In recognition of Memorial Day,Ancestry.com announced Thursday that it is offering the largest collection of searchable military records online at no charge to users through early June.
The company’s U.S. military collection, featuring more than 90 million names, captures all major wars and conflicts from American history over a span more than four centuries, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
Included among the collection’s more than 700 databases and titles and 37 million images of original and often personally autographed documents are draft registration cards, prisoner of war records and casualty listings. It is the only complete online collection of WWII United Newsreels from 1942 to 1945, according to Ancestry.com.
“So many of us have had an ancestor or a loved one sacrifice to serve our country, and some may not even be aware of their military heritage and how proud they should be of their forebears,” said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of the Generations Network, which owns Ancestry.com.
“This new military collection will offer Americans the opportunity to discover their military heritage and the role their own families played in forging this country,” Sullivan said. “We encourage everyone to create a family tree, upload photos and capture personal stories as a way of memorializing their ancestors and military history as our nation celebrates Memorial Day next week.”
At the turn of this century, there were roughly 28 million living veterans in this country, and nearly one-third of the nation’s population were potentially eligible for vet benefits and services, Kathleen Hinckley, executive director of the Association of Professional Genealogists, told TechNewsWorld.
“The odds are good that somewhere in a family there’s a military connection,” she said.
“Military records sometimes can give us not just basic information, but also the social history of a military action,” Hinckley said.
For example, Civil War records can show not only how a soldier enlisted and where he participated in the war, but also pension records after the war, personal Bible records and other valuable family information, she said.
The bulk of Ancestry.com’s records were digitized and indexed from original documents on microfilm at the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA). The company estimates that it spent about US$3 million digitizing the military collection, spokesperson Mike Ward told TechNewsWorld.
The collection will be available free of charge until June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. After that date, it will be accessible only to subscribers who pay a $155 per year subscription fee.
Ancestry.com already has about 760,000 subscribers, and 4.5 million unique visitors come to the site each month, Ward said.
Filling in the Family Tree
“Genealogists use military records every day in their research,” said D. Joshua Taylor, a genealogical researcher and author.
“They help us go beyond names and dates and provide us with clearer pictures of our ancestor’s lives,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Millions of Americans will use these records and learn of similarities between the lives of their ancestors and their own, while at the same time filling in one more piece of the puzzle of the their family tree.”