"We are excited to be able to share this wealth of primary documentation," Steve L. Muro, the VA's undersecretary for memorial affairs, said in a statement. "With the help of Ancestry.com, we have opened the doors to thousands of service members' histories through the information contained in these burial ledgers."
The National Cemetery Administration has overseen U.S. military burial documents for 82 national cemeteries since 1973. Concerned for the fragility of the documents and wanting to expand public access to the contents, the administration scanned about 60 handwritten ledgers to produce more than 9,344 pages of high-quality digital images.
However, those images couldn't be searched, making it difficult to find records.
In 2011, the administration partnered with Ancestry.com to index the pages so users can search them more easily. Ancestry.com spent close to 3,000 hours indexing the records to make them searchable by name, at no expense to the government or taxpayers, the company said in a statement.
The project includes two new, searchable collections of U.S. burial registers, military posts and national cemeteries from 1862-1960 and of U.S. headstone applications from 1926-1963.
Ancestry.com operates a website for researching family history and has more than 2 million paying subscribers. The company develops and acquires systems that digitize handwritten historical documents, and it works with government archives, historical societies and religious institutions around the world.
The company says more than 10 billion records have been added to its site over the past 15 years.
Last month, the company announced it had agreed to be acquired by a group led by European private equity firm Permira Funds in a cash deal valued at about $1.6 billion.