GOPHER RECORDS

If you need records, we will gopher you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Researching

If you haven’t yet determined if your ancestor was a soldier, we recommend that you start with this blog post.  It will direct you to the most common sources in order to help identify your ancestor’s service.

If you know the unit in which your ancestor served but you haven’t found any records for him, you can take advantage of our FREE records assessment.

If you know what records are available, then you are ready to place an order.  We will visit the National Archives where we will find and duplicate your records.

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Our principal service is to pull records from the National Archives and duplicate them for you.

If you don’t know if your ancestor was a soldier or you don’t know what records you want us to duplicate, then there are still some things that we can do to help you.

First, we recommend that you consult this post which will help you to determine where to find evidence that your ancestor was a soldier.  Although the post is specifically about Civil War soldiers, most of the same advice applies to soldiers in other wars.

We also offer a FREE records assessment in which we will do a cursory review of available indexes and other resources to see if military records for your ancestor are known to exist.

In the event that we are not successful, we recommend that you hire a professional genealogist to assist in your ongoing search.

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Yes, you can!  You can submit a request that NARA pull and copy the files for you. This can be relatively expensive and has been known to take many weeks or sometimes even months to get the documents. But you can find the forms and instructions here:

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Yes, you can!  If you live close to Washington, D.C., then you can go there yourself and get your hands on the original documents.  It can be thrilling to have your ancestor’s pension file in your hands, knowing that he held those same documents, some of which bear his signature.  You can then take photos or scan copies of the documents.  NARA even has scanners which you can use (you’ll pay per page), or you can use the scanners in the Innovation Hub for free.

If you’re considering a trip to NARA in D.C., you may want to contact us first.  We will be happy to meet you there and walk you through the process at no charge.

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We can retrieve records regarding any 19th-century war but the most popular records requests by far are for the Civil War.  For that reason, most of our blog posts use those records in their examples.  The same issues typically apply to the other wars, however.

If you have a question about records for a different war, then feel free to contact us.

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These are popular web sites, each of which contain millions of records that are of interest to genealogists.

FamilySearch.org is a free site that is made available by the LDS Church (i.e., the Mormons).   No credit card or religious affiliation is required but you will be required to create a free account in order to access the site.  Its databases contain records from around the world, including vital records, census records, immigration records, family trees, military records, and newspapers, among many others.  Since it is free, it is the starting point for many researchers.  Other sites have some important advantages over it, however, so it should not be used exclusively.

Ancestry.com is a commercial website with a similarly-wide variety of records types, including many unique databases and some which overlap with FamilySearch.  Most indexes on Ancestry.com are free but to see the full record, one must have a subscription.

Fold3.com specializes in military records, including many original records that were digitized in partnership with NARA and are not available anywhere else.  Fold3.com is owned by Ancestry.com.  Like its parent company, the indexes on Fold3 can be accessed for free but you need a subscription to see the full record.  If you purchase a subscription to Ancestry.com, you can get a discounted upgrade to include Fold3.com.

NOTE: Don’t make the mistake of dismissing Ancestry.com and Fold3.com on the grounds that they are paid subscription services. They contain important data types that are not available anywhere else and there are lots of ways for you to access them for FREE as described here.

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Our search utilizes the major online indexes and some other exclusive resources but it is far from comprehensive.  If we are unable to find the records that you want, we recommend that you hire a professional genealogist for the most complete search possible.

You may want to choose a genealogist who specializes in the geographic area of your interest.  He or she will be most familiar with the records in question and may be able to conduct a hands-on search of local records that are not stored at the National Archives.

We recommend that you select a professional genealogist from one of these sites:

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Record Types

Generally speaking, we retrieve 19th-century military service file, pension files, medical records, Court Martial files, Bounty Land, and other Federal land records from the National Archives.

The type of records that are available depends on the time period or war. See the chart here.

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Our expertise is with 19th-century records.  You are welcome to write to us regarding other types of records and we will give you advice about how to obtain them.

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A service file typically contains records of the soldier’s military service, including enlistment, promotions, transfers, discharge, and the soldier’s presence or absence on paydays, among other things.  Although the contents of a service file is usually military in nature, it may contain some biographical or genealogical information.  For more details about the typical contents of a service file, see this page.

A pension file typically contains documentation of the soldier’s military service insofar as is necessary for him to qualify for a military pension. The file may also contain copious medical records to document the soldier’s disability, if any. Many pension files also contain lots of biographical and genealogical information, especially in the case that the applicant is a widow or other dependent as they would be required to prove their relationship to the soldier.  For more details about the typical contents of a pension file, see this page.

Although the focus of these two files is different, they can both contain very useful information for researchers.  It is therefore prudent to obtain copies of both files whenever possible.

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Ordering

Our prices are based on a flat rate per file and are outlined on this page.

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With a FREE membership to Gopher Records, you’ll receive a discount of at least 10% on every order and you’ll be able to track the status of your orders.  You will also have the option of being notified of drawings, sales, and other relevant news.  We do not sell or share your registration information with any third party.  There is no cost or obligation to being a member.

Register for a new account now or login if you are already a member.

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When you access our Order Form, you’ll be asked whether you want to Login/Register or proceed as a Guest.  Members receive at least 10% off our regular retail pricing and special offers.

Membership is free and we don’t sell or share our membership list with anyone else.

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No.  All of our prices are based on a flat rate per file, regardless of it size.

So while you will not be charged less if the file happens to contain only a few pages, you will also not be charged more if the file happens to contain many more pages than average.

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We typically retrieve service files, pension files, medical records, Court Martial records, Bounty Land, and other Federal land records from the 19th century.  If you would like us to retrieve a different kind of record, then feel free to contact us and we will provide advice or a quote for that service.

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Records are actively being digitized by the National Archives and third-party companies like Fold3.com.  Once a record has been digitized, it is placed out of circulation (or even destroyed) so that the originals are no longer accessible by the public.

If we find that your records are available online, then we will refer you to that site at no charge. If it is a commercial site, however, a membership ($) may be required in order for you to access those records.  There are ways to access most such sites for free, e.g., through a library or free trial membership.  If none of those options are available to you, then we can probably provide copies of the records for a small fee (subject to the “Terms and Conditions” of the commercial site in question).

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If we find that your records are on a commercial web site, see this FAQ.

If we find them elsewhere online, then we will refer you to that site at no charge. If you prefer that we obtain such records for you, then we can do so for a small fee.  In that case, please place an order for the records in question at the normal price and we will write to provide you with a revised price quote before proceeding.

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Carded Medical Records are not indexed and therefore require a manual search for those of each soldier.  For that reason, if you order Carded Medical Records, then you will be charged even if no records are found for your soldier.

For other types of records, we will search the indexes so we will typically know before we go to the National Archives whether or not records exist for your soldier.  If your soldier is not found within the indexes, then you will not be charged for those records.

In rare cases, records which are found within the indexes cannot then be found at the National Archives because they’ve been destroyed, misfiled, or otherwise misplaced.  If we go to NARA on your behalf and the indexed records cannot be found, then there will be no charge to you.

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We make color copies of your documents and deliver them as downloadable PDF files.  Each PDF file will contain one element from your order.  That is, if you order a service file and a pension file, you will receive two PDF files.

PDF files can be viewed by any version of Adobe Acrobat, including the free Acrobat Reader.

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When circumstances allow us to provide a reasonable estimate of the delivery date for your order, then that date will be shown in the top-right of the order form.

Such a date reflects our best estimate about the delivery of new orders when the records in question are to be obtained from the National Archives in Washington D.C.  For an estimated delivery for records that must be obtained from other repositories (like NARA in St. Louis, MO), please contact us.

Any such published date is an estimate, of course, and unforeseen circumstances may interfere.  In most cases, however, we are able to delivery orders before the estimated delivery date.

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You may cancel an order until the day before the records are scheduled for retrieval from NARA.  Since orders are processed in the order in which they are received, that schedule is not always predictable and is not published.  You are welcome to contact us, however, to determine if your records are scheduled to be processed imminently.  If not, we can cancel your order.  No refund is necessary in this case since we do not ask you to pay anything until after the records have been retrieved.

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Paying

No.  You will not be asked to pay until your order is ready to be delivered.

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When your order is ready to be delivered, you will receive an email directing you to view your invoice in PayPal but you can opt instead to use a debit or credit card. When you click on the Pay button, you’ll be prompted to log in to PayPal but simply scroll down and you’ll see an option to “Pay with Debit or Credit Card.”

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No.  When your order is ready for delivery, you will receive an email directing you to view your invoice in PayPal. When you click on the Pay button, you’ll be prompted to log in to PayPal but simply scroll down and you’ll see an option to “Pay with Debit or Credit Card.”

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If, once you have paid and obtained the records, we determine that our copies are not faithful reproductions of the original, then we will certainly make it right (e.g., by correcting the file or by visiting NARA again).  That is very rarely necessary, however.

It is your responsibility to ascertain that you are requesting the correct records.  We will NOT provide a refund on the grounds that the records that you requested turned out to be for someone other than your ancestor.

Also, keep in mind that you are paying for our service in retrieving and duplicating the documents – not for the documents themselves. The National Archives limits the number of records that can be pulled by a single researcher on a single day. So if we pull a file at your request, then that limits the number of records that we can pull for other clients.  That’s true regardless of the volume, condition, or nature of the documents that happen to be in the file.  

By offering low flat rates, we assume the risk that the file that you request may contain several hundred pages, requiring us to exert much more time and effort on duplication than we would for an average file.  At the same time, you assume the risk that the file may contain very few pages or that some or all of the originals may be incomplete or illegible.  We won’t know what we will find until we find them – and by then we have exerted the effort on your behalf.

We therefore will not offer a refund on the grounds that you are disappointed with the contents or number of pages in your file.

Thank you for understanding.

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Terminology

NARA is the National Archives and Records Administration.

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References to veterans of the “Old War” typically refer to those who served from the end of the Revolutionary War until the beginning of the Civil War (1783-1861).

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The Innovation Hub is a project at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington D.C. that is designed to supplement its digital collection.  Researchers who visit the facility in person can use the scanners of the Innovation Hub to scan records from the NARA holdings and get digital copies of those scans for their personal use.  The scans are then uploaded to NARA’s online catalog so that they can be accessed by other researchers.

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