News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 19, 2009

GENEALOGY: How to order key Civil War records

By Tamie Dehler

TERRE HAUTE — For the past two weeks we have been discussing the types of Civil War records that are located in the National Archives (NARA). There are two kinds of records covering the service of a Civil War ancestor-pension records and compiled military service records. This week will conclude the series by discussing how to order these records.

1. What form is used to order Civil War pension records and military service records? Prior to 2000, there was just one order form for both records, but this caused confusion. Now each document must be ordered on a separate form. Use form NATF 85 to order a pension record and form NATF 86 to order a complied military service record (CMSR).

2. How do I get these order forms? There are four ways to access the paper order forms: call the National Archives at 800-234-8861 or 301-713-6800, e-mail a request to, download a PDF version at, or write to NARA at Archives 1 Reference, Textual Archives Services Division, National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001. After the word “reference” write (NWCT1F-Pension) if ordering NATF 85 forms or (NWCT1F-Military) if ordering NATF 86 forms. Also use the above addresses to send in the completed order forms.

3. If I have one of the original order forms, can I just make photocopies and use those for additional orders? No. Each order form has a unique number on it and that is how it is tracked through the system. NARA will not process orders made on photocopied forms.

4. Can I order directly on line? Yes. Go to, click on the “order reproductions” link, and on the next screen scroll down to the bottom and click on the “military service and pension records” link; there will then be a list of records displayed, choose the record, and place the order.

5. What are the fees for ordering these records? Pension records are $75 for the full file, up to 100 pages, and .65 per page thereafter. A limited “pension documents packet” is $25, and is supposed to contain the information of most interest to genealogists. The fee for military records is $25. There is no fee for an unsuccessful search. For more extensive fee information, visit

6. How do I pay? You may pay by credit card (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover) by giving your number at the time you place the order. Or, you may send in a check or money order after you receive your order. An invoice will be enclosed. Do not send payment with your original order. You will not be billed if the search is unsuccessful.

7. How long is the wait after ordering? The wait should be 90-120 days following the receipt of the order.

8. Can I track my order? Yes. You will receive a tracking number if ordering on line. You will receive a postcard verifying receipt of a mail order. Use the number on the card to track your order at

9. Are there any other useful web pages? Visit to learn more about Civil War records and to begin the process.