Military service and pension records can offer an intimate glimpse into the life of an ancestor. Service records often include a physical description of the individual and list the battles they may have fought in. Pension records can provide a wealth of details about the veteran such as the names of his wife and children, date of marriage, service-related injuries, and places where he lived before and after service.
While the Society is not an official repository for original military personnel records, it does have books and rolls of microfilm that include lists of soldiers’ names, biographies of military service members, and reports of military activities.
The Society’s website has a newspaper index to subjects and individuals’ names. At this time, the index includes St. Louis newspapers dated, 1808-1828, which can be helpful in locating items concerning early Indian wars and the War of 1812. The index also includes the Liberty Tribune, 1843-1869, and the Columbia Missouri Statesman, 1844-1885, which are useful for Mexican War and Civil War research.
The Society has microfilmed indexes to the following records held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.: Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files, Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858; Index to "Old War" Pension Files, 1815-1926; and Index to Mexican War Pension Files, 1846-1848. All of these are arranged alphabetically by surname of pensioner or applicant.
The 1890 Missouri Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Their Widows, a printed index to the special census of 1890 microfilm, is also available. This index contains mostly Union veterans, but some Confederates are also listed. It covers veterans living in all Missouri counties except Daviess, DeKalb, Dodge, Gentry, and Van Buren.
Researchers can search the Society’s print collection through the University of Missouri’s online card catalog MERLIN for regimental histories, Adjutant Generals’ reports, military rosters, and muster rolls as well as lists of personnel, official government publications, and publications compiled by patriotic organizations. Annual reports from the Confederate Veterans and the Ex-Confederates Associations often contain lists of men who died during the year and/or joined during the year. The Confederate Veteran magazine (1894-1932) contains many names of soldiers from all over the United States and it is indexed. The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies contains letters and reports that are particularly useful for tracing activities of military units. The 128 volume set is indexed. The indexed Missouri Historical Review may contain or refer to articles about battles and biographies of specific individuals. The Society's publication policies apply to this material, and so, some items may be photocopied only in part and some not at all.
The following sources are on microfilm and may be borrowed through interlibrary loan: Missouri Adjutant General Reports for the years 1861-65, 1897-98, 1915-16, and 1917-20 (three rolls, poorly indexed); and Missouri Confederates: A Microfilm Collection of Lists of Confederate Men Taken from Various Sources in the State Historical Society of Missouri (one roll, not indexed).
Several Civil War indexes are available for sale from the SHSMO. They include Missouri Union Burials: Missouri Units and the 2 volume set Selected Union Burials: Missouri Units, which list burial places of some Union soldiers who fought in Missouri units. The index Grand Army of the Republic--Missouri Division--Index to Death Rolls, 1882-1940 lists deaths of about 10,000 Union veterans who died in Missouri between 1882 and 1940. The book Index of Residents, State Federal Soldiers’ Home of Missouri, St. James shows names of Union veterans and their wives or widows who went to live at the home during their final years. Our Index to Missouri Military Pensioners, 1883 gives names, counties, and federal pension certificate numbers for all disabled Union veterans and widows who were receiving a pension as of January, 1883. For more information on these and other books produced by the State Historical Society of Missouri, see the Society’s publications page.
Complete records of men and women who served in Missouri units from 1812-1940 are stored at the Missouri State Archives. Two indexes are available online: World War I Military Service Cards Database and Missouri's Union Provost Marshal Papers, 1861-1866. When requesting a search for records give as much information as possible concerning the individual. For a Civil War record state whether service was Union or Confederate.
Records of men and women who served in Missouri units after 1940 may be obtained from the archivist of the Adjutant General of Missouri, 2302 Militia Drive, Jefferson City, MO, 65101. When making a request, provide the full name of the person and all known details, such as place of residence, birth and death dates, dates of service, and name of unit, if known.
Headstones usually give the year of birth and death or the full birth and death dates which may assist genealogists in locating newspaper obituaries. The Society has a large collection of indexed cemetery inscriptions from all over the state but not all Missouri burials will be found in the transcriptions. Small family plots in remote places such as farmers’ fields are easily missed even by the most dedicated cemetery book compilers. Of the cemeteries that were surveyed, some included headstones that could no longer be read as they had disintegrated into rubble. Also, individuals often chose to mark their graves in unconventional ways or financial hardships necessitated such practices. We have one account of an old woman whose grave was marked by her cast iron kettle. Nevertheless, most Society patrons can make progress by using our cemetery inscription book collection.
Federal military service and pension records may be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration for a fee. Researchers can find more information about ordering military service and pension records on the National Archives website.
Many more recent records are at the branches of the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (MPRC) in St. Louis, as follows:
In July, 1973 a fire at the MPRC destroyed about 80% of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75% of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard through “Z,” discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964, were destroyed. Some alternate information may be obtained from records in the various state offices of the Adjutant General and in the offices of veteran service, military, and patriotic organizations.