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# Thursday, February 26, 2009
Using WWII Army Enlistment Records
Posted by Diane

Q. How do I use the WWII Army Enlistment information on Footnote? I found my grandfather within seconds. There was no document image, but the source information gave box, card and reel numbers. How do I use those numbers to find the document?

A. The WWII Army enlistment records that are free on Footnote (as part of its WWII Hero Pages collection) and other genealogy database sites come from the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system.

Search the enlistments on AAD here. It has records of approximately 9 million men and women who enlisted in the US Army, including the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, between 1938 and 1946.

The Army used punch cards to record the information. It microfilmed the cards after World War II, then destroyed them.

Normally, we'd advise genealogists to go right from an index or transcription to the microfilmed or paper record. But in this case, if you look at the film (which is what Footnote’s source citation numbers refer to), you’d just see cards with a series of holes in them.

NARA acquired the microfilm in 1959, and later digitized it and ran it through a “reader” to code the meaning of the punches. About 13 percent of the cards couldn’t be read due to poor microfilm quality, and an estimated 35 percent of the remaining records contain a scanning error (though NARA says few of these errors are in the name field).

I compared my own grandfather’s enlistment record on Footnote and in AAD, and both sites had the same information, though Footnote’s version is a bit easier to search and is presented in a more user-friendly format.

So what use is the information when there’s no original record to look at? The serial number, enlistment information and branch of service will help if you want to request military service records.

WWII service records are at the National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center. Due to privacy restrictions, you may need permission from your grandfather or his next of kin, or proof your grandfather is deceased. See this NPRC Web page for more details (scroll to the OMPF—Official Military Personnel Files—section). Note a large number of service records were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the NPRC.

You also can mine the enlistment record for clues to other research avenues and details to put in your grandfather’s life chronology. For example, the enlistment record can help you confirm a birth year and place, marital status, and place of residence at the time of enlistment.

It gives the person’s education level and shows how the government categorized your grandfather’s employment (my grandfather was grouped with “Messengers, errand boys, and office boys and girls”).

If some piece of information seems out of place, remember those scanning errors and look for confirmation in other records.


military records | Web tips
Thursday, February 26, 2009 3:12:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, August 08, 2007
How to Find Civil War Records in State Archives
Posted by Diane

Q I have my ancestors’ Civil War service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. Do military records offered by some states contain different information? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to check those records, too.

A State archives’ Civil War collections often differ greatly from the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and pension files available from NARA.

States may hold soldiers' letters, regimental histories, Civil War-era newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic post records, veterans' cemetery indexes, soldiers' home records and more. (Archives of formerly Confederate states also have pension records. Those aren’t at NARA because the federal government didn’t pay Confederate soldiers’ pensions.)

For example, the Ohio archives has correspondence to the state’s governor and adjutant general dating from 1859 through 1862 (series 147, volume 42). In May and June, 1862, Col. John W. Fuller and Maj. Z.S. Spaulding of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry 27th Regiment wrote Adjutant General C.W. Hill, describing their encampment and recommending various promotions.

Since state Civil War collections are so varied, I can’t say whether the information would be different from what’s in your ancestors’ CMSRs. But even if the state record doesn't have previously unknown details, You'll have new evidence of your ancestor's presence at the place and time the record was created.

If my ancestor were in the Ohio 27th, I’d want to know whether his commanding officers had anything to say about him, and where he was in June, 1862. (You can browse abstracts of these letters, as well an index to Ohio prisoners at Andersonville and a guide to Civil War-related primary source collections, on the archives’ Web site.)

Start by searching your ancestral state archives' online catalog for Civil War-era materials related to your ancestor, his regiment, or the county and town where he lived. Likely, you won’t know from the catalog listing whether the source mentions your ancestor, so you may have to visit the archives or contact an archivist for help.

You might be able to save yourself the trip by borrowing materials through interlibrary loan, ordering photocopies of documents or seeing if the Family History Library has microfilmed copies (which you can rent through a Family History Center).

Check local historical society and university libraries for Civil War collections, too.

And learn nine steps to researching your Civil War ancestors in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine. You can get bonus information and links to additional resources—including those at the state level—on our Web site.


military records
Wednesday, August 08, 2007 2:55:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]