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