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Genealogy How-To
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Family Finder
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* U.S. military service record

The National Archives has the best collection of military records. To get an individual's military service record or pension application file, follow the instructions in the topic Researching through military records.

If you don't want a complete military service or pension record, but just want to know what branch of the service someone served in, try looking up obituaries, family histories and biographies, cemeteries and cemetery records, or for Civil War Union soldiers, using's Roll of Honor CD.


To find information about an individual's military service in an obituary, you must at least know the approximate date of death, the deceased's full name, and the state and city or town where the death took place (or where the obituary was likely to have been published).

Family histories and biographies

Both family histories and biographies may mention military service. To get a copy of a family history or biography that's not in the family's possession, you must at least know the individual's full name, and the approximate area (state or county) in which the individual may have lived.

Cemeteries and cemetery records

Gravestones sometimes mention military service as well. To find a grave site, it is helpful to know the name of the cemetery or the general area where the individual is buried. Wills, obituary, or death certificates may also yield the necessary information.'s military Family Archives has Family Archives containing military records and military records indexes, which may help you locate your ancestor's military records. You can look up your ancestor's name on the individual CDs, or you can use the FamilyFinder Index, available on CD-ROM with Family Tree Maker software and also available for searching at The FamilyFinder Index is an index of over 220 million names from census records, marriage records, military records, actual family trees, and more. It can help you by telling you if your ancestor's name is actually listed on one of the military or other CDs that sells.

For a description of any of the records listed above, see the topic Genealogy dictionary.

To get help finding the minimum information required to locate newspapers or family histories, select one of the following items:

Finding the minimum information for newspapers

Finding the minimum information for family histories and biographies

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