Have you ever tried to navigate the National Archives and felt just a little overwhelmed? Me, too. Yes, the National Archives is a wonderful national treasure, and the documents there are without compare. However, simply because there are SO many records, it can be a challenge for the uninitiated to find their way around.
The good news is that there are lots of finding aids and guides published by the National Archives, just waiting for us to pick them up and make good use of them. You say you’ve tried this with no luck? Okay, I have a tool just for you.
I found the most wonderful website – that was custom tailored for you and me. The good genealogists at the Mount Vernon Genealogy Society have taken all of the National Archives (NARA) military guides – inclusive of all US conflicts and made the searching and finding super, super easy. There are 49 military guides in pdf format (easy to access with an Adobe PDF reader – free to download).
Each guide focuses on one set of records generally organized by military conflict and then type of service. For example you’ll find Revolutionary War, Black Hawk War, Bounty Land for 1812 and Mexican War, Civil War Confederates and Union records.
Then within each guide there will be an executive summary on the type and nature of the records. This is the legislation that was the impetus for the records, the date and time span of the records, and who the recipients were of the records – be they service, pension or bounty land.
For example, image looking for records on the USCT (US Colored Troops) service during the Civil War. You could turn to the ARC (giant card catalog on www.archives.gov), OR you could zip to the NARA guides RR# 923 & #101 linked to this site. And this document would provide everything you wanted to know about what records and where to find them for the USCT. Additionally, you’ll find finding aids lists such as published indexes or preliminary inventories for the record groups described. I must say, it could not be easier!
Then your task becomes determining where those records are located for easy research. And your options would include www.ancestry.com, www.fold3.com, regional libraries, the Family History Library or the National Archives.
Good luck with your research. Comment back and let me know how it’s going!