Dang, I wish I had covered this earlier. Ancestry.com has announced the U.S. Military Collection, which includes draft registration cards, POW records from several wars (including the War of 1812, the Civil War, and WWII), service records from the Revolutionary War, War of 1912, and the Civil War, and newsreels from WWII.
And as I mentioned access is free through June 6. The collection’s available at http://www.ancestry.com/military . Note you will have to have an account to access the materials (but accounts are free).
You can search by name, date of birth or death, war, and any keywords you can think of. (Since there is no option to search by state I found myself using state names for additional keywords.)
I had mixed results with this search. I tried a couple of relatives with very obvious names and got pretty good results. But when I tried to search for relatives with more common names, I quickly got frustrated — even narrowing down to one conflict, using keywords, etc, got a frustrating level of results. Ancestry.com gives the results a star ranking for how closely their results match your search — one to five stars. You have the option of filtering out results that match less than four stars, less than five stars, etc. DON’T DO IT. I had one search where the exact match I was looking for — the right guy, the first result — came up as a three star match and not five stars. I have no idea why.
Let’s assume you’re successful and you’ve found some service members for whom you’d like information. You can view the basic information immediately but to view all of it you’ll have to use Ancestry’s viewer. Ancestry has a basic viewer you can use but they’ll want you to use the advanced viewer. The advanced viewer allows you more viewing options (zooming etc.) but it’s not strictly necessary — the basic viewer works fine.
Information provided by the cards, rolls, etc varies depending on what they are. Most of them offer some kind of physical description as well as indication of occupation. All the ones I looked at were very readable, even with the basic viewer.
After spending a lot of time frustrated and trying to find people, I took a break and browsed through the collection of newsreels. You can search the reels by keyword or browse them by year. Each listed reel has a summary associated with it; you can also choose to view the entire thing as embedded video. WARNING: these newsreels have WAR FOOTAGE. Graphic and violent images abound.
Ancestry has indeed come up with a massive collection of information, and if you have any interest in genealogy at all I urge you to take advantage of the last couple of days of free access. You might need that long — the name search can be very very frustrating.
This post came from ResearchBuzz, a site with news and information about online data collections. Visit us at ResearchBuzz.com .