5 Ways To Conduct A Military Records Search

By | May 24, 2017

Search for your ancestors can be an exciting adventure. Here I want to present to you 5 ways to conduct a military records search. You may wish to use just one or two ways, but I suggest to you to use all five so that you find out as much as you possibly can about your military ancestor.

Military Records Search

When I started to trace my family tree I was first interested in names and dates. After that I was then interested in what my ancestors did for a living. Once I had found those pieces of information I then wanted to learn what it was like for my ancestor living in those times.

Learn as much as you can about your ancestors!

And this is definitely true when I wanted to discover and research my military ancestor. Maybe I have become obsessive in my pursuit of knowledge but I find we are to discover our ancestors we need to pursue every avenue that is available to us.

So when finding your ancestors military records you also want to learn about the war that they fought in. By doing so you will appreciate what they went through, and also become more connected with them. At least that is how I have felt when learning as much as I can about my ancestors.

5 Ways To Conduct A Military Records Search:

  1. Look Around Your Home
  2. Ask Your Relatives
  3. Google and Search Online
  4. Read Books About It
  5. Check Ancestry and Fold3 Military Records

Perform A Military Records Free Search

There are free ways that you can search for your military ancestors. Before spending any money on searching for your ancestors I suggest that you at least look at this option first.

Military Records Free search

Genealogy is a hobby that you will expect to spend some money. The amount though is up to you. Just how much do you want to discover about your ancestor?

The first three ways that I explore in this post will show you those free options. So if you are interested in learning about your military ancestor then I suggest you to at least follow these first three ways.

1. Look Around Your Home

You will be amazed as to what you will find around your home. There is just so much information that you already have, right under your nose. However, it can be in any room, up in the attic, or down in the basement.

Sources of Information

While searching for family heirlooms you may come across evidence to  whether your ancestors fought in war or saw conflict. This can be letters to loved ones from the front, medals and even old photos of them in their uniform.

All of these vital clues can tell you what armed force they were in, what rank and also the time period that they served. Discovering all of these can really tell you the story behind this time in your ancestor’s war life.

You may be fortunate enough to actually find military records such as enlistment papers, deployments records, medical records and discharge papers. To borrow a phrase, “you don’t know what you will find, you just need to start looking“.

And this is so true! You can save yourself not only time but money as well by just looking around your home. After all what is the point in going to the expense of purchasing these records if you already have them.

Luckily for me my father has passed on these types of records for a number of my ancestors. I knew who served in the army but reading these records I could see where and when they traveled. And also from letters I could understand what they were going through at that time in their life as well.

–> Check Out What Sources of Information At Home Can You Find? <–

2. Ask Your Relatives

After you have searched your home from top to bottom your next step is to ask your relatives and family friends about your military ancestors. Even if you don’t find anything around your home there is nothing to suggest that your relatives will have nothing to share.

Ask Our Relatives For Help

Your relatives may have so much to offer you. It would be a shame to pass up such an opportunity like this. Even if you have not connected with your relative in a while or you have not even met a particular relative before why not take the step and meet them.

Family friends can help too!

Even friends of the family may have information or memories of your military ancestors. If you do not know of any family friends who could help you know your quest then why not ask your relatives if they know of anyone who could help you.

Besides sharing with you your ancestors service records they may even pass on to you family heirlooms such as medals, war ribbons, mementos from war and anything else related to their military life.

But you may also be fortunate to hear war stories as well. The importance of recording these stories cannot be underestimated. The reason for this is because they may not have been recorded before, and so you will be doing your part in preserving them and passing this information onto your descendants.

–> Check Out My Top 20 Family History Interview Questions <–

3. Google and Search Online

It is amazing as to how much information is already available online. One thing to note here is that even if you do not find anything of relevance at the time of your search you can always check again later as new information is being added all the time. And this is particularly true about genealogy search websites. More will be discussed about this in the fifth step of this post.

Google Search

If you were to enter the phrase “military records search” into Google then you would be presented with results as to where you could find such records in your area. This is because Google bases these results on your location.

The first page of results will be a mixture of genealogy search sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past, and also government sites as well. These websites will provide guidance on searching their records to help you find what you are looking for.

To get the most out of your search you will need to provide as much information as you know. The resources that you have gained from the first two ways can help you immensely. Knowing what war, or time period, your ancestor’s rank will help you pinpoint records of interest to you.

4. Read Books About It

Ok so you may not find actual military records relating to your ancestors in books but they can steer you in the right direction. By learning about the history of any war that your ancestor may have been in you may be able to discover where they were deployed and also  what battles they fought.

Family History Books

Searching for war books you may discover diaries, logs and operation records. All of these can show you a glimpse into the life of your military ancestor. And by reading these you can become closer to them as you learn about what’s they went through and what they had to endure.

5. Check Out Ancestry and Fold3 Military Records

Two of the biggest websites that can help you in your search of military records is Ancestry and Fold3. They offer so much to the family historian who is looking for their military ancestors. Although you will have to pay to gain access to these records they are well worth the price to pay for them.

Ancestry Military Records


You have obviously heard of the world’s biggest genealogy search website which has billions of records at its disposal. Not only does Ancestry have access to certificates of important events in your ancestor’s life, Censuses, etc. but also they have a section devoted entirely for military records.

Credit: Ancestry

The great thing about using Ancestry is that even if you do not know where or when your ancestor served in the armed forces you just type in what you do know. You can enter their name, any dates that you do know and Ancestry will take care of all the rest.

Based on the information that you have given it will list all ‘possible‘ record that may relate to your ancestor. This type of search may be hit and miss as you will have to check each of the results that come up to confirm whether they do contain your ancestor or not.


This website is dedicated entirely to military records held within its’ database that contains documents, images, stories, personal documents and other articles relating to war.

Credit: Fold3

One thing that I must point out is that Fold3 is in fact owned by Ancestry. As for the name Fold3 this refers to the flag folding ceremony at the funeral of a war veteran.

Searching Fold3 is easy. You just enter your ancestor’s first name and surname and then check the results that pop up that features their names.

Or if you may wish to search for your ancestor by war or conflict. This ranges from as early as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and II right up to recent wars.

Final Thoughts

There are many sources of information available to you to find your military ancestors. Along the way you will not only discover their records but also letters sent home, medals, photos and any other documents relating to them.

There is just so much that you can tell a story about the life of your military ancestor. Whenever you are researching your family tree it is important to find out as much as you possibly can. And to do this you need to look at every possible source that is available to you.

For me I like to start out with what I already know or whatever I have at my disposal. And this either means at my home or asking a relative or a friend that knew my ancestors.

I then work from there. As I have already pointed out it is far better to spend time searching what you already have in your home, such as documents, heirlooms and photos. And then take it from there.

And as I have also said before you do not want to sate both your time An do money tracking down information that you already have. What is the point in that, right?

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this post giving you 5 ways to conduct a military records search. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

6 thoughts on “5 Ways To Conduct A Military Records Search

  1. Jerome

    Love your site it taught me a lot. I was just not aware that there were so many ways to trace your military ancestors. And that there are indeed free ways as well. Thank you so much for highlighting these. I will have to see what I have around the home and also ask my relatives for help.

    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you for liking my site Jerome. I am here to help.

      Yes there are many ways that you can trace your military ancestors which I have shown here. I like to point out the FREE options that are available to you first before you go spending any money

      As I have stated in the post you will need to spend some money with genealogy. But it is always best to see what you ALREADY HAVE before you go spending your money.

  2. Mike Mahaffey

    Hi Owain
    I really appreciate this post.
    There’s a lot of really great information on locating info for my Genealogy on here.

    I’ve always been interested in the history of my own family, and have mostly compiled my own history merely by asking questions.

    I wasn’t familiar with fold3 at all, and have been thinking about starting to use Ancestry .com myself.

    Thanks for the inspiration

    1. Owain Post author

      Thanks for appreciating this post Mike. There is a lot of information out there online. But it is not always easy to find them or even know how to use them.

      I plan to cover researching your military ancestors more in future posts. So please stay tuned for them.

  3. Jessica

    I have recently been working on my genealogy on both Ancestory and FamilySearch and have come across a lot of interesting information regarding my ancestors. I am glad to know there are many ways to research and find information on military ancestors!

    1. Owain Post author

      There are many different kinds of records relating to our ancestors. And military records is just one of them that I have looked into. I thought it would be good to cover that here and show people the different ways to do so.


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