Friday, November 11, 2005

Research Note: Veterans Information

As I noted in the earlier post, millions of Americans have served in the military and every family has several veterans. So veterans records are a rich source of genealogical information. This note is about some lesser known pathways to those sources.


The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains most (but not all) national cemeteries in the United States. The VA's searchable site here contains a wealth of information about veterans interred in the VA-maintained national cemeteries. In addition to veterans, spouses and minor children of veterans may be buried in VA cemeteries, so don't overlook that possibility.

If you can't find a record of a death in the United States, it may be that the person is among the 125,000 Americans interred in overseas cemeteries maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The ABMC searchable site doesn't provide quite as much information as the VA site, but it's enough to lead to other information.

Enlistment and Other Government Records

The National Archives and Records Administration has available online records of enlistment in the Army for World War II as well as records of prisoners of war during World War II. The Archives also have records of casualties in Vietnam and Korea; records of prisoners of war and those missing in action in Vietnam and Korea; and records of awards and decorations in Vietnam. The records are available through the Archives' Access to Archival Databases.

Private Sites

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has a searchable online database of the names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The site, "The Virtual Wall," is information rich and graphically attractive.

There are several sites that purport to have records of veterans. A lot of these sites have particular commercial interests and some have questionable information. The best site I've found is Its "Buddy Finder" feature has records obtained from the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act. also allows individuals to post their own profiles. I would alert potential users to the following issues with this site. First, there are a lot of duplicate records posted there. Second, as the site itself warns, they don't update what they get from the Government very often. Then there seem to be a few technical glitches. So for example, when I searched for my information, I first got a record with info that's outdated by five years. Then I searched a few minutes later and two different records, both outdated, turned up. But on balance, the site's info provides a good starting place to find living veterans. That's how I made the estimates of the numbers of Marine Corps veterans in yesterday's post.

Some Veterans Day Links

Aransas County (Tex.) World War II Veterans
I extracted and edited this data from the NARA site described above. My dad was born in Aransas County and at various times members of the Bowie, Bryant, and Manson families lived there.

Brayboys in World War II
Also extracted from the NARA website.

No comments: