a3Genealogy - Accurate, Accessible Answers - specializes in military, naturalization records, Native American and African American ancestry. The a3Gen blog is penned by Kathleen Brandt, an international genealogy consultant, speaker and writer. a3Gen clients span from Europe, Asia and Africa to the Americas.
As family researchers we love that non-conformist
ancestor.The one soldier that pushes
the rules and regulations, perhaps failing to behave “gentlemanly,” or even
just opinionated and outspoken enough to result in a superior’s reprimand. These
reprimands may have resulted in an inquiry or courts martial giving us a peek
at our veteran’s military service.
Most researchers understandably are quite familiar with the
Army courts-martial records. So let’s
take a look at Navy records today.
Records of the Office of
the Judge Advocate General (Navy)
The Records of the Office of the (Navy) Judge Advocate
General records are held at the National
Archives (NARA) Washington DC and are part of Record
Group (RG) 125. The extensive collection includes personnel records,
correspondence, claims, and more.
The courts-martial and courts of inquiry transcripts are
located in RG125.2.2 Personnel Records (microfilm: M273). The transcripts of proceedings of general courts- martial and
courts of inquiry, 1799-1867 cases have been
microfilmed on abt. 180 reels. And, in addition
to the collection held at the NARA, the Family
History Library has a copy of this collection as well as other
libraries (check WorldCat).
The best news is this collection is indexed by name. We suggest you begin with the index for
another reason, it gives you the exact date and case number making this
research relatively quick especially for the return of knowing more about your
pre-Civil War Navy veteran. Additionally, the index gives you a summary of your
veteran’s offenses. For some researchers, this may be all you need, but the case
transcripts are descriptive and should not be overlooked. Note: We have not shown actual cases in this post, only index images.
What to Expect
Cases may be 2 pages or 200 pages of testimonies, court
records, and minutes/notes. Through these records we have solved the following
ancestry from 1816
Cause of death
Rank and Service
dates of veteran
Researchers may also find information on their marine. Little, a Sargent in the Marines, was found
guilty of theft and “unsoldierlike”
conduct, and contempt of superior officer.
Like many of those recorded in the courts-martial records he was
Another popular Sentence of the Court was to be publicly reprimanded.
Cause of death
Have you had that ancestor just vanish during military
service never to return to his family?
Although many sailors were found not guilty and charges
dismissed, others were put to death during service. The above John and Peter Black
and Matthew Biddy were ordered “to be
hung by the neck until death. On 9 Oct 1849.” This was due to the following infractions:
1) meeting with intent to kill.
2) desertion with an attempt to kill and
running away with a boat the property of the US.
Of course desertion, a serious offense, could result in as
many as 150 lashes or a call for the soldiers’ death by being shot to death. This was not uncommon in 1817.
Be sure to add this collection to you research plan.