Military records are an excellent source of genealogy and family information. Using some military records, like those from draft and enlistment, you might find an individual's date of birth, place of birth, marital status, height, weight, occupation, level of education, residence address and the names of parents and some other family members.
Using other military records, like service records, you can find information about how an individual spent his or her time while in the military and in some cases you can find information from military pensions and burial records.
Draft Registration and Enlistment records can provide significant genealogy and family information that cannot be found anywhere else.
Although there has been no draft registration requirement in the United States since 1973 there have been times when US citizens were required to register for the draft. In the United States there were various forms of a draft as early as Colonial Times and during the Revolutionary War and a national draft was first employed during the Civil War. There was also a draft during WWI, WWII and the Cold War.
In most cases younger men, for example between the ages of 18 and 26, were required to register for the draft but at certain times the draft was extended to other age groups as well. In 1942 the government required all men born between April 28, 1877 and February 16, 1897 to complete and sign a draft registration card and now copies of these cards are available to the public. These draft cards are excellent sources for birth dates and places of birth and are certainly one of the best sources of birth information for men born outside of the United States.
See our case study, Draft-Registration-Kowalski, to find out how we learned that Thomas Kowalski was born in Poland on December 22, 1877 and that at the time he completed his draft registration card in 1942 he was living in Portsmouth, Ohio and working for Wheeling Steel Corporation.
Enlistment records provide information about those who voluntarily enlisted in the different branches of the service - Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.
Each branch of service has collected and maintained its own enlistment records and what is available varies with the branch of service. For example the Army provides WWII Enlistment information that indicates the year of birth, race, enlistment date and location, branch and grade in the Army, civil occupation, level of education and marital status.
You can visit a local library or historical society to see if copies of military records are available on microfilm or online. You can also obtain a substantial amount of military information from the National Archives.
The availability of military records is changing all the time because some records go online and others are made available to the public. So use Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines to try and find the current availability of military records.