CMSR: Compiled Military Service Record

A CMSR, or compiled military service record, was created to document the military service of a volunteer soldier. By the early 1890’s confirming the service provided by a soldier took an unacceptable amount of time. Gen. Ainsworth was assigned the daunting task of making the federal bureaucracy respond efficiently! The CMSR we genealogists depend upon for the details of a ancestors volunteer military service is the result of Gen. Ainsworth’s efficiency program. 

The CMSR is both an index and a transcription.  As such, it allowed staff to quickly verify details of the service of an individual soldier, while limiting the need to access the deteriorating original company records. The CMSR cards were transcribed from the original (extant) company muster rolls, payrolls, descriptive books, regimental records, and regimental returns. Personal papers, if located for a soldier, were included in the newly created CMSR. Personal papers may include enlistment papers, details on capture and release of prisoners of war, statements concerning personal possessions (and who they were released to) if a soldier died.

A CMSR jacket is distinctive, in size, color, and contains basic information:

  • Soldiers name
  • Company & Regiment soldier served in
  • Rank at beginning and end of service
  • List of card numbers, usually in red, identifying each card included in the folder
  • Number of personal papers included in CMSR
  • Bookmark, if applicable

The contents of the CMSR are specific to this ONE volunteer soldier, in this unit. Each soldier in each unit will have their own CMSR. If a soldier served in multiple regiments, it is incumbent on the genealogist to determine that it is the same soldier, and retrieve each CMSR to establish the history or service of the veteran. Gen. Ainsworth’s project discontinued before the CMSRs were created for “regular army” or U.S. Army (non-volunteer) soldiers.

By the time of the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, the CMSR includes the carded medical files for each soldier. For earlier volunteer units the carded medical records must be requested separately.  As part of your record retrieval request, RumbleSoft, will request, not just the CMSR, but any carded medical records that Gen. Ainsworth originally intended to be filed as part of the CMSR!

To order a CMSR file including carded medical records, please fill out this form, and email it to, along with a copy pension card or CMSR index (many unit cards are available on fold3) for your ancestor, and RumbleSoft will schedule your CMSR retrieval. Details on how our record retrieval process works are outlined here.