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Family Tree Friday: How to decipher compiled service record jackets.

by on March 26, 2010


Compiled military service records at the National Archives for the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) through the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) are filed in separate envelopes or jackets that contain basic information about the soldier.image  The example shown here for my ancestor Adam Dale (his surname is actually DEAL, which shows how spelling mistakes/variations can find their way into the records) reveals, before you even look at the cards inside, that Adam served in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment in the Revolutionary War.  Just below his unit designation are two boxes that show what ranks he held during the war.  In this case, Adam began his service as a drummer and ended the war in that same role.  The main body of the jacket lists a series of numbers, and here is where confusion often reigns with researchers who are unfamiliar with the records.  These are not file numbers that lead to other textual records in NARA’s holdings (a common assumption that many people often make).  Rather, these numbers correspond to a number stamped on the back of each service record card that appears within the jacket.  In other words, this was a recordkeeping practice devised by War Department clerks to make sure the right cards were filed in the appropriate envelope.  The only information that may lead to other records appears at the bottom of the jacket.  On the line designated Book Mark you may find a handwritten notation “R & P”–which stands for Record and Pension Office–followed by a number.  That number usually refers to a bound volume located in other War Department records.  In Adam’s case, the book mark shown here refers to an account book compiled by the Paymaster General U.S.A. in 1783 to settle accounts between the United States and officers and soldiers of the American Army.  The ledger shows Adam received 54 pounds, 2 shillings for his service during the war, before he deserted on August 26, 1780!  If you are researching service records at NARA and find book marks such as this, take the information to the Finding Aids Room and an archivist will help you locate the additional records.

In my next post, I’ll explain other surprises you might also find within the compiled service record jackets!


Comments

rosemary June 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm

What is a metal jacket, example, please

John June 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Hi Rosemary,

I’m not sure what you might be referring to as a “metal” jacket…the jacket I described in the blog post is actually the paper envelope in which a compiled military service record (CMSR) is filed. The image attached to the blog post shows what a typical CMSR jacket looks like. Thanks for asking!

Steve July 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm

The only “metal” jacket that I can think of is the material that surrounds some lead bullets. A “full metal jacket” bullet is one that has a lead core completely surrounded by another metal, such as a copper-nickel alloy. These keep the bullet from expanding as much in-flight, and enable the round to have greater penetrating power. This is as opposed to hollow-point or rounds with jackets on the front but not the rear.

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