Military Records Lectures

Researching your Civil War Ancestors: A Comprehensive Study:

Sectional differences and ideology tore apart the United States in April of 1861. This lecture separated in two parts is an in-depth examination of the various military records used to search for soldiers, sailors, and marines on both sides during this conflict. Compiled Service Records, Pensions, Draft Registrations, and related genealogical material is covered in this presentation. Civilian records covering the war period are also examined in both segments of this lecture.   This lecture continues and focuses on the other military branches outside of the United States Army; which includes the United States Navy, United States Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service; forerunners of the United States Coast Guard. Their Confederate counterparts in the Navy, and Marine Corps are also lectured on in detail.

Michael Strauss Civil War

Risking It All: Genealogical Research in the United States Life-Saving Service:

This unique organization can trace it’s roots to the early part of the 19th Century. Although, not officially recognized as a service the U.S. Life-Saving Service languished until 1871. By 1874, numerous stations were added along the coast of Maine, Massachusetts, and later along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In 1878, the network of life saving stations were formally organized as a separate agency of the United States Department of the Treasury, officially being called the Live-Saving Service until 1915 when they were incorporated with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard.  Discover your ancestors who served with this elite group of seafaring rescuers.

Roosevelt’s Tree Army: Genealogy Resources in the Civilian Conservation Corps:

The New Deal came in response to the great depression focusing on the “3 Rs” of Relief, Recovery, and Reform. Genealogists today can record the personal experiences of their ancestors in the various programs who lived through the Great Depression and sought help from the Federal Government. This class focuses on the personnel files held at the National Archives in St. Louis, MO records of persons who worked and served with the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 to 1942. This will include records from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland along with other research facilities. Some of the resources include personnel files, discharges papers, accident reports, camp strengths, photographs, and movie pictures. This lecture will conclude with a practical exercise researching personnel who followed in the footsteps in this needed New Deal era program.

That Splendid Little War: Genealogy Research in the Spanish-American War:

This conflict was a turning point in our nations history and transformed the United States from a developing nation into a global power.  Discover your ancestors that served in this conflict and those of the earlier Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the later Philippine Insurrection (1902-1916) as they were all connected by examining many different military resources to discover your family connections to these conflicts.

Confederate Raiders in Maine: The Capture & Destruction of the Revenue Cutter Caleb Cushing:

During the early morning hours of Saturday, June 27, 1863 the Revenue Cutter Caleb Cushing was hijacked from her homeport in Portland, Maine by Confederate privateers under the command of Lt. Charles W. Read. She was under full sail about twelve miles off the coast of Maine, when quickly intercepted by pursuing federal authorities. Read, who was not able to dodge his pursuers, chose to set fire to his prize and surrender.  In her final moments, the Caleb Cushing blew apart from the resulting magazine explosion and slid quickly beneath the waves.  The story of the Caleb Cushing is an appealing narrative, complete with all the key ingredients of a great story. It has elements of suspense, danger, and intrigue with traces of brazenness. It is the story about the only Revenue Cutter to be captured and destroyed during the Civil War, and the men who served on the cutter in the many months prior to her destruction.

Fighting Under the Maple Leaf: Researching Your Canadian Ancestors in World War I.

Often Called “The Great War” or “War to End All Wars” The Commonwealth of Canada entered the war in 1914 alongside Britain. This lecture focuses on records of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces; including the C.E.F. personal files, Commonwealth grave registry, Regimental Nominal Rolls, and American’s fighting for Canada during this conflict.

The Great War: Researching your World War I Ancestors:

World War I called “The Great War” or the “War to End All Wars” never come to light. The United States entered World War I in April of 1917 as it moved from an emerging power to a world power.  This lecture looks at the Official Military Personnel Files housed in St. Louis, Missouri to trace the footsteps of soldiers, sailors, and marines who saw military service during this war conflict. This research is not without its brick wall problems as many original records were lost or destroyed in the devastating fire in 1973.  This lecture focuses on those records to reconstruct the military service files of those most affected by this fire. By examining many other related genealogical resources finding your military ancestor can be done more effectively to fill in the gaps of your family history.

Free Trade and Sailors Rights: Genealogical Research in the War of 1812:

The War of 1812 often called “The Forgotten War” was our second domestic conflict with England. This lecture will begin with the causes that brought the United State into military conflict a second time with England.  Those records of genealogical importance including Compiled Service Records, Pensions, Bounty Land and other related material will be examined to place your ancestors into the pages of history. Also included are those records that relate to the United States Navy, Marines, and the Privateers that harassed the British shipping. This lecture concludes with a practical exercise meant to critically examine all of the documents and resources discussed in the lecture.

Researching Your Colonial War Ancestors

Involvement with local militia units was an important part in the life of your ancestors.  The militia provided for the common defense, and brought families together in times of crisis.  This lecture will focus on a wide variety of genealogical records covering from the early colonial period (in what would become the United States) to the end of the French and Indian War (otherwise known at the Seven Years War), in Europe covering the years of 1607-1763.  A number of other armed conflicts including; King Philips War, King George’s War, and the War of Jenkins Ear are some of the armed conflicts that will be highlighted.  Genealogical sources will include muster rolls, militia lists, pay documents, published books and manuscripts, and other related materials.

Revolutionary War Genealogical Research

This conflict arose over several years of tension between England and their North American colonies under the leadership of its local government. Tension escalated to violence when in 1775 shot were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts setting off an armed conflict that would by 1783 gain our Independence from England. This lecture will focus on a variety of genealogical and historical materials covering the War for Independence.  Some of the genealogical records that will be covered will include; compiled service records, pensions, and bounty land. Additional materials covering local militia lists and rolls, Navy and Marine Corps records, and the Continental Congress papers will be examined.  After the Revolutionary War ended officially in 1783, smaller armed conflicts including Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion will be studied as their historical impact as a result of the end of the war. Genealogists will find access to these materials both online and onsite at local repositories; this lecture will pay close attention to both research avenues.

Manifest Destiny: Researching Your Mexican War Ancestors: 

The Mexican-American War of 1846 marked the first United States conflict mostly fought on foreign soil. It would serve as a training and breeding ground for both officers and men who would fight each other in the upcoming Civil War fifteen years later. It pitted a militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of United States President James K. Polk, who believed in the ideology of “Manifest Destiny” or the 19th-century doctrine that the expansion of the United States westward  throughout the continent  was both warranted and inevitable. Get a new look at an old conflict as it is examined from a living history perspective. Records from the National Archives including Compiled Service Records, Pensions, Bounty Land, and other useful sources are examined in addition to regional and local records.  Other research sources examined during this lecture include details for ancestors who served in the United States Regular Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Semper Paratus: Genealogical Resesarch in the U.S. Coast Guard:

The Revenue Cutter Service, the oldest active seagoing service in the United States can trace their origins to an act of Congress that became law on August 4, 1790 that authorized the Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton to fit out cutters to be employed for protection of revenue. Originally called the Revenue Cutter Service (or Revenue Marines) they were  first envisioned as a force of revenue tax collectors, their ability to conduct many diverse missions, some simultaneously, during both peacetime and war became the hallmark of the service. Interestingly, one editor of the Army and Navy Journal in the November 26, 1864 issue not only recognized the value and potential of this unique organization, but also unknowingly predicted both the motto “Semper Paratus” and the future name of the Coast Guard intended for it in 1915 when this service officially became the U.S. Coast Guard.  Discover your family members who may have served in this organization.

Research your World War II Ancestors:

With the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 the United States entered another global military conflict. From the front lines to the home front most Americans lent their full support to defeat the Axis powers. This lecture examines the Official Military Personnel Files housed in St. Louis, Missouri to learn about the soldiers, sailors, and marines who saw military service during this war conflict. Many original records of the United States Army were lost or destroyed in the devastating fire in 1973.  This lecture takes on the challenge to reconstruct the military service files of those most affected by this fire. By examining other resources including; World War II Draft Registrations, Submarine War Patrol Reports, and Missing Air Crew Reports will serve as a way to finding your military ancestors who served in this conflict.

Uniforms, Medals, and Memorabilia: Military Resources Discovered:

This lecture focuses on each of the  military branches, including the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard in discovering the uniform regulations, and medals associated with each branch, along with memorabilia such as broadsides, and other great resources.  Additionally, the records from the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Lighthouse Service are examined to show information from lesser known organizations.

Aiding Those in Peril at Sea: Finding your Ancestors in the United States Light House Service:

Discover your ancestors who may have served in this venerable organization.  Deeply rooted in tradition and folklore, the United States Light House Service history stretches back more than two centuries when formed under the leadership of President George Washington.  Follow the history of the service during the nineteenth century as it was under the heading of the light house board and later as the light-house service until 1939 when it was incorporated into the United States Coast Guard.  Many fascinating and historical documents and other records from log entries to light house keeper records will enable researchers to record the history of their ancestors who service in this lesser known Federal branch of service.

Modern Military Genealogy Research: Korean and Vietnam Wars: 

The Korean and Vietnam Wars both failed to contain the spread of communism. Both countries were divided geographically as the United States came to the aid of one half of the fighting factions to do battle against the other half. This lecture focuses on conducting genealogical research on family members who served in either military conflict. Twentieth century military research is not without its rewards.  The same fire which in St. Louis, Missouri in 1973 that affected both of the World War records also shaped the availability of documents covering both of the later conflicts from the 1950’s to 1960’s.  With the loss of records in the,  and stricter privacy laws in place, getting around these obstacles is the priority to unlocking the treasures of records available. This lecture examines and focuses on those records from the National Personal Record Center and will provide details that will reconstruct military service for your family members who served their country during the Korean War and later Vietnam War that may have been destroyed through other related sources of genealogical materials.

Refugees, Claims, and Conscription: Researching Your Ancestors During the Reconstruction Era: 

With the end of the Civil War in 1865 the United States turned to mend the sectional differences that had separated our country and caused four years of bloody war. This new era known to historians as the Reconstruction Era ran from 1865-1876 with the withdraw of Federal Troops from the South.  Discover many little known and used military and civilian genealogical records and resources that have come from  this unique period of history. Records from the Freedman’s Bureau to the Amnesty Papers are only a small portion of what genealogy records exist today.  Find branches on your family tree that have been shrouded in mystery.

Deeds Not Words: Genealogy Research In the Merchant Marines: 

The Merchant Marines have always played an important role in American history. Without their efforts and sacrifice our armed conflicts of the twentieth century could have come out quite different. Dating from the earliest of years before the United States existed as a Nation.  Not an official organization during times of conflict until the years preceding World War I when on September 7, 1916 our Federal Government established an emergency agency (called the United States Shipping Board) under the Shipping Act of that year.  This initial loose organization by June 20, 1936 became part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936; thus the Merchant Marine was officially born. This lecture focuses on those genealogical and historical materials including official personnel files, shipping logs, and Licensing of Merchant Marine Officers. This class will also include finding records at the National Archives and the Merchant Marine Archives in Martinsburg, WV.

Rebel Leathernecks: Researching Your Confederate Marine Corps Ancestor

Research your ancestors who may have served the Confederacy  during the Civil War.  The Confederate Marine Corps-a part of the Navy was established by Congress March 16, 1861.  Initially authorized for less than a thousand men, later by September of 1862, the service employed additional soldiers within their ranks.  The Marines saw various action throughout the war serving along the eastern seaboard.  By war’s end those that remained were serving in defense of the city of Richmond, Virginia at the time of surrender.  Discover some great untapped resources awaiting you in primary records for this relatively unknown branch of the military.


Mexican War Drill-Wilmington, NC in 2010