Revolutionary wars, record of a soldier's involvement was kept for the government. There are seven basic types of records that you will find most useful, and your ancestor may be listed in one or all of these ways, so it's a great way to find information.

First, men during a time of war were asked to register for the draft, which was then placed into effect. Ages 18 to 35 were required to sign up, but some that were older and younger also joined the ranks. Some companies have begun the process of indexing these records, so contact any research company for more information about obtaining these records. Canada also has searchable records of men that signed up for the draft. If your ancestor not only signed up, but also served, he is probably on a muster list as well. This is a roll call list that companies used to keep track of their soldiers and may include information other than a name if you are lucky.

Service records, if available, are great for information about your ancestors. These records were kept during the Revolutionary War and are still kept today. Information includes a timeline of military service, medical history, vital stats, marriage information, locations, date of death, and other information. These records are especially detailed in the southern United States. Even better than service records are pension records. Very precise records have been kept since the start of the Revolutionary War, and you may also find names of relatives or friends in these records.

Other records that are worth obtaining are bounty land records, cemetery records, and veterans' records. These documents may also hold valuable pieces of information that could be missing from your family tree. If you find that your ancestors have long been military men (or, in more recent decades, military women), it would probably be beneficial to copy and organize your data as you collect it. Because records are often hard to read, it may take you a long time to figure out certain pieces of information, so be prepared with reading glasses and perhaps even a magnifying glass. As you decipher information, write it down neatly so that you won't have to begin the process again the next time you look at your information. Military records are a relatively easy way to come by some great information, so be sure to consider this option early in your research.

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