There are several search engines that I now automatically check when I come across a new name to add to my family tree. I thought I might spend a little time writing about each one and provide a story about how searching the database in question was helpful to me.
One of the first is the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments. It covers the period 1798 to 1914. It is on Ancestry and can be easily accessed from the card catalog with the entry "Register Enlistments." It can also be found on Fold3.com as Army Register of Enlistments, 1798 -1914. Do not confuse it with the Army Registers, 1798 - 1969 which in an incomplete set of the annual officer registers of the U.S. Army. The Register is also available in the Family History Library and probably digitally at the Family History Centers.
The original source for these data were U.S. Army registers found in RG94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's - 1917. They can be found in the Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, PI 17 as entry 89. These 161 volumes (or 45 feet of registers) were microfilmed and published by the National Archives as NARA Publication M233, Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798 - 1914. It consists of 81 rolls of 35mm microfilm. A box list of the microfilm rolls can be found in the microfilm catalog at Archives.gov.
The purpose of the registers is to document the service of enlisted U.S. Army soldiers from the time of their enlistment to the time of their discharge at the expiration of their service. Each is a pre-printed form ledger that includes the name of the soldier, rank, regiment, dates of enlistment and discharge. They often include a physical description, nativity, age at enlistment, occupation and remarks. The remarks of the best part of the entry because you never know what you are going to find. If the soldier died in service the date of death and place of death are mentioned.
The information was taken from enlistment papers, muster rolls of the Regular Army, and other records.
They are arranged by time periods and by first letter of surname and then chronologically by date of enlistment. There are 13 rolls that cover the period form 1798 to May 17, 1815 which is the period of most of my interest because of my War of 1812 death database. Mexican War enlistments can be found on Roll 23, covering the period of January 1847 to June 1849 (a up and coming interest). The Civil War is divided into two periods each of two rolls. The same is true of the Spanish-American War. The registers end just before the Mexican Border War, but some Army personnel would have enlisted prior to our foray into Mexico prior to World War I.
At the end of the collection there are additional records that deal with post quartermaster sergeants, Indian scouts, ordnance sergeants, commissary sergeants and hospital stewards which never seem to exactly cover the years that I am looking for. But they are there.
Many of us assume that because we have no family lore of military service that there was none. I will relate on another post the tribulations of such assumptions aside from the Register of Enlistments.
My great-grandfather Joseph Beiley was an interesting person. I will leave it at that. My grandmother made it clear early in my genealogical research that she did not like him very much and did not want to talk about him. When I asked the names of her grandparents she said that she knew her father's father and liked him less and did not know the other three and was sure that they were no different. I never met the man. It turns out that he was in the U.S. Army, unbeknownst to anyone currently living and evidently not talked about by the few who knew. He can be found in the Register of Enlistments.
To find him on Fold3.com you type in Joseph Beiley and you see a person of that names listed under the heading of War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, and Spanish American War, all with the subheading Army Register of Enlistments. Each of these entries relates to a single person, born in 1886 who did not participate in any of these wars.
The entry paraphrased reads:
202 [Register Number]
Jan 16 [Enlisted When]
Ft Slocum, N.Y. [Enlisted Where]
Cap Fife [Enlisted By Whom]
3 yrs [Period]
Buffalo [Where born]
5 [Height Feet]
6 [Height Inches]
13 Cav [Regiment]
Mentions no prior service
The remarks read:
Des. Mch. 28/08 Surrd. Jun 21.09. Dishon dis. Aug. 20.09 at Ft. Hamilton, N.Y. G. O. 105, Dept East 24 mon Detained