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War of 1812 Pension Files Update

January 16, 2019 by | 23 Comments

“P” is for Pension File…and patience! We’re almost through digitizing the P’s in our 1812 Pension Files (can’t wait for Q-Z) and we’re excited about our growing War of 1812 Pension Files collection.

Pension files are a rich source for military and genealogical research. In 1813 and 1816, Congress approved a military pension for soldiers who served between 1812 and 1815 and suffered a disability or death.

In 1871 and 1878, Congress expanded the pensions to include more veterans. The 1871 act allowed men who had served at least 60 days during the war to draw a pension. Their widows were eligible as long as the marriage had taken place before the end of the war. The 1878 act expanded the pensions further to apply to veterans who had served 14 days in the war or any engagement, and to their widows, regardless of when the marriage occurred.

A veteran’s pension often includes his rank, place of residence, age or date of birth, and time of service. A widow’s application usually includes her place of residence, her maiden name, date, and place of marriage, circumstances of her husband’s death, and the names of children under 16.

In a few instances, the files even contain a tintype photograph of the veteran. Such is the case with William Perry. His file is 55 pages long and contains a gold mine of information including pages from his family bible showing births and deaths, and even a summons to appear before the Justice of the Peace for failure to pay a debt of $1.50.

In contrast, Malinda Hadley filed for a widow’s pension 25 years after the death of her husband Simeon. Her file is just six pages long and includes her rejected application because no record of Simeon’s purported militia group existed.

Our War of 1812 Pension Files collection are organized by state or organization, and then by the soldier’s surname and given name. The process for digitizing the pension files is painstaking and time-consuming. We will keep adding to the collection until it is complete. If you don’t see your ancestor’s pension file, keep checking back!

Get started searching our War of 1812 Pension Files on Fold3 today!

January 17, 1944: The Battle of Monte Cassino Begins

January 1, 2019 by | 148 Comments

In January 1944, one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Italian Campaign of WWII began at Monte Cassino. Monte Cassino was an ancient Benedictine abbey that towered over the city of Cassino. Sometimes referred to as the Battle of Rome, the Battle of Monte Cassino consisted of a series of four assaults by Allied forces against the defensive German Gustav Line. Before German troops retreated, the conflict claimed the lives of 55,000 Allied soldiers and destroyed the cultural treasure of Monte Cassino.

Allied forces landed in the Italian peninsula in September 1943. The Apennine Mountains divided the peninsula and Allied troops split and advanced on both sides. They took control of Naples and continued the push towards Rome.

Monte Cassino was the gateway to Rome, about 80 miles away. It provided unobstructed views of the area. German troops occupied lookouts on the hillside but agreed to stay out of the abbey because of its historical importance. The precious manuscripts and antiquities housed in the abbey had been removed to Vatican City for safekeeping (although some works of art were stolen by German troops and transported north).

The first phase of the operation began on January 17th with an Allied attack on German positions. Thomas E. McCall, a farm boy from Indiana, found himself in the crosshairs of the battle. On January 22, 1944, during heavy fighting, he was accidentally struck by friendly fire. Presumed dead, McCall was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Unbeknownst to his unit, McCall was alive but wounded. He became a German POW and spent the next 18 months in makeshift hospitals. “They didn’t even have an aspirin to give you,” he said. “There were no pain-killing drugs for either the Germans or us. The surgeon had a handful of tools and two or three other guys would hold you down while he operated on you.” McCall was eventually liberated and earned the distinction of being one of the few posthumous Medal of Honor recipients that lived to tell about it.

By early February, Allies reached a hill just below the abbey. Some reports suggested Germany might be using the abbey as an artillery observation point, resulting in a controversial decision to destroy the abbey. On February 15th, 1,150 tons of bombs rained down on the abbey reducing it to rubble. German forces quickly took up position in the ruins, utilizing its vantage point to prevent Allies from advancing.

A third offensive began in March with heavy attacks in the town of Cassino, but tenacious German forces held their position. The fourth and final assault, known as Operation Diadem, began on May 11th and included attacks from US troops with help from British, French, and Polish Allies. On May 18th, Polish forces captured Monte Cassino. Soon after, on June 4, 1944, Allied forces liberated Rome.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Monte Cassino and see more photographs, search our archives on

WWII Draft Registration Card Collection update

December 10, 2018 by | 11 Comments

Fold3 has added four new states to our collection of U.S. WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection now contains cards from Montana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. The cards in this collection are registration cards for the draft and do not necessarily indicate that the individual served in the military.WWII Draft Registration Card Collection

There were seven draft registration periods in the United States for World War II service. The first draft registration was held on October 16, 1940—before the United States had entered the war. Men ages 21–36 were required to register at their local draft board. The second draft registration was also held prior to the American entrance into the war, on July 1, 1941. This registration was for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration date nine months earlier.

The third (February 16, 1942) and fifth (June 30, 1942) registration periods expanded the ages required to register; the age ranges for the third were extended to 20–21 and 35–44, while the fifth extended them to ages 18–20. The sixth registration (December 10–31, 1942) was for men who had turned 18 since the fifth registration six months prior. There was also a seventh registration, known as the “Extra Registration,” from November 16 to December 31, 1943, which was for American men ages 18–44 who were living abroad. The cards from the fourth registration (April 27, 1942; for men ages 45–64) are not included in the WWII Draft Registration Cards but in Fold3’s WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards collection.

Information on the WWII Draft Registration Cards may include the man’s name, address, telephone number, age, place of birth, country of citizenship, name and address of the person who will always know the registrant’s address, employer’s name, place of employment, and a physical description of the registrant.

Get started searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards on Fold3!

Christmas in a War Zone

December 10, 2018 by | 88 Comments

We all want to be home for the holidays, but for those serving in the military that isn’t always possible. Here’s how a few of our troops have celebrated in seasons past.

World War I: During WWI, members of the Expeditionary Force spent Christmas on the Western Front. Kirkland H. Day wrote home to say that he and the other American soldiers raised $200 dollars to provide gifts and food for families in a French village. “Some of the cases we found were too pitiful for words,” wrote Day. “One mother with 11 children – father killed in war – had absolutely nothing, not even shoes,” he said. The soldiers found the Christmas spirit through service. “Yes, it was a real Christmas, made so by doing for others. I hope your Christmas was as real as ours in France,” Day wrote. Read his entire letter here.

Sergeant Victor E. Chapman graduated from Harvard and moved to Paris to study architecture. When the war began, he immediately joined the French Foreign Legion alongside fellow American, Phil Rader. Both men hoped to become aviators. Rader was a newspaper reporter and sent home vivid descriptions of life along the Western Front.

Rader and Chapman were part of the Christmas truce of WWI. Rader wrote of peeking out of his trench on Christmas morning, “Thoughtlessly I raised my head. Other men did the same. We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air. What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered. There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels. The terror of No-man’s land fell away.”

The soldiers all shook hands and posed for photographs with one another. “The hatred of war had been suddenly withdrawn and it left a vacuum in which we human beings rushed into contact with each other. The awfulness of war had not filled the corners of our hearts where love and Christmas live,” wrote Rader. The following morning a soldier hopped out of the trench, eager to continue the comradery experienced the night before. The crack of a rifle rang out and the man fell dead. The truce was over – but none there would ever forget the Christmas when for just a day, the war ended.

Vietnam: It didn’t feel like Christmas in the hot and steamy jungles of Vietnam. Troops still decorated trees like this one and enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Jewish soldiers celebrated Hanukkah, and many received cards and gifts from home. Entertainer Bob Hope made yearly visits to Vietnam to boost morale with his USO Christmas show for troops.

Major Hershel C. Gordon was serving in Can-To when he noticed a Vietnamese orphanage overflowing with children. He teamed up with friends in Lubbock, Texas to gather holiday gifts and supplies for the children. The 619th TAC Control Squadron painted the orphanage and cleaned up the grounds. Military doctors provided the children with medical care. Similarly, other GIs rendered service in orphanages across Vietnam.

How did you or your family member celebrate the holidays while serving in the military? Tell us about it and search our archives for other holiday military photos.


The Battle of Stones River – Civil War

December 1, 2018 by | 179 Comments

On December 31, 1862, the Confederate Army of Tennessee led by General Braxton Bragg and the Union Army of the Cumberland under General William Rosecrans faced off in the Battle of Stones River, also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, in Tennessee. The bloody battle, fought December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863, resulted in nearly 24,000 casualties – or nearly one-third of the battle’s participants. Although the battle was indecisive, it was a psychological victory for Union forces.

Earlier in December, the Union Army had suffered defeat at Fredericksburg. They desperately needed a victory to bolster morale and increase support for President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that was to take effect on January 1st.

The Confederates were also coming off a defeat at Perryville, Kentucky. General Bragg’s forces retreated and reorganized in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They hoped to drive Union forces out of Tennessee.

On December 26th, Rosecrans left Nashville to confront the Confederates 30 miles away. The weather was miserable and slowed the advance. The rain turned roads into muddy quagmires that froze when the temperatures dropped at night. Union forces reached Murfreesboro on December 30th and set up camp across from Confederate lines. As both sides bedded down for the night, the two military bands played within earshot of one another. They alternated songs and at one point both bands joined together and the soldiers sang Home Sweet Home. As night fell, everyone awaited the imminent battle.

At dawn on December 31st, the Confederate forces were the first to strike. They launched an assault on the Union right flank, intending to encircle Union troops from behind and drive them to Stones River. Meanwhile, Rosecrans’ battle plan was nearly identical. He hoped to place Union forces in between the Confederate Army and their supplies at Murfreesboro.

Initially, Confederate troops held the advantage, driving Union forces back towards the Nashville Pike. Union forces set up a defensive line and intense fighting resulted in horrendous casualties on both sides. One area became known as the Slaughter Pen because of the carnage.

Bragg’s troops launched four separate attacks in an attempt to splinter Union forces. A Union brigade led by Colonel William B. Hazen, held the line. A monument built in 1863 to honor Hazen’s Brigade is the oldest American Civil War monument still standing in its original location.

There was little fighting on January 1st. The lull gave General Rosecrans a chance to strategize and send for fresh supplies and ammunition from Nashville. Both sides cared for their wounded. On January 2nd, Bragg launched another attack on the Union left. Rosecrans counterattacked and drove the Confederates back with heavy artillery. The Confederates retreated and Union forces declared victory.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Stones River, or other Civil War battles, search our archives at Fold3!

Free Access to the Native American Collection*

November 1, 2018 by | 10 Comments

Fold3 Image - Rinehart Photos, Native American CollectionNovember is National Native American Heritage month. To celebrate, we’re offering free access* to our Native American collection November 1-15. Titles in this collection include:

Ratified Indian Treaties (1722-1869): This collection contains ratified treaties that occurred between tribes and the US government. Also included are presidential proclamations, correspondence, and treaty negotiation expenses.

Indian Census Rolls (1885-1940): An 1884 Act of Congress required agents or superintendents of reservations to submit annual census rolls. Only persons who maintained a formal affiliation with a tribe under Federal supervision are listed on these census rolls.

Dawes Packets: In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed the Dawes Commission to negotiate with members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes. They were promised an allotment of land if they recognized Federal law and abolished tribal governments. The Dawes records are applications from individuals in these five tribes to establish eligibility.

Dawes Enrollment Cards (1898-1914): The Dawes Commission recorded information about family groups within the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations. Also, known as “census cards,” the cards list family relationships, degree of native blood, tribal enrollment and include notations of actions taken.

Eastern Cherokee Applications (1906-1909): Applications submitted for shares of the money that was appropriated for the Eastern Cherokee Indians by Congress on June 30, 1906.

Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller (1908-1910): The US Court of Claims appointed Guion Miller to determine who was eligible for funds under the treaties between the US and the Eastern Cherokee. An estimated 90,000 applicants provided family genealogies to document tribal connections, making this collection an important source for genealogical research.

Cherokee Indian Agency, TN (1801-1835): This collection contains the records of the agent of Indian Affairs in Tennessee, including correspondence, agency letter books, fiscal records, records of the Agent for the Department of War in Tennessee, records of the Agent for Cherokee Removal, and miscellaneous records.

Rinehart Photos – Native Americans (1898): A stunning collection by commercial photographer Frank A. Rinehart of Omaha, Nebraska. He was commissioned to photograph the 1898 Indian Congress, part of the Trans-Mississippi International Exposition.

Were you able to locate your Native American ancestors in this collection? Tell us about it! Or get started searching the Native American collection here.


*Access to the records featured collections will be free until November 15, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MT. Free access requires registration for a free Fold3 account. After the free access period ends, you will only be able to view the records in the featured collections using a paid Fold3 membership.

World War I Armistice Signed: November 11, 1918 – 100th Anniversary

November 1, 2018 by | 97 Comments

On the chilly morning of November 11, 1918, German and Allied leaders gathered in a railway car in a forest near Compiegne, France. Germany had suffered stinging defeats in the Allied hundred days offensive, and the German economy was in shambles. After three days of negotiations led by France’s Ferdinand Foch, the time had come to admit defeat. Germany signed the Armistice agreement in Foch’s personal railroad carriage. The Armistice would bring an end to fighting in World War I. The Great War resulted in more than 37 million military casualties worldwide!

The Armistice would take effect six hours later, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, in the 11th month. The delay allowed time for the news to travel along the Western Front.

Terms of the Armistice included: Germany’s surrender of military weapons and hardware; the release of POWs; immediate evacuation of occupied lands in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Alsace-Lorraine and other occupied territories; and Allies would occupy land in Germany creating a neutral zone along the Rhine River.

The Armistice was a short-term agreement intended to end fighting. After it was signed, Allies gathered in Paris to draft the more comprehensive Treaty of Versailles. That treaty required Germany to accept responsibility as the aggressor and for loss and damage suffered. It was signed the following year.

America and its Allies tallied the dead and wounded. The war to end all wars was over, but in the process, a generation of common young men distinguished themselves with uncommon heroism and valor. Soldiers like Pfc. Walter A. Shaminski who entered a cellar to set up a telephone but encountered 11 enemy soldiers. He single-handedly killed two and took nine prisoners. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Or cook Harry C. Ricket, who fed exhausted soldiers even though his kitchen was under intense bombardment. He collected water for cooking from a spring that everyone else refused to approach because of heavy shelling.

Alvey C. Martz engaged in heavy fighting after Germany launched its last drive to Paris before the Armistice. His unit was overrun and he found himself surrounded behind enemy lines – his only weapon a pistol. Despite the odds against him, he killed a large number of the enemy and made his way back to his regiment. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The Armistice brought joy, relief and mourning. Pershing’s Expeditionary Force suffered 323,000 casualties and nearly 117,000 deaths. Germany’s humiliating defeat would contribute to the rise in Nazism just 20 years later. But for now, the boys were finally coming home. To learn more about WWI, search our archives on!