Genealogy Introduction—Military Research at the National Archives: Regular Service


Hello, my name is John Deeben. I’m a genealogy
specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, and in this lecture we’re
going to be talking about how to research military service in the regular Army and Navy
of the United States. Of course, the service in the regular military this included the
professional soldiers. These were the men who served during both times of war and during
peace time. The units that they served in were established regiments. They had their
own history. They existed before the soldiers enlisted into service, and they continued
on after the soldiers were discharged unlike volunteer regiments who were created and discharged
during specific periods of time. So to document the service in the regular Army, the War Department
did keep a specific set of records called the Registers of Enlistments. What we have
are available to document the service in the regular Army from 1798 to 1914 just prior
to the beginning of World War I. The Registers of Enlistment are available in textual form.
Some of them are also on microfilm in microfilm publication M233. They’re arranged by time
period and then by the first initial of the individual’s surname and then by date of
enlistment. So to use them effectively, you do need to have at least a general timeframe
of when the soldier enlisted to find him in the records. The basic information that an
entry in the Register of Enlistments will give you includes the name of the soldier,
his rank, a physical description including height, eye color, hair color, complexion,
his civilian occupation, his date and place of birth, his enlistment information when
he was enlisted and discharged, and it usually gives the place of discharge as well, and
at the end it will give a brief summary of his character at the time he was discharged.
So it gives you pretty good, basic information about the beginning of a soldier’s service
and the ending of his service. As an example we’ll look at the register of enlistment
for an Alfred Pride who enlisted in 1878. Now, the register’s entry in register covers
two pages. So, if we look through the whole entry, this is information that we glean about
Alfred Pride’s service. It shows that he enlisted July 11, 1878. He was originally
born in Richmond, Virginia. He was 32 at the time that he enlisted. He identified his occupation
as a Union soldier. So, that’s an indication that he was a career soldier. He might have
enlisted prior to this time. His physical description included he had black hair and
he was five foot eight inches, which is pretty tall. He was assigned to his Company F of
the 24th U.S. Infantry. And this was actually his third enlistment, so the fact that he
identified himself as a soldier reflects that. He was discharged from service on February
10, 1883. His expiration of service took place in Fort Elliot, Texas. He was a private at
the end of his service, and his character as a soldier at the end of his service, the
time of his discharge was good, though he’d probably had a fairly typical service as a
soldier during his time in the Army. Now, the Navy equivalent of the Register of Enlistments
were the Rendezvous Reports. These were the weekly reports that were compiled by recruiting
officers in the Navy. The records that we have available begin with the Mexican War
and go to the early 1890s. There are two separate indexes that are available for the rendezvous
reports. They’re both on microfilm. The one publication is T1089 or T1098 which includes
rendezvous reports for before and directly after the Civil War 1846-61 and 1865-1884.
The other index specifically covers Civil War service, and its microfilm publication
T1099 covering the years 1861-1865. And the actual reports themselves are weekly rendezvous
reports are available on microfilm as well in publication M1953: Weekly Reports of Enlistments
and Naval Rendezvous from January 6, 1855 to August 8, 1891. Basic information that
you can find on the rendezvous report for typical sailor include his name, again his
date and term of enlistment, his rating which was the Naval equivalent of his rank, his
previous Naval service if any, his usual place of residence which means where he usually
resided when he was on land not at sea, his place of birth, again his civilian occupation,
personal description. And it will also include information about distinguishing marks and
scars that he may have had on his person to help again further identify who he was. A
typical example we’ll take a look at the rendezvous report for James G. Mason. If we
read his entry in the rendezvous reports, we’d learn that he enlisted on June 25,
1884 at Mare Island, California. He enlisted for one cruise on Monongahela. He was 22 years
of at the time of his enlistment. His occupation was a cook. His physical description showed
that he was a Negro, five foot one and a half inches tall, born in East Oakland, California.
He had a scar on his left leg and a tattoo of a shield cross and flag on his left forearm.
And his rating at that time was a landsman which means that he had no prior service at
sea at the time that he enlisted in the Navy. Again, the availability of the records in
addition to the original records, what’s available on microfilm especially for the
register of enlistments are available on Ancestry.com. You can also find some information on Footnote
and Heritage Quest, or you can request service information from the regular Army or Navy
through a mail-in service. Mail-in forms are available on the National Archives website
at www.archives.gov .

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *