by Cara Meadows
Following on from this important article on the release of the 1940 US Census here, Ancestry.com has paved the way for even more in-depth family history research with the release of a set of vitally important War Service Records dating from as far back as 1850. These records are a great and vital resource to anyone wanting to trace the more recent history of their ancestors and also trace the military pasts of their forebears much further back.
With Family History, Genealogy and Military History in particular becoming an increasingly popular hobby for many people, researchers are opting to take genealogical vacations in different countries rather than other pursuits such as going on a Mediterranean Cruise or a long beach vacation somewhere. This rise in popularity has seen a concurrent rise in demand for online services and also increasing access to archives and repositories all over the US.
New Record Releases
The US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem) Death Records contain some 14,465,024 entries starting in the year 1850 and coming as far forward as 2010.
This should be a great help to anyone searching for ancestors who served with the US Army during the various conflicts during the one hundred and sixty year period that these records span.
These documents scanned and uploaded to the Ancestry website include information on deceased individuals who received benefits from the Veteran’s Administration whilst they were still alive. The information also relates to service personnel who received educational benefits and those who simply made applications and may or may not have followed them through.
What Information Is Contained In The BIRLS?
1.) Name – Which can be cross referenced with the Social Security Death Index.
3.) Date of Birth
4.) Date of Death
5.) Social Security Number
6.) Cause of Death
7.) Branches of Service
8.) Enlistment Date or Dates
9.) Release Dates
It is worth pointing out that in the case of more recent Social Security numbers, if the deceased party died within the last ten years then the number will not be visible online. If the person being researched died before Social Security Numbers came into existence then it is likely that the number assigned to them on the record may well belong to either a spouse or child of the veteran – therefore when records are cross referenced you may get the name of a different person.
What Other New Military Records Are Available?
Updated and related record searches include the uploading of the US World War Two Army Enlistment Records from 1938-1946 which contain the information of some 8.3 million servicemen who enlisted during this period. The information contained within these records is usually:
2.) Army Serial Number
3.) Residence (County and State)
4.) Place of Enlistment
5.) Enlistment Date
7.) Army Branch
9.) Term of Enlistment
11.) Year of Birth
12.) Race and Citizenship
13.) Height and Weight
15.) Marital Status
It is worth noting that not all the information is yet complete and not all details for all service personnel are available, as with many of these records uploading and checking is an ongoing process.
Other searchable records include US Draft Registration Cards for World War Two – containing information pertaining to the Fourth Registration only. The Fourth Registration is currently the only set of records viewable to the public. These records were made in 1942 and registered men who were between forty five and sixty five years of age who were not already in Military Service. Information in these cards includes:
1.) Name of Registrant
3.) Birth date
6.) Employer Information
7.) Name and address of Next Of Kin.
8.) Physical Characteristics of Soldier
The records are indexed and searchable – for some states such as Arkansas, California, Indiana, New York and Ohio; the records are not yet fully uploaded but will be completed at some stage this year. Unfortunately, the records for some states were destroyed completely and are therefore, disappointingly, unavailable.
These databases provide a wealth of information and very important statistics on service personnel and as a Genealogical resource should never be ignored or discounted, the little details they provide can make a world of difference to the researcher in expanding the branches on their family trees and can also open up new areas of interest and discovery.
Bio: Cara Meadows is a writer and researcher living in London. She has five years experience in the industry and has spent a lot of time traveling with her job. She specializes in publishing and marketing but is happy to write about just about anything.