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Military Records

48. Military Medals - Always check to see if your ancestors earned any military medals and ask family members if you can see the medals. Several nations (including Britain and many Commonwealth countries) engraved the name of the recipient, their rank and unit on the edge of the medal. You can often use this valuable information as a starting point to contact the appropriate military authorities (or national archives) to gain access to full military records.

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Military records provide a wealth of information.

49. Underage Soldiers – Underage soldiers are a common problem during periods of large scale conflicts and mass conscription (such as World War I and II). When tracing a male ancestor, try to determine how old they were when major military conflicts broke out in the region. If they were 14 or older, then they may have signed on as soldiers even if they were not of legal age. Most armies were happy to take any warm body and would often turn a blind eye to such activity. Just be aware that underage soldiers (who obviously lacked proof of age) would often sign on under an alias or fake their age.

50. Military Pensions – Military pensions are granted to veterans and widows of veterans. If you have an ancestor that was between the age of 15 and 40 during a major war, consider the possibility they may have been a soldier even for a very brief period of time. In some conflicts (such as the US Civil War), pensions were granted to soldiers after only a couple of months of service. Contact the appropriate authorities to see if they may have received a military pension. In most countries, military pension records are very complete and contain everything from birth certificates to information on next of kin to details on military engagements.

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