What do all those red numbers mean?
What do all those red numbers mean? The short answer is that they are serial numbers. And while the numbers do have meaning behind them, they really aren’t going to have a lot of significance to your research on this soldier.
What you’re looking at here is the cover envelope for a soldier’s compiled military service records at the National Archives. Inside the envelope will be a whole series of rectangular cards that will give more information about the soldier and his service in the war.
As these cards were created, they were stamped with a serial number on the back. Each of those serial numbers were then handwritten on the front of the envelope, in order to match each card to the correct packet. So what you’re looking when you see those long lists of numbers are simply the serial numbers for each card inside.
Most of the time, the cards are filled out on only one side, so researchers don’t have much of a reason see the back of the cards. Occasionally the writing stretches to the back of the card though, and that’s when the serial numbers are more likely to be noticed.
There is one useful bit of information that can be obtained from these serial numbers. In the example pictured here, Lewis Mitchell’s service records have 14 serial numbers, so he should have 14 cards inside. It’s an easy way to tell just from one glance if it’s a large file or a small file.