Ancestry Records – The Value of Military Documents as Ancestry Records

As ancestry records, Military documents are often overlooked by beginning genealogists, who want to get right into the meat of finding Vital Statistics. But these precious genealogical gems can be invaluable to an ancestors search. There are many different types of Military documents that can be used as ancestry records, so for the purpose of instruction, I’ll focus on one particular type. This should give you a clear view as to the value of military documents as ancestry records.

WWI RAF (Royal Air Force) Documents as Ancestry Records

I’m going to use RAF records from the First World War to illustrate the value of military documents as ancestry records. These records include data on, not just pilots, but ground crew as well. At the outbreak of WWI, the Royal air Force had a mere 1900 men in its service. By war’s end however, that number had risen to over 300,000, and all of their personal and military information has been recorded.

What Do These Potential Ancestry Records Contain?

Called the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in its early days, the Royal Air Force was affiliated with the British Army. Hence, if an officer of the Corps died or was discharged before the creation of the RAF, his records will rest with the Army, which can be found at the British National Archives in a separate database. Those officers who joined later, numbering over 25,000 by the end of the war have their data recorded by the RAF, and consequently their records are indexed as such, also at the National Archives.

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The potential ancestry records of these soldiers can yield much information of genealogical value. Such information would include:

  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Next of Kin
  • Military Rank
  • Where Enlisted
  • Where Discharged

As you can see, these ancestry records can be of immense value if you lost track of your ancestor during this period of time. You could pick up the trail where he was discharged or enrolled, and even find out if he was retired or deceased.

Where to Find These Valuable Ancestry Records

Usually these precious ancestry records can be found at the National Archives of the country in whose military your ancestor served. US Military Records are contained in huge databases of military records ranging from the Civil war to present. These ancestry records include Casualty Lists, Military Personnel Files, POW Lists, and Enlistment Records to name a few.

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British Military Archives has an extensive catalogue of both Civil and Military ancestry records. Canadian genealogists will find a wealth of information at Collections Canada, which has a very informative genealogy section from which you can find ancestors who served in the military ranging from pre-1914 to present.

Many of these National Archives websites have a special section for genealogists, which make them especially helpful when searching ancestors. They are easy to use and well explained, the only problem you may encounter is in understanding the military jargon and acronyms used in these ancestry records. Don’t dismay however, as sites as the Canadian one have a special section explaining just that.

How to Search Ancestry Records at National Archives

When searching, begin by using a first and last name along with the date of birth if you have it. Sometimes however, the birth date is omitted in military documents, so if you get no returns, try again using just the name. Another search trick to use is to enter only a first initial instead of a full name. Occasionally a name may be misspelt when being entered into record, so only entering an initial will allow you to overcome that potential obstacle.

Military documents are an important aspect of genealogical research, and can even help you to find your ancestors for free. These ancestry records are usually very reliable due to the meticulous nature of the military in keeping records, and they can help you to find ancestors for free. Don’t overlook these particular ancestry records, particularly if you’re a beginner; in fact, they are instead a really good place to start!

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