Charles F. Smith’s Civil War Pension application includes Smith’s statement sworn before a Notary Public. The Notary recorded that Charles F. Smith was born 5 October 1844; and “That the evidence upon which he founds the statement of the date of his birth is the ‘family record’ torn by him from the family bible many years ago, which record he states is in the handwriting of his father Jonathan Smith; and that such record was originally written to show the date of birth to be 5 October 1843, but prior to being removed from the family bible was altered so as to read 1844; That his father told him that the correct date of his birth was 5 October 1843, but other members of the family contended that October 5th 1844 was the real date.”
The application names Smith’s his wife, Elizabeth Springstead, the date and place of their marriage on 8 February 1866 at Forest, Ont[ario], the fact that a marriage certificate existed, that Charles was not previously married, and that he had six children: Chas Leslie born 26 January 1868, Lillian born 16 June 1870, Bertha born 6 December 1874, Adrian Oleo born 26 January 1880, Herbert Floyd born 9 August 1882, and Louisa born 11 November 1884.
Wouldn’t you love to find a record like that about your ancestor? One just may exist, but how do you know what to look for and how to find it?
There are several types of military records that are generic for many wars. You ancestor may be found in only one of these records or all of them. You should search them all as each may provide details about your ancestor you will only find in that one document.
- Census records: The 1840, 1890, and 1910 U.S. censuses specify whether the individual was a veteran or pensioner. The 1840 asked for the age of Revolutionary War pensioners. The 1890 Veterans Schedule asked if the person served during the Civil War in the Union or Confederate army, as a soldier, sailor, or marine, or if a widow of a veteran. The 1910 U.S. census asked if the person was a veteran of the Union or Confederate military. The 1930 lists the war the person served.
- Service records: These may include enlistment papers, discharge papers, compiled service records, pay rolls, prisoner-of-war records, etc. Service records help determine a soldier’s military unit. Compiled Service Records have been gathered for soldiers serving in volunteer units from 1775 to 1902. The information from muster rolls, pay lists, prison registers, etc., has been abstracted and compiled onto cards. The card includes the soldier’s name, place of birth, rank, military unit, place of enlistment, age at enlistment, etc.
- Pension records: Pensions were awarded to disabled or needy veterans, their widows, or if unmarried, to their mothers. These records may include the soldier’s name, age, birth date, and place, names of children, death date and place, spouse’s name, date and place of marriage, military unit, physical description, and residence.
- Bounty land warrants: Bounty Lands were awarded for military service in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Indian Wars between 1790–1855. These records may include the soldier’s military unit, length of service, place of residence, and age. If the veteran died before receiving his warrant, his heirs could claim it. Thus, there could be genealogical information proving the heirs’ right to the land.
- Cemetery records (beginning in 1862): The Department of Veterans Affairs has a Nationwide Gravesite Locator for veterans buried in national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, as well as private cemeteries where the grave is marked with a government grave marker.
- Draft Registration: The draft cards available today include both World War I and World War II. These cards are valuable whether the man entered the service or not. Draft registration cards are available at Ancestry.com
Now that you know the types of records that may exist for your ancestor, it’s time to start searching for them.
What records will you search?
Related posts: Military Records 101
 Charles F. Smith (Pvt., Co. E, 2nd Michigan Infantry, Civil War) pension no. S.C. 158,133; Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861–1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
 Bounty land application for Jonathan Smith of Bosanquet, Ontario, 18 April 1855; Jonathan Smith (Sgt., Rowley’s Co., Blakesly’s Regt., War of 1812) bounty land warrant file 19,942; Case Files of Pension and Bounty Land Applications Based on Service between 1812 and 1855; Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800–1960; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.