Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Letter To All Navy & Army Researchers.

A few weeks ago I did a page on the navy Cooks, but found very little information on them so I wrote to the Navy Historical Center, and received the following letter. I know you army researcher are asking what’s this got to do with the army? Well, what is stated in this letter also goes for the army. There are no national register for the Army or Navy, well I will take that back, the first national register for the navy came around 1798, but was for captains only. The first register for the army came around 1812, there were a few before that, but only listed a few officers.

The full National Register for the Army came around 1816, and covered most departments and covered 45, regiments, then the register was cut to 8, regiments then finely to 7, regiments. The first full National Register of the Navy came around 1812, and listed more departments then one could think of, but was for manly officers.

Both the Army and Navy register have the same thing in common, and that is they came out each year, but there are a few years missing here and there for unknown reasons, and neither registers lists any enlisted men only officers. Now you Militia researcher the information in this letter goes for you as will. I hope this letter will help you understand why it’s so hard to find information on your ancestor.


The Navy & Army did not maintain comprehensive registers of enlisted men in the 18th and 19th centuries, rather only muster rolls for ships & regiments and some other establishments. Therefore, a list of Navy & Army enlisted men for that period would have to be compiled from the muster rolls. The principal problem with doing this research, beyond the obvious consumption of time and possibly money to obtain copies of the muster rolls, is that the muster rolls themselves have gaps in their coverage resulting from a variety of things, including loss of documents and the lack of a systematic archival system in the Federal government until 1934, poor storage of documents leading to their deterioration and destruction, etc. Therefore, the research will not yield a truly complete list. Such a list, of course, could be supplemented from primary sources of a personal nature, such as diaries and letters, but the list still would not be complete.

With these caveats set forth, I direct you to the agency that holds the muster rolls:

National Archives and Records Administration Old Military and Civil Branch 700 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC 20408-0001.

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