From Genealogy Gems: News from the Fort Wayne Library No. 89, July 31, 2011
Missouri Military Discharges
by Delia Bourne
Twentieth century military records are in great demand by researchers, but that demand far exceeds the current availability of those records. Although service records for veterans of the last century’s conflicts are difficult to obtain, many counties throughout the country do have discharge records of local soldiers. For example, The Genealogy Center holds a collection of military discharges from fifty-nine counties in Missouri on 161 reels of microfilm (cabinet 75). They are organized by county, and the dates covered vary.
To determine the time periods covered by discharges for a specific county, as well as to identify the reel numbers you need, go to the Microtext Catalog on our website’s Free Databases list. Select “States” and then select “Missouri.” Scroll to the county, or click on “Missouri County Military Records” in the list of statewide Missouri sources, to learn the complete contents of each reel. Many of the microfilms also include other types of records. These vary by county, but include deeds, mortgages, real estate and circuit court records, declarations of intent and naturalizations, inquests, and federal liens, as well as enlistments, soldiers’ biographies, and military support petitions from the Civil War. The soldiers’ biographies may include information similar to that found on a discharge record, as well as parents’ names, occupation and battles in which the soldier fought.
Preceding each county’s discharge books is a chronological index, arranged by first letter of the last name, which includes address, branch of service, date of discharge, when and where it was recorded and a citation for book and page. Information in discharge records varies. Those from the World War I era provide name, rank and regiment, birth date and place, age, occupation, marital status, physical description at the time of enlistment, qualifications (for example, marksmanship), battles and physical condition when discharged. World War II discharges include discharge date and place, rank and regiment, citations, enlistment record with physical description and age, but no birth date and birthplace. By the Vietnam War era, service and Social Security numbers are included, as well as dates and places of birth and enlistment, home address, rank, medals and awards, and blood type.
These Missouri records are an excellent example of what may be available in other states and counties. When calling or visiting a county office to inquire about the availability of discharge records, consider asking to speak to an experienced employee who may be more likely to know what office or court has jurisdiction for these records in that specific county.
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Note: You can also search for Missouri discharge papers at the Missouri State Archives Local Records Inventory Database.
Use Title or Series keywords military or discharge.