Researching Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors

A brief guide to the main resources for historical military research in the State Library and online

Table of Contents

Online Resources

Civil War Soldier and Sailors System

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a database provided by the National Park Service containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.

Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors & Marines of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars 

Civil War Soldier Image
Sergeant Andrew Jackson Smith
(from the Col. Alfred S. Hartwell Papers)

Digitized multi-volume print sets owned by the State Library that contain brief biographical & service information on Massachusetts Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers.

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War: a Compilation from the Archives [1896]  

Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War [1931] 

Online Veterans and Military Documents

This resource, provided by the National Archives, includes a variety of military documents that cover conflicts from the Revolutionary through the Vietnam Wars.

World War I Soldier Photograph Collections

This online collection contains nearly 8500 images of New England WWI soldiers, primarily from the 26th “Yankee” Division. This collection was originally donated to the State Library in 1935 by the Boston Globe, and many photographs include biographical and military information.

World War I Photograph Collection Collage Image

Family Search Massachusetts Military Records

A compiled list of online resources for those wanting to access Massachusetts military documents and published histories, from 1620-1972. This list contains links to both free and subscription databases.

Ancestry.com Massachusetts Military Collections

A compiled list of mainly 19th- and early 20th-century MA military documents and published histories available on Ancestry.com. [Subscription to Ancestry.com required for access]

Fold3

Fold3, part of Ancestry.com, contains military records, stories, photos, and personal documents from soldiers of the Revolutionary War up through recent conflicts. The site also includes non-military and international records. [Subscription to Fold3 required for access]

Newspaper Databases

Boston Public Library newspaper databases include the Boston Globe (1872-present), New York Times (1851-2015), 19th-century and international newspapers. [BPL eCard required for access; free to all Massachusetts residents]

The BPL also has a large collection of newspapers on microfilm if you can’t find what you need online.

Google Newspaper Archive

The Boston Evening Transcript (1851-1915), and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript (1866-1872) are freely accessible via the Google newspaper archive.

Resources Available in the State Library

World War I Soldier Card File 

Ms. Coll. 65 [Located in Special Collections Department, Room 55 State House]

Contains over 40,000 index cards with various pieces of biographical and service information on New England WWI soldiers. Some cards include newspaper clippings, such as obituaries.

Colonel Alfred Stedman Hartwell Papers

Ms. Coll. 1 [Located in Special Collections Department, Room 55 State House]

The Hartwell collection contains numerous photographs of soldiers of the 44th & 55th regiments of the Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War.  Also includes a roster of the 44th Regiment. The finding aid to this collection is available online. 

Published and Archival Material

The State Library’s collections contain many published local and general military histories, especially on the Civil War and WWI. Check out the library’s online catalog for more information.

The State Library also has some archival collections that may not yet be included in the online catalog. If you have any questions about our archival holdings and how they can help you with your research, please contact our Special Collections Department at special.collections@mass.gov

Additional Research Institutions

Massachusetts Archives

220 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125 

(617) 727-2816

Houses the historical military records of the Massachusetts Adjutant General. This collection is one of the most complete state records of MA servicemen and women from 1775-1940.

Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office Military Records Branch

50 Maple St. P.O. Box 309, Milford, MA 01757

(508) 422-1993

Houses military discharge records from 1940-present

Military records prior to 1940 are maintained by the Massachusetts Archives

National Archives at Boston

380 Trapelo Road, Waltham, MA 02452

(781) 663-0144

Various military records from the Revolutionary through the Civil Wars, including military service records and pension files

Your Local Government or Cultural Institutions

Library and archival collections

Local history collections

Genealogical societies

Museum resources

Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution

VFW resources

American Legions

Contact

Phone

Main Library (617) 727-2590

Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Special Collections Department (617) 727-2595

Open M-F 9 a.m.–5 p.m. *Advance appointments are strongly recommended

Fax

(617) 727-9730

Address

Main Library
Massachusetts State House
Room 341
Boston, MA 02133
Special Collections Department
Massachusetts State House
Room 55
Boston, MA 02133
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