This is a great time to research the soldiers in your family tree. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas give you lots of opportunities to do a little questioning. Be sure to ask the senior citizens at the holiday table about any members of the family who may have served in the armed forces. This is usually a fascinating topic for the younger generation at the table, especially since Vietnam and Korea are “ancient history” to them!
There are lots of new resources on line now, too. Ancestry.com has just released a set of military burial indexes and documents related to headstone applications. See this link: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3135 A quick look at these data bases will lead you to veteran’s names, and that can lead you to investigating pension records and muster rolls at Fold3.com (Fold3 is a spinoff of the Ancestry.com website, specializing in military records).
There is a free online video at Fold3 to help you get started looking for records, just check out the link at the bottom of the homepage. There is another free online video by Ancestry that shows how to use their online military records: http://www.livestream.com/ancestry/video?clipId=pla_4a300568-7113-4409-923c-ac1b2987dff3&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb
For more research on the veterans in your family, consider a short trip to the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, Massachusetts. The NARA facility is located at 380 Trapelo Road. The trained staff can help you look up records and give advice on researching your veteran ancestors.
Don’t forget that FamilySearch, the free online website hosted by the LDS church, offers many military records, especially Civil War records like pension files, enlistments, and muster rolls, as well as WWI and WWII draft registration cards. It’s exciting to see your great grandfather’s WWI draft card filled out in his own handwriting, even if he never was drafted or never volunteered for military service.
Both Ancestry and Fold3 sometimes offer free peeks at their massive online databases over Veteran’s Day weekend. Be sure to take advantage of this free offer if you see it. If you find you need more time with the database, the local public libraries in this area offer free access to Ancestry, and some offer Fold3 and GenealogyBank, too. Just ask the reference librarian which databases are available. If you need more access to these online resources you can consider a one-month subscription. Look for offers of reductions to genealogy subscriptions as the holidays approach. A subscription to an online genealogy website might be a good request for Santa Claus, too!
National Archives www.archives.org