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Researching a Spanish American War Veteran

United Spanish War Veteran Membership Medal

  1. Start Off with what you have or know and Backtrack.

Maybe you have a picture or a rumor that has been passed down that your
Great Great Grandfather or Great Great Grand Uncle served during the War.

What you will need to do, is start off with what you know and backtrack documenting that connection to that ancestor.

  1. Document your connection back to that Said Ancestor.
    Start documenting your ancestry, meaning prove your connection to your parents by getting your Birth Certificate and your parents marriage certificate, and their birth certificates and so on as well as Death Certificates.
    This will prove the generations, now civil vitals record stop around the turn of the century(1900) however, one can continue documenting their connection through the Federal and State Census Records.
    Also, there was a Military Census in 1900. As well as Church Records; i.e. Baptismal, Death, Burial.
  2. Your Ancestor did he serve?
    After you proved your connection to that said ancestor.
    What you want to do, is start looking for evidence he served. For instance, visit his gravesite, are there any markers? Does he have a stone, with any star markers that have U.S.W.V.
    that is the United Spanish War Veterans.
    Perhaps he has a standard stone and the units name is beneath his name?
    Perhaps his name is listed on that War Monument in Town?
    Search for the Date of Death of that said ancestor, and document him. There is evidence that can be present in an Obituary as well. They will sometimes list his unit, and dates served.
    Also may want to consult the town records and local historical society/library for records of local volunteers.
    What you will need to find out are his dates served and regt served with as well as company.
    To confirm, he was a Veteran Look at the 1930 Federal Census under Veteran Status; if it says Yes he Served and indicates Abbrievation of War which would be SP for Spanish or PHIL for the Philippines.
  3. Documenting His Service

Now that you have proven what unit he served with.

Let’s find out more. To learn more you will need to order his service and pension files, both are a combined goldmine of information.
Both need to be ordered from the National Archives in Washington D.C.
You can ask for a request for a search of these records, so long as you have Name, Regt, Co. and dates of service; i.e. enlistment, discharge.
Your Ancestor’s service file can be searched for free by obtaining NATF Form 86 for the military service file and NATF Form 85 for his pension file. You won’t be charged if they don’t find anything. Again the Search is free.
You will be just paying for the copies of the documents.

The pension files search can now be ordered online;
Be sure you have the full name of Ancestor,date of birth,death,place of birth,place of death, wife’s name and full info on unit served with.
Now if you want to get a copy of his full-service file, you will have to obtain a copy of NARA Form 86:
They will send you the form to you for free,
right to your mailbox.
Just got to fill out an online form. That goes the same if you don’t want to file a request search online for the pension you could the order NATF Form 85 instead and fill that out, but the online search might be quicker. Here’s the online form for the request of forms, you may need NATF 86:
Request 2 copies of the form; just in case you mess up.
Make sure you request the FULL Pension file, not the packet. As you will get much more in the full file.

NARA NATF Online Form Requests

Now the cost will come later but is well worth it.
Here is the link to request an online search through NARA for his pension file:
NARA Search Online Request for Pension File