Monday, February 21, 2011

Frequently Asked Question : Why isn't my military ancestor listed in the Southwest Michigan Military Registry?

The Southwest Michigan Military Registry project was begun in 1996 by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) in order to create an archives of information about the area's military men & women from Revolutionary War times to the present day.  Currently, there are over 9,000 entries in the collection including 33 entries for Revolutionary War patriots who settled in one of the Michigan counties of: Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo & Van Buren.

In order for an individual to be included in the project, friends or family may fill out the registry form and submit it along with documentation supporting that service.  Documentation for service has included:  discharge papers, pension & service files, commendations, membership in the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Grand Army of the Republic or other military-related organization, wartime correspondence, VA hospital records, newspaper articles, and military gravestone photos.  Submissions have also included service anecdotes, biographical & family information, and in many cases, photographs.

VBRGS has also made submissions to the archives using items from their own manuscript & photo collections, newspaper clippings & magazine articles, as wells as obituaries from the Southwest Michigan Obituary Collection

The main reason why an individual may not appear in the archives is that no one has yet submitted that person's information.  One common misconception among citizens is that this project is a duplication because there is somewhere already a complete "official" listing of all of the country's military personnel, past and present.

Reasons why this is not so?  One big reason is that large bodies of records have been destroyed by fire or other catastrophic event, examples - Revolutionary War service records in 1800 & 1814; 80 percent of WWII, Korea & Vietnam records in 1973.  Another major reason is because not all military service was sponsored by the same governing body.  Service records for almost all of America's wars can be found either at the national, state, county or local levels.

So, make sure that you take the time to submit information about your Southwest Michigan family's participation in U.S. military history.  The documents in your possession may very well be the only surviving proof of that participation.  In addition, the project archives has become a primary local history research tool.  To make a submission, print out the form and send it to the address provided, along with any documentation.  For more information contact VBRGS.