How to Find Family Members’ Military Service Records: A Guide

If you’ve been discharged from the military, you need to present proof that you were on active duty to claim military benefits. Military personnel records are basically administrative records and can contain vital information pertaining to a service member, including their enlistment or appointment, duty stations and assignments, separation information, and awards and medals.

The official military personnel file of a service member is primarily available to the individual themselves and their next of kin. Military records are significant to family members for various reasons. These records are vital in claiming veterans benefits, such as healthcare, home loan, and health insurance. Some people search their family’s military records to document their genealogy. Thus, family members should know how to properly request records.

Types of Military Service Records

There are three types of military records family members should familiarize themselves with: service records, pension records, and bounty land records.

  • Service records refer to the summation of a service member’s history in the military. They serve as proof that an individual was involved in military service. This document is commonly used to claim veterans benefits.
  • Pension records, however, have more genealogical information than service records. These documents serve as proof that the federal government and sometimes, state governments, granted pensions to military members after rendering service for a certain period.
  • Bounty land records were granted to military personnel that served from 1755 to 1855. To encourage enlistment, the government offered individuals the opportunity to obtain lands anywhere in the public domain.

Can You Access a Family Member’s Military Service Records?

Yes, you can access a family member’s military service records. The DD Form 214 is primarily available to the service member and their next of kin. If your family member was discharged from service more than 62 years ago, their service records are available to the general public. Likewise, only family members may access their medical records.

How to Find Family Members’ Military Service Records

National Archives

Obtain a family member's military records

You can obtain a family member’s military records through the National Archives, particularly the National Personnel Records Center. Files can be obtained through the VetRecs website. You need to provide basic information, service and records details, and report of separation to obtain service records through this platform.

Alternatively, you may reach out to the National Personnel Records Center via fax (314-801-9195) or mail. Their official mailing address is:

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138

Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS)

Find military personnel records through DPRIS

Select information on military personnel are available through the Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS). You should check the family member’s discharge date to determine if their military records are in DPRIS.

The Army’s cut-off for discharge date is October 1, 2002, while the Air Force’s cut-off date is October 1, 2004. For Marine Corps members, it’s January 1, 1999, while the Navy’s cut-off is January 1, 1995. Coast Guard member files are not available on this system.

State-level Archives and Libraries

Service records at state-level archives and libraries

If your family member was stationed in a particular state, you can conduct research at state-level archives and libraries. These resources have military information that may be handy in your research. You should have basic information on the service member to narrow down your search and maximize their files.

How Long Will It Take to Obtain the Documents?

It depends on which platform you use. Some platforms, such as the National Archives, might take a few weeks to months to respond to request for medical and health records because of their volume of requests.

Special Considerations in Finding Military Service Records

US Military Uniform

Because of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act, the general public, including foreign citizens, are allowed to obtain limited information about military personnel. However, only the veteran and their next of kin are permitted to request records from the National Personnel Records Center. This is granted that the veteran served in the military not more than 62 years ago.

If the veteran served in the military over 62 years ago, their records will be public domain, and anyone can access their military records. If this is the case, you should contact the National Archives to obtain your family member’s military personnel records.

In July 1973, there was a major fire at the NPRC that destroyed approximately 16 to 18 million official military personnel files (OMPF). This particular event affected the files of Armed Forces members that were discharged between November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960. It also impacted Air Force veterans that were discharged between September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964. Unfortunately, there were no duplicates for these records.

However, after the event, the NPRC was able to collect numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information. To this day, the government is still actively retrieving service information on the files affected by this fire. Thus, if your family member’s military records were affected by this fire, you might find it challenging to obtain their records.

Tips for Successful Search

If you want to obtain your family member’s official military personnel file, you should have basic information on their years on active duty on hand. If you know where they were discharged, this can help narrow down your search as the state where they were discharged contain personnel information that can be very helpful.

Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of online resources that can help fast-track your research on military records. As long as you know basic details about your family member, you have a good chance of obtaining their records accordingly.

If you’re looking to verify the status of a military member, Military Verification can help you out. We have access to files of the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center, which are helpful when conducting military status on service members.


checking information in documents

The key to finding a person’s official military personnel file is knowing which resources to utilize. If you have basic information on hand, it will be easier for you to obtain a person’s military records. As long as you have accurate data, you won’t find it too challenging to find your relative’s military records.

Now more than ever, it is easier for anyone to conduct research on former service members. And when it comes to active duty status verification, we at Military Verification are always at your service.


Is there a way to search for military personnel?

Yes, there are different ways you can explore to research a person’s military records. As long as you have basic information, you can explore different channels to obtain their records. You can refer to the National Archives, the Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS), state-level archives and libraries, or Military Verification to search for military records.

Can you search military records by serial number?

Yes, a military personnel’s serial number can be helpful in your search. It is one of the most vital pieces of information in one’s search. However, you need other pertinent information to hasten the process.

Who can see a soldier’s profile?

It depends. If the person in question left service over 62 years ago, their military records are available to the public. If the individual was discharged less than 62 years ago, only the veteran and their next of kin may have complete access to their service records.

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