3 Search Strategies for Military Records on FamilySearch.org

What’s the key to finding military records on FamilySearch.org for your ancestors? Begin with these three search strategies.

Start with the big picture

Start broadly, then narrow your options by adding filters or additional search criteria. If you know your ancestor served in a specific conflict and he doesn’t turn up in a broad search, review the list of Historical Records collections for specific collections to search. In some cases, the records for a certain conflict may not yet be searchable, so you may come across collections to browse.

military records search

Military records search example on FamilySearch.org

Include residence in search criteria

Including a residence will help you determine whether the John Smith listed is your ancestor John Smith. In addition, many military records were recorded or arranged by state, and most military records typically include the soldier’s residence location. Combining the name with the residence will help yield more relevant results.

Add a family relationship

Particularly when searching for pension records, try adding a family relationship. Why? Pensions in particular included family members such as the soldier’s widow or children. Other military records may include family members’ names, too, since soldiers often had to provide information on their next of kin or a contact person back home.

For more search strategies, as well as a step-by-step example that employs these strategies, check out the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org.

(Excerpted adapted from Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org, on sale now at Amazon.com and ShopFamilyTree.com.)


Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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