How to Find Compiled Military Service Records for Your Ancestors
Compiled Military Service Records are core genealogical documents for your ancestors’ military service for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican Wars, Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. Expert Michael Strauss tells us what’s in them and how to find them.
What’s in Compiled Military Service Records
Compiled Military Service Records (often abbreviated as CMSR or CSR) are the records that may exist for your ancestors who served in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War to the end of the Philippine Insurrection and Spanish-American War. This set of records represents the volunteer Army and doesn’t include regular Army enlistments. Except for limited records of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 for the Navy, the other branches of the military (including Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service) all have their equivalent set of records.
Information you may find in Compiled Military Service Records varies greatly from each of the war periods. They typically contain:
- name, unit, and period of service of the veteran
- muster in/out information
- rank in/out details
- details of the soldier’s career: promotions, prisoner of war memorandums, casualties, and a number of personnel papers which may include enlistment papers and other related documents
- for several of the war periods, physical descriptions of the soldiers including name, age, nativity, occupation, height, hair, eyes, and complexion information
Your ancestor may have multiple entries in Compiled Military Service Records. This could occur if a soldier served in more than one unit, or in the case of John LeMaster, if he enlisted in two different armies during the Civil War! The Civil War divided our nation, testing the loyalty of all persons who lived during this time. Lemaster chose the Confederacy, at least initially, when he enlisted with the 2nd VA Infantry in 1861 in Charlestown, VA. He fought alongside his Brigade commander, Thomas J. Jackson, who later would be known as “Stonewall Jackson.”
After the Confederate loss at the battle of Gettysburg, he deserted and lived in Martinsburg in what was now West Virginia, where on his draft registration he was listed as a deserter from the Rebel Army. In 1864, he enlisted in the United States Army with the 3rd WV Cavalry, serving out the duration of the war until 1865. After the war, he was granted a federal pension, with no mention of his former service in the Confederacy.
Here are his military service records for both the Confederate and Union armies:
Where to Find Compiled Military Service Records
You may access various CMSR indexes and images online. Here are links to collections at subscription websites Fold3, Ancestry.com and even a couple at the free FamilySearch.org:
Compiled Military Service Records at fold3:
- Revolutionary War. Compiled Military Service Record images for CT, DE, GA, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and Continental Troops. Genealogists should also search the local state where their ancestors were from as some Militia isn’t included in these records. During the Revolutionary War additional Compiled Service Records were completed for the Navy, which was broken down to include Naval Personnel, Quartermaster General, and Commissary General Departments. One additional set of CMSR images covered Revolutionary War service along with Imprisonment Cards.
- Old Wars (1784-1811). After the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States government sought to maintain a regular Army. However, volunteer soldiers who served from 1784-1811 were recorded. (One of the reasons for volunteers to be called up would have included the Whiskey Rebellion of 1793.) Their Compiled Military Service Record full images are available here.
- War of 1812. Compiled Military Service Records Indexes for CT, DE, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA and also the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Shawanoe Indians along with United States Volunteers. Full copies of CMSR are online for the Chickasaw and Creek Indians, along with the men from buy herpes medication online uk Lake Erie and Mississippi.
- Indian Wars. Compiled Military Service Records Indexes for the various Indians wars from 1815-1858.
- Mexican War. Compiled Military Service Record indexes for AL, AR, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, DC, MA, MI, MS, MO, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and the Mormon Battalion and the United States Volunteers. Full copies of the CMSR are online for AR, MS, PA, TN, TX, and the Mormon Battalion.
- Civil War. Click here to search. Union: Indexes for AZ, CA, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI, United States Veteran Volunteers, and Veteran Reserve Corps. Full copies of CMSR for AL, AR, CA, CO, Dakota Territory, DE, DC, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MS, MO, NE, NV, NM, NC, OR, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, United States Colored Troops, United States Volunteers, and 1st NY Engineers. Confederate: indexes are online for AL, and VA. Full copies of CMSR are online for AL, AZ, AK, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA, Miscellaneous, Volunteers, Indians, and Officers.
- Spanish American War. Compiled Military Service Record indexes for AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, Dakota Territory, DE, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, PR, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, and United States Volunteers. Full copies of CMSR are online for FL.
Compiled Military Service Records At Ancestry.com:
- Revolutionary War. Full copies of the Compiled Military Service Records for CT, DE, GA, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and Continental Troops. (This database often doesn’t list the local militia, as most of the men listed were part of the continental line. Researchers search by keyword or location.)
- Old Wars. An index and full images of the Compiled Military Service Records of those men who served after the Revolutionary War and before the War of 1812, covering the years of 1784-1811.
- War of 1812. Abstracted lists of names, state, and military units from the Compiled Service Records (no images).
- Indian Wars: Database with images for Florida: includes the Florida Wars, Second Creek War, and the Third Seminole War from 1835-1858.
- Mexican War. Full copies of the CMSR for MS, PA, TN, TX, and the Mormon Battalion.
- Civil War: Indexes to Union Compiled Military Service Records and Confederate Compiled Military Service Records. An additional set of Service Records comes from units that were raised by the Confederate Government and not from any of the states that comprised the Confederacy; you can view the images and search by military unit.
- Spanish American War. Compiled Military Service Record Indexes cover the same geographical areas as on Fold3. Full copies of CMSR are online for Florida.
Free Compiled Military Service Records at FamilySearch.org:
FamilySearch has fewer Compiled Military Service Records that include images. One of the major collections includes the Revolutionary War CMSR’s that when searched here, the images provide a direct link to Fold3.
Most of the other major war periods are microfilmed and available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. With online access through both Fold3 and Ancestry provided on the computers in the library, though, accessing the film is less desirable. Click here to learn more about changes in microfilm lending at the Family History Library.
Michael Strauss contributes the Military Minutes segment on Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcast. In the recently-published Episode 211, he profiles the 20th-century replacement for Compiled Military Service Records: the Official Military Personnel File. Click here and listen for free!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!
Episode 206 – Publishing Family History Books
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 206
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In this Blast from the Past episode:
- Lisa reprises a favorite research detour into vehicle forensics to identify an old family car and shares tips for creating short family history books like those she given as holiday gifts to loved ones.
- Hear letters from listeners on a special adoption discovery and a 1940 census mystery that now makes more sense.
- Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs in with 4 reasons to take a DNA test if you haven’t taken the plunge yet.
- Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton spotlights the current Genealogy Gems Book Club title, Murder in Matera.
- The vehicle forensics and family book segments originally appeared in Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 18 and 13, respectively, and are being republished here for web audiences.
MAILBOX: RICHARD ON THE 1940 CENSUS
1940 census tip: Listen in Genealogy Gems Episode 201 or read it on the Genealogy Gems blog.
Evidentia software helps genealogists organize and analyze their research discoveries. Free 14-day trial available.
MAILBOX: ADOPTEE DISCOVERY
Tips for using DNA to solve adoption mysteries, taken from a conversation between genetic genealogy experts Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard and CeCe Moore from DNA Detectives.
Join our conversations on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is an audio excursion with Lisa on an old railroad track up to a silver mine in the Colorado Rockies, an excursion she originally shared in Episode 18 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, not now available online, and is being republished here exclusively for your enjoyment. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users
GEM: MAKING FAMILY HISTORY BOOKS
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 2 with a segment on transcribing diaries was republished as Genealogy Gems episode 134.
Qualities of a successful short family history book, from Lisa Louise Cooke
- The book conveys an overall theme.
Start by reviewing all the available material you have. That will give you a good sense of what the time period was like for your ancestor. You’ll also start to understand their goals, experiences, and emotions. Ultimately a theme should begin to surface.
In the case of A Nurse In Training, I wanted to communicate my grandmother as a young woman taking on a new adventure away from home that ultimately led to this warm, caring woman’s successful career as a nurse. I also tucked a bonus subplot in there of how she just happened to meet her husband at the same time!
You don’t need every scrap of research and every photo to get this theme across. It’s your job to be a sharp editor and to pick out the critical pieces. You want the words and photographs that clearly communicate your theme to the reader.
#2. The book can be read in one sitting.
Like it or not, if it takes too long read, they probably won’t. Strive to create a book that doesn’t look intimidating. I create books that are ten to twenty double-sided pages. People will be willing to pick up a thinner book off the coffee table. If it’s well done they’ll find that all of a sudden they’ve finished the entire book without wanting to put it down. The final goal is that they will walk away with a real sense of having gotten to know that ancestor.
#3. It contains the best of the best of what you have.
This goes back to conveying the theme and being a strict editor. My grandma had many funny stories, but there just wasn’t room for all of them. I picked the best of the best. Anyone who reads the book should hopefully come away with the fact that she had a sense of humor and could laugh at herself. So keep the content of your book focused, full of graphics and photos, and including the best of the best. If you can capture their interest in the first three pages, you’ll have them for the entire book.
#4. There are lots of photos and graphics.
A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. Since the number of words in this size book will be limited, photographs will be your best friend. If you’re lacking in family photos, many of my previous podcasts will give you countless ideas for locating associated photos. In A Nurse In Training, I included scanned images of skating rink tickets, programs and announcements from my grandma’s scrapbook, and journal pages in my grandmother’s own hand. These types of items really add texture and interest to your book, as well as help the reader to see that you’ve really done your homework.
#5. Keep it in chronological order.
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and start going back and forth in time. Believe me, for the reader’s sake keep things in chronological order. You as the researcher know this information backward and forwards, but this is probably your reader’s first exposure to it. Be gentle with them and keep it straight forward and simple. Your reader will thank you.
#6. You choose only high-quality images and printing.
High-quality glossy pages, good image quality and a hardcover binding all shout to the reader “I’m worth your time, read me!” For example, I found a drawing of Dameron Hospital where my grandmother worked, but it was a low-quality image and didn’t translate well in the book. As much as I wanted to include it, I ended up leaving it out. I’m glad I did; it wasn’t critical to the book and there were other ways to communicate the hospital to the reader.
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.
MyHeritage is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
4 REASONS TO RSVP YOUR DNA INVITATION
with Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide
I used to think that economics was just a series of numbers and calculations that helped to gauge the future growth of companies and countries. In a word: boring. But that was before I discovered that you can study the economics of people and essentially use math to describe human behavior, and therefore in some ways make that behavior more predictable.
This is of course especially intriguing to my current situation as the parent of a teenager, a pre-teen, and a daughter. Teenagers especially are always talking about the things that “everyone else has,” a phenomenon that Malcom Gladwell, one of these interesting people-economists, describes as the “tipping point.” He says that the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” For my kids it’s everything from the point at which a party becomes fun to doing everything that is humanly possible to procure a fidget-spinner (if you don’t know what that is, ask the nearest 11 year old).
In DNA testing in the United States, that tipping point is now. We have reached the point where most genealogists at least have the passing notion that genetics can be useful in genealogy. Most genealogists (I would guess 85%) who attend the lectures I give have already had at least one DNA test completed. Let’s stop for just one minute and recognize how incredible that is! Not too long ago I was still trying to convince people that this was a good idea and that you didn’t have to dig up your ancestors to do it! But now we have scores of genealogists who have not only tested themselves, but have convinced half their family to test as well!
This got me thinking though, who are those people who haven’t tested? And why not? One category of people sans DNA test are those who have full pedigree charts. I have heard many of them say that they don’t see the need to do DNA testing since they have most of their lines “way back.” To those with the blessing of ancestors who kept better records than mine, I am offering four reasons why you should RSVP to your invitation to DNA test.
- Record. First and foremost, your DNA is a record. Just as you have obtained birth certificates and marriage licenses for your ancestors, your DNA is a unique record. It does represent you and your family in a way that no other record can. It is a document of your genetic history, and should be preserved. Further, while you may doubt the ability of your DNA to shed light on your current genealogy, don’t underestimate the contribution it might make in the future.
- Second Cousins. And third cousins, and fourth cousins, etc. Having your DNA tested means you can see a biological connection between you and other relatives that have had tested. For many, the idea of meeting or forming relationships with distant cousins is not appealing. But even if you have no intention of attending DNA family reunions or even in corresponding with these relatives, there is something reassuring about seeing them there on your match list. There is a certain thrill that comes with recognizing the connection between you and someone else. A connection that may not add any new names to your tree, but it helps you feel a deeper connection to your ancestor, and a greater appreciation for your biology.
- Verify. Which brings me to the next point. Seeing these cousins on your list can actually help verify the genealogy you have already collected and documented. It helps to reassure you that you have made the right steps along the way, and may help you gain additional resources about your relative through their descendants that you find on your match list. Resources that can help turn that ancestor from a name on a chart, to a story and a life worth preserving.
- Philanthropy. The last reason to go ahead and have your DNA tested is to help others. If you have been lucky enough to fill in most of the blanks on your tree, you can help others do the same by simply having your DNA tested. Your DNA provides a link to your tree that might be just what someone needs to overcome a brick wall in their family history.
So, if you have been hanging out on the outskirts of DNA testing because you feel like your tree is full enough without it, remember to RSVP to your invitation to be DNA tested, and join the party!
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: A FAMILY HISTORY MURDER MYSTERY!
Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy by journalist Helene Stapinski. A story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean.
Murder in Matera continues to unravel a past Helene explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History. Find a whole list of fabulous family history-inspired reading at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/lisa.
GEM: VEHICULAR FORENSICS: Updated links, tips and resources
Here’s the original photo of my grandma next to her father’s car:
The original zoomed in image of the license plate:
The license plate with the “alternative light source” applied:
Since I first published this episode, iGoogle has gone away.
Websites for identifying old cars:
Hubcap Café.com: Collector Car Resources
Flickr group called Vintage Car Identification
From ItStillRuns.com: “Veteran cars were manufactured before 1903, vintage cars were made between 1903 and 1933, and classic cars are considered to be vehicles manufactured from 1933 until fifteen years ago.”
Learn more about ArchiveGrid in Premium Podcast episode 149 (Genealogy Gems Premium subscription required) and in this blog post: How to find original manuscripts and documents using ArchiveGrid.
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke for Google searches and even YouTube:
“Take a ride in a 1928 Willys Knight made in, owned in and driven in Toledo, Ohio”
Forensic Files channel on YouTube
More updated resources:
“The Colorful History of California License Plates” in LA Magazine
- California DMV license plate introduction
- California State Archives
- Willys Overland Knight Registry website and Facebook page
- Inflation Calculator
TIP: Remember that you may be able to make great discoveries IN old photos with your photo editing software (even just with whatever free software is on your computer):
1. Open up the photo editing software
2. Open the photograph in question in the program
3. Use the trim feature to zoom in on the license plate?or whatever feature you want to focus on
4. Zoom in to make it easier to see
5. Try using both the Brightness and Contrast feature of your program in combination until you achieve a favorable result
6. Apply Auto Sharpen for further detail
Savvy tips to help identify old photos
Photo editing apps and software for family history
The Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor is your ultimate guide to identifying old objects in pictures to help you learn more about your family history.
PROFILE AMERICA: FIRST TRAFFIC LIGHT
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Episode 222 – The Free Genealogy Gems Podcast
The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In honor of Family History Month, Lisa celebrates YOU! This episode is packed with comments, tips and questions from Genealogy Gems fans. Topics range from podcasting to metal detecting, must-use resources and inspiring genealogy discoveries. You’ll also hear from Kirsty Gray at THE Genealogy Show in the UK.
NEWS: INTERNET ARCADE
Internet Archive blog post: Over 1,100 New Arcade Machines Added to the Internet Arcade
Internet Arcade on the Internet Archive
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is a great tip from a fan on an essential resource for those of you with roots in Northern Ireland. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
MAILBOX: A PODCAST SKEPTIC?
Gary recommends Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning! Get access to more than 50 Premium Videos and 160 Premium Podcast episodes. It’s the ultimate ongoing genealogy education! Click here to read more about it. Gary mentions becoming a “happy user of” Evernote who now protects his computer with Backblaze cloud back-up service, enjoys using Google Earth for genealogy and learning more about DNA. Click on these links to start exploring for yourself—and to watch a Google Earth video for free.
MAILBOX: CUBAN GENEALOGY PODCAST
Cuban Genealogy Podcast
MAILBOX: METAL DETECTING FOR GENEALOGY
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Homestead records
Premium eLearning members also have access to these video tutorials:
MAILBOX: LOCAL HISTORY BOOK FIND BY ROBIN
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #220
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
MAILBOX: CORAL’S FRIDAY RECORD DISCOVERY
The Friday record post discoveries appear weekly on the Genealogy Gems website. Subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems newsletter to receive a free weekly email with links to these posts, along with tips, inspiration and money-saving deals.
MAILBOX: VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS
On Florida Memory: Early Auto Registrations, 1905-191b
MAILBOX: GENI.COM QUESTION
Tip: The Premium eLearning video “Genealogy Giants: The 4 Top Records Websites” explains the difference between individual and collaborative trees.
MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
MAILBOX: 3 MILLION GERMAN NAMES
Lisa’s post on German WW1 ancestors
Tim recommends the Onlineprojekt Gefallenendenkmäler
MAILBOX: TRISHA’S INSPIRING JOURNEY
Another Premium eLearning video recommendation (click to see landing page):
MAILBOX: KIRSTY GRAY
THE Genealogy Show
Kirsty Gray has over 15 years ofresearch experience and has her foot in many genealogical doors around the world. Her first involvement in family history came at the tender age of seven years with her maternal grandfather’s tree in hand. Obsessed with her great-grandmother’s maiden name of Sillifant, Kirsty began a surname study on the name in 1999, publishing tri-annual journals on the surname for more than ten years. Founder member and Chair (now Secretary) of the Society for One-Place Studies, Kirsty has two places registered, on the Devon/Cornwall border and is considering another study of a hamlet in Cornwall. In November 2014, Kirsty founded The Surname Society with five other genealogists across the globe and the membership is already close to 500!
PROFILE AMERICA: HOME MAKING
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Contributing Editor
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!
Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app.