The first regular troop, composed of 600 voluntary soldiers, disembarked for Brazil in 1549 with Governor General Tomé de Souza. In the 17th century there were organized troops (Terço) of white, pretos (Negro/Black), pardos (Mulatto), and Indians, and later there were organized regiments of the militia. After the Dutch war a reserve of soldiers and calvary commanded by the Fazendeiros militaries was organized.
In 1763 the capital was transferred from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. The Viceroy Guard Calvary Company became the first Cavalry Regiment. Other military units were gradually added in Rio de Janeiro and other captaincies. Marine units were formed in the chief ports. After the departure of D. João VI, Prince D. Pedro ordered the organization of the Civil Guard, whose members would serve for three years for the defense of the Court. The National Guard was created by the law of 1831.
Prior to the decree of 1839 the military was not well organized even though a naval academy was created in 1808 and a military academy was established in 1810. Prior to these dates military officers were of the nobility and attended military academies in Portugal. Except for a few Portuguese units in the chief cities of Brazil, most units were militia commanded by Capitan-Mor. Even in the war with Argentina (1825–1828) concerning the territory of Uruguay (Guerra Cisplatina), Brazil had to rely on many mercenaries.
Military records identify individuals who served in the military or who were eligible for service. Most young men were required to serve in or register for military service in Brazil. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family records, biographies, censuses, probate records, civil registrations, and church records. Military records are potentially of great genealogical value.
Military records begin about 1750 and give information about an ancestor’s military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. In addition, these records usually include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members. However, many military records in Brazil provide very few details about individuals other than officers.
The Brazilian Military Archive has about 80,000 records of a biographical nature. The Naval Archives in Rio de Janeiro has records from 1800. Earlier militia records are found in the state archives. Records of pre–1822 Portuguese military units are found in the following Portuguese archives: Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Historical Military Archives, and the National Library of Portugal and also in the Spanish archives of Segovia, Madrid, and Seville for the periods when Spain ruled Portugal.
To enter into military cadets school in Portugal a person had to submit proof of the nobility of his parents and of all four grandparents. This system existed until 1832. After that date, by decree of D. Pedro, persons of means could also apply for entrance into the military as officers.
Records of military service in Brazil are kept by Arquivo Histórico do Exército (Military Archives of Rio de Janeiro), the State Archives of São Paulo, and other state archives. The state of Bahia has three volumes of military records from 1691 to 1822 in its historical section. Twenty volumes of personal records of the army for São Paulo are found in the state archive in São Paulo for 1800 to 1830, covering the war with Argentina (over territory of Uruguay). There was also a military census for São Paulo in 1818. See the “Census” section of this outline for more information.