Genealogy Geek, Part 4: Search for Veterans’ Military Histories on Ancestry’s Fold3

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Image: Fold3.com
Image: Fold3.com

With Veterans Day this week, many of us are focusing on remembering those who have served in the military. Both of my grandfathers were in the Army during World War II, and I have other ancestors who fought in the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the Revolutionary War. But for people who don’t know how to navigate the system, it can be hard to find information to add to one’s family history about ancestors’ time in the military.

Fold3.com is a website attached to, but also separate from, Ancestry.com, kind of like Newspapers.com that I profiled last week. They focus on military history, including records, photos, and plenty of special aspects.

Various papers from the Civil War. Image: Fold3.com
Various papers from the Civil War. Image: Fold3.com

Having digitized records from the American Revolutionary War up through recent wars, this website is a bit of a one stop shop for beginning your military history research. There are even records from British Commonwealth countries, such as the UK and Australia.

What kinds of records can you find?

There are more types of documents than I can list, but here is a sample: Operation Journals for World War I, lists of officers from the UK’s Navy, WWI Medals Rolls, military books, Distinguished Conduct Medals, a military phone directory, War of 1812 Pension Files (you can also help with digitizing these at Preserve the Pensions), panoramic photos from WWI, headstone applications, muster rolls, Bomb Group Records, personal papers, confidential correspondence, Infantry Division Records, Medal of Honor recipients, Mathew Brady’s Civil War photos, and many more.

Image: Fold3.com
Image: Fold3.com

Browse the records on Fold3, or search for specific information. If your ancestor fought in a war, you can narrow your search by conflict. There are also records not attached to a given war, such as records on the Amistad, George Washington’s correspondence, and Bayland Orphan Home Records. Other non-military records include passport applications and city directories. If your search turns up little or nothing, you can also save the search to watch for new results.

Many of these records are available for free, but a lot of them are only available with a paid subscription, which can be done monthly or annually, or you can gain complete access to all of Ancestry’s sites with the All Access Membership. But with the free account, you can still do plenty.

With or without a paid membership, you can create your own memorial pages for your veteran loved ones, you can search through and browse all images, you can upload images to your own gallery, annotate other members’ images, search member images, and more.

Which brings me to some of the special features of Fold3.com. Past the individual searches, there are some specialized areas of the site.

My paternal grandfather. Screenshot from Fold3.com
My paternal grandfather. Screenshot from Fold3.com

The U.S. Honor Wall honors veterans from every conflict that the United States has participated in. Search for people you know, loved ones, and ancestors, or add your own listings. Share your memories and facts about other veterans listed, and connect with other people who visit the site. I found records for both of my grandfathers who were in the Army in World War II. Each of them only had enlistment record information, but I was able to upload photos of each of them, connect them to my account, and add those records to my Ancestry tree. I, or anyone, can also add stories about them, and honor their service in whatever way you like. Also, clicking on “Find More Records” for each of them brought up links to hundreds of thousands of possible matching records, on all three sites. Like Newspapers.com, Fold3.com is well integrated with Ancestry.com, and you can save any record to your Ancestry family trees with the click of a button.

The Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial shows all 58,000+ names on the Wall, which you can navigate through and interact with. Search the wall for a name, or browse through them. So many people have left annotations and memories of those lost too soon. Feel free to add yours. The page also has plenty of links to other Vietnam-related resources.

There is also an Interactive USS Arizona Memorial, honoring those lost during the attack on Pearl Habor. Search through the records and leave a tribute.

All Fold3 users can create a Memorial Page for a veteran. Include photos, records, personal details, and stories, and connect the page to military records found on the site. Collaborate with family members, and honor veterans by sharing stories with others.

A pension page from my Civil War ancestor, Jeremiah Mosher Sample. Screenshot from Fold3.com.
A pension page from my Civil War ancestor, Jeremiah Mosher Sample. Screenshot from Fold3.com.

If you get lost and aren’t sure what to do next, there are plenty of helpful tutorials, and Ancestry Academy has a free course you can take to show you what materials are available and how to find what you need.

It seems that anyone can edit these records, so please take care to only share accurate information.

So, if your family history research includes any United States or even British Commonwealth veterans (which is quite a lot of us), check out Fold3.com for targeted search and plenty of resources.

(Check out Part I of this series, Ancestry.com Continues to Expand and Deliver, Part II, Ancestry Academy Teaches You Tips and Helps You Unlock Treasures, and Part III, Return of the Genealogy Geek, Part 3: The 1940 Census and Newspapers.com.)

Note: I was given access to Ancestry.com’s databases and sister sites for the purposes of these reviews.

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