If you haven’t taken the time to read my article on Army Units, please do. Honestly, writing the article helped me understand the organizational structure of the military as well as the difference between things like a Brigade and a Division. And if you haven’t already, please pick up a copy of my free World War II Genealogy Starter Kit. (Bottom of page)
But what I want to write about right now is Fold3.com – the site for military records. Although I have an Ancestry.com subscription, oftentimes it provides basic military records, but by going to Fold3 I can get copies of the original records including great Revolutionary War pension applications. The image to the right is one of the several pages of David Faulkenberry’s pension application – what a treasure. (click image to see it full size).
No matter how long your family has been in the U.S., it’s a pretty good bet that at least one of them served in the military. My Dad was in World War II but my grandfather was one of those people who didn’t get drafted in World War I, but was too old for World War II. Another branch of my family (Knox) sent four members off to the Civil War including John (the 54-year-old father) and three of his sons, John Jr., Joseph, and James. The records on these boys makes for great reading. And, even more, it helps me put their lives into a context of their time.
John, Sr. survived all of the war’s hardships until October of 1864, when he died from disease while stationed with his Union regiment outside Atlanta. According to records he was originally buried near a railroad track along with other soldiers. After the war he was reinterred in the Marietta National Cemetery. His three sons all made it home back to Northwest Missouri, among them James, my great-great-grandfather.
The clues to your family tree in military records can be abundant. The names of their kids and spouse, their battles, length of service, pay, illness, or wounds suffered. Once you begin digging into military records you’re never quite sure what you’ll find. In the Revolutionary War pension files for David Faulkenberry I found names of neighbors and friends, name of commanding officer, his health, the people who upheld the veracity of his service. These are things I’d never find if I simply found a record saying he had served.
That’s why if you find military records at Ancestry I encourage you to take advantage of Fold3’s free trial; you may just find some amazing records.