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.

compiled military service records

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
Compiled Military Service Records

John H Lemaster. Photo courtesy of Michael Strauss.

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:

Compiled Military Service Records

Compiled Military Service Records

Compiled Military Service Records

Compiled Military Service Records

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:

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!

Lisa Louise Cooke coming to Topeka Genealogical Society

The Topeka Genealogical Society welcomes Lisa Louise Cooke to its annual conference on Sat, April 16, 2016. Early-bird registration ends soon, so register now!

Lisa Louise Cooke will give a full day of lectures at the 44th annual conference of the Topeka Genealogical Society (April 15-16, 2016). The conference theme is “New Techniques for the Family History Detective” and Lisa will definitely cover that theme in these four Saturday presentations:

  •  Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries
  •  Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers
  •  How to Re-Open a Cold Case
  •  The Google Earth Game Show

WHAT: Topeka Genealogical Society Annual Conference
WHEN: April 15-16, 2016
WHERE: Kansas Historical Society, 6425 SW 6th St, Topeka, KS
REGISTER: Click here for info and/or to register online

There will also be access to vendors, exhibits, and representatives from historical and lineage organizations. Early-bird registration ends March 24, 2016. Mailed registrations must be received by April 1, 2016.

Premium PodcastCan’t make it to the conference? Genealogy Gems Premium members have a full-year’s access to about 30 full-length on-demand video classes by Lisa Louise, including Google search methodologies, newspaper research, solving cold-case family history mysteries and Google Earth. Click here to see the full list of video classes. Click here to learn more about Premium membership.

Lisa Louise Cooke Coming to Oregon: Bend Genealogical Society Spring Seminar

Lisa Louise Cooke will be presenting the all-day 2016 Spring Seminar for the Bend Genealogical Society in Oregon on Saturday, April 23. 

Beautiful Bend, Oregon is not only a sought-after vacation destination, but a hub for enthusiastic genealogists. Join Lisa Louise Cooke at the 2016 Spring Seminar for the Bend Genealogical Society on Saturday, April 23, 2016. Her presentations will include:

  • Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers — Yearning to “read all about it?” Newspapers are a fantastic source of research leads, information and historical context for your family history. Learn Lisa’s approach to achieve success in locating news about your ancestors.
  • Genealogy Podcasts 101 — Learn everything you need to know about how to find and listen to genealogy and history podcasts.
  • Time Travel with Google Earth — Experience historic maps, images and videos coming together to create stunning time travel experiences in the free Google Earth program.
  • Inspiring Ways to Capture the Interest of the Non-Genealogists in Your Family — Learn how to capture the imagination of your non-historian friends and relatives. Lisa’s projects are guaranteed to inspire your family to ask you to tell them more about the family tree!

WHAT: Lisa Louise Cooke at Bend Genealogical Society 2016 Spring Seminar
WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 2016, 9am – 4pm (registration and coffee service open at 8:30)
WHERE: Bend Golf & Country Club, 61045 Country Club Dr, Bend, OR
REGISTER: Click here to download PDF with details

Your registration includes a syllabus, all-day coffee and tea service and a choice of a luncheon salad. Registration is required because seating is limited.

Google Earth for Genealogy class Google earth tourCan’t make it? Get a free taste of one of Lisa’s lectures by clicking here to watch a free video introduction to using Google Earth for genealogy. See how to harness the power of this free technology tool to understand the world your ancestors lived in. These tips come from Lisa’s popular Google Earth for Genealogy Video tutorial series, available as a digital download or on a 2-DVD set.

Family History in the Annual Christmas Letter? What a Great Idea!

Why not share the gift of family history story in this year’s Christmas letter or holiday cards?

Genealogy Gems podcast listener Catherine just sent in this fantastic idea about including family history in her annual Christmas letter. I thought I’d share it while it can inspire those whose holiday cards or letters are still on their “to-do” list. (Already done? Think about it for next year!) Here’s what she wrote:

“I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of writing [family history]: where to begin, what to write about, what to include, how to say it. When it was time to sit down and write the family Christmas letter and not having much to report, it struck me.  Why not write a family history letter to the cousins about our common maternal Grandfather?

It may not be an original idea but it was new to me, so, deep breath, I took the plunge and the result was a letter that I truly enjoyed writing. I included some fun facts from immigration records and census information, family pictures, a couple of stories and even Google Earth pictures from my Gramp’s birthplace in ‘the Old Country.’ I sourced the letter and added webpage links in case I hooked someone into wanting to know more.”

Thank you Lisa for speaking about Google Earth Pro and my new best friend, Evernote for Genealogy! I can’t wait to see what the family reaction will be. I’m planning some follow up letters and may even go for the big one (gulp)–a blog! I was so inspired I even made two of your wreaths, one for my mother-in-law and one for my best friend, also a genealogy junkie.”

Wow, I love to see how Catherine has taken what I’ve been teaching–from keeping track of sources in Evernote to making wreaths–and RUNNING with it! She says, “Thanks for the great ideas, inspiration and support,” but I want to thank HER for writing in with her enthusiasm and clever ideas. I LOVE the idea of adding the gift of family history–complete with crowd-pleasing Google Earth pictures and proper citations–to your annual Christmas letter. That’s on MY list for next year!

Take These Ideas and Run with Them Yourself with These Helpful How-Tos:

cousin baitUsing Google Earth for Genealogy

Using Evernote for Genealogy

How to Start a Family History Blog

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