Family Tree Friday: Online RIPs for Military and Civilian records

The more we interact with the public, whether at national conferences or NARA-sponsored events such at the annual Genealogy Fair, the more we hear how much researchers would like to see our finding aids available online.  Well, this seems like a good opportunity to point out that two of our most popular genealogy Reference Information Papers (RIPs) are already available on NARA’s web site ( in pdf format!  These include RIP 109, Military Service Records at the National Archives and RIP 110, Using Civilian Records for Genealogical Research in the National Archives Washington,DC, Area.

Reference Information Paper 109

Reference Information Paper 109 provides a complete overview on how to research volunteer and regular enlisted men and officers in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.  (If you don’t recall the difference between volunteer and regular service, read about it in one of my earlier blog posts here).  In addition to basic enlistment and service records, RIP 109 discusses court-martial files, post and unit returns, deck logs, and pension files for service between 1775 and 1916.  More specialized topics also include draft records for the Civil War and 20th century service (World War I through Vietnam); POW records for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War; national homes for disabled volunteer soldiers; records regarding military burials and headstone applications; military medals; and information about modern military records at both the National Archives at College Park and the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Reference Information Paper 110

Reference Information Paper 110 covers a variety of federal records created by civilian agencies that are particularly useful for family research.  The major topics include the Federal census (including general population schedules, Soundex indexes, enumeration district maps, and nonpopulation schedules from 1850-80); immigration (available passenger manifests from the Customs and INS eras for East, Gulf, and Pacific coast ports as well as Canadian and Mexican border crossings, Alien files, crew lists, and records pertaining to the Chinese Exclusion Act); naturalization; passport and visa applications; seamen’s protection certificates; civilian federal employees (including information about application, recommendation, and appointment files, official personnel files, and the Official Register); and residents of the District of Columbia.  Basic records concerning ethnic research is covered as well, including records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Native Americans; the Freedmen’s Bureau and Southern Claims Commission for African Americans; and the War Relocation Authority for Japanese internees during World War II.

This of course is just a fast overview of what you can find in these two useful publications, so by all means check them out online to learn more information.  Both booklets are revised on a regular basis (in fact, the military RIP is due for a revision this year), and the most current versions are usually posted on the NARA web site, so stop by often or bookmark both publications for easy access as you conduct your genealogy research!


2 thoughts on “Family Tree Friday: Online RIPs for Military and Civilian records

  1. What is the best way to locate the service records of my father who served in WWII? I am aware he had several bronze stars and would like to know what he did to receive them, as well as any other decorations he might have had. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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