Tracing Immigrants Origin Military Records

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The Kaiser parades before his guards 1894.

For most countries, military records provide—

  • The birthplace or place of residence.
  • Names of parent(s), wife, or both.
  • Age.
  • Physical description.
  • Rank, promotions, and military service.
  • Occupation.

Military records can be a valuable tool for learning the origins of emigrants. However, most military records are not indexed, and they are often inaccessible or organized in a way that makes research impractical.

Military Service before Emigration. Military service was required of most young men in many countries. Although some emigrants left to avoid serving in the military, most emigrated after fulfilling their military duty. For this reason, and because they are usually kept by country, military records are often an excellent place to seek an emigrant's origin if you know only the country. For example, many British soldiers moved to Canada after their discharge. These records are in British sources. Many European military records have been microfilmed, including thousands of rolls of Austrian Empire records from the Vienna War Archives. The Austrian records include 673 rolls of individual muster sheets.

Generally you must know the soldier's regiment to search the records. Family records, such as photographs and certificates of military release, may prove an emigrant was in the military and identify which regiment. A useful reference for determining which British regiments were in certain places at certain times is—

  • Kitzmiller, John. In Search of the Forlorn Hope. 2 vols. Salt Lake City, Utah: Manuscript Publishing Co., 1988. (FHL book 942 M2kj.)

Emigration During Military Service. Some emigrants settled in a new country during or immediately after serving there in their homeland's military. Local histories may identify immigrants as former soldiers. In such cases, search the military records of the country of origin, specifically looking for references to deserters. A growing number of such references are being published. An excellent example is—

  • Hessische Truppen in Amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskreig (HETRINA) [Hessian Troops in the American Revolution]. 6 vols. Marburg, Germany: Institut für Archivwissenschaft, 1972-87. (FHL book 973 M2mg.)