Unearthing Your Family's Military History: A Comprehensive Guide

The quest to unearth your family's military history can be a fascinating journey, revealing tales of heroism, resilience, and sacrifice. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the necessary tools and resources to uncover your ancestors' military past.

Starting Your Military Genealogy Research

As with any genealogy research, start with what you know. Gather as much information as you can from living relatives and any existing family documents. Look for clues such as photographs in uniform, discharge papers, medals, or even stories passed down through generations. 

World War I U.S. Army Soldier

Finding Military Records

Military records are a treasure trove of information. They can provide details about an ancestor's service, including their rank, unit, date of enlistment and discharge, battles they fought in, and any injuries they sustained. Here are some types of military records you can explore:

1. Military Service Records: These records provide information about an individual's military career. They can include enlistment papers, discharge documents, and pension records.

2. War Records: These records can provide information about specific conflicts your ancestors may have been involved in. They can include casualty lists, prisoner of war records, and battle reports.

3. Military Pension Records: These records can provide information about an individual's life after their military service. They can include details about their health, family, and financial situation.

4. Military Draft Records: These records can provide information about individuals who were drafted into military service. They can include details about their physical description, place of residence, and occupation at the time of the draft.

Using Military History Resources

There are many resources available to help you in your military genealogy research. Here are some places to start:

1. National Archives: The National Archives holds a vast collection of military records, including service records, pension records, and draft cards.

2. Military History Libraries: Many military branches have their own libraries or archives that hold historical records.

3. Online Databases: Websites like Ancestry.com, Fold3, and FamilySearch.org offer access to a vast array of military records.

4. Local Historical Societies: These societies often hold collections of local records, which can include military records.

Understanding Military Medals and Awards

United States Air Force Aerial Medal

Investigating your family's military past can be a riveting endeavor, and military service medals offer a unique and valuable resource for understanding your ancestors' experiences in the armed forces. These medals serve as tangible links to the past, telling a story of participation in specific battles, campaigns, or theaters of war, which can illuminate their role and journey during times of conflict.

Service medals can also shed light on the personal feats of your ancestors. Medals might be awarded for acts of valor, heroic deeds, or exceptional service that surpass the normal expectations of duty. Such decorations hold profound significance, as they mark moments of extraordinary courage and commitment. By researching the significance and criteria behind these medals, you can gain a deeper understanding of your ancestor's military service, revealing a layer of their life that might have otherwise remained hidden.

To embark on this investigative journey, there are several useful resources at your disposal. The National Archives offer a wealth of information about different medals and their meanings, including the context in which they were awarded. Individual military branch's websites also contain detailed archives where you can uncover the specific criteria and background associated with each medal.

Military service medals provide a key to understanding the depth and breadth of your ancestors' military service. They offer more than just names and dates; they can reveal stories of bravery, resilience, and dedication. By conducting thorough research into these medals and their significance, you can add a rich layer of detail to your family's history, enhancing your appreciation of your lineage and the sacrifices made by your ancestors in service of their country.


Delving into your family's military past can be a deeply fulfilling endeavor, granting you a richer appreciation of your lineage and the sacrifices made by your forebears. This journey requires time and perseverance, but armed with the right tools and a tenacious spirit, you can reveal a treasure trove of knowledge regarding your family's history.

Nevertheless, we realize that sorting through military documents and archives can be a daunting and lengthy process. If you require aid or simply wish to probe further into your family's military past, our expert genealogical research services are at your disposal. Our seasoned team of genealogists can guide you through the labyrinth of military documents, validate your discoveries, and aid in interpreting military honors and awards.

Our passion lies in assisting individuals in unveiling their distinctive family narratives. Whether you're at the outset of your journey or have stumbled upon a hurdle in your investigation, we're committed to providing the guidance and expertise you require.

Remember, the voyage of exploration is just as significant as the eventual revelations. Relish the journey of uncovering your past, and feel free to seek our support whenever you need an assisting hand. Best wishes in your research endeavors!

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Written by

July 8, 2022
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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