Military Ancestors

Val Greenwood on Military Records

By Joe Garonzik

After 30 years and three editions, why is Val Greenwood’s Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy still the most respected genealogy textbook? It is clear, to the point, and authoritative, to be sure, but Greenwood is also extremely resourceful. The following illustration from one of its two chapters on Military Records is a good example.

As Mr. Greenwood explains, “Many beginning genealogists overlook Revolutionary War records as a research source, mainly because they do not recognize valid clues.” If you are working on a pre-Revolutionary line and believe that your ancestor did not serve in the war, it’s possible that “a relative (maybe a brother) of the same surname did,” and the service or pension records on that veteran would provide data about your ancestors. On the other hand, if your ancestor was of age to serve but you have no definite knowledge that he did, “the possibility of service must certainly be considered.” Finally, “if a known ancestor was born in America anytime within the period beginning just before the war and ending two decades after it, you must consider the possibility that his (or her) father served, even though you may not know the father’s name.”genconmilitary

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy devotes two chapters to the subject of Military Records, and each chapter is full of resourceful tips and examples like the one above. The first chapter discusses the genealogy of the North American colonial wars and the American Revolution; the second, all subsequent Military Records. Although sorting through these records may seem like a complex task, Greenwood imposes order to the process by dividing all Military Records into service records and records of veterans’ benefits. For each conflict, he explains what the records are (e.g., invalid pension records, bounty lands, warrants, etc.), how they came into existence, where they can be found (in the original or on microfilm), and how to use them. The author also provides a bibliography of published genealogical sources arising out of each war. All in all, Greenwood’s treatment of Military Records is enough to make an expert out of you in the time it takes to read 30 pages.

For those about to plunge into military research, October—National Family History Month—is the perfect time! The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy is available in Genealogy Connect’s Getting Started collection. Contact your Gale Rep for more information about this comprehensive collection.


[alert-info]Joe Garonzik

About the Author

Joe Garonzik, Ph.D., MBA, is the Marketing Director for He has worked at the company for 34 years. His work involves book promotion, content acquisition, and new product development. Joe has represented (and its affiliates Genealogical Publishing Company and Clearfield Company) at genealogy conferences and trade shows over the course of his career. He is married with two grown children, and is of Eastern European descent.


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