Vol. 3, # 2
*Now in the third year of distribution with over 325 subscribers!
Researching Civil War Records
Unknown to most people, millions of state and federal records as well as thousands of books have preserved the hundreds of thousands of soldiers’ lives and wartime experiences. When these men who fought can be identified through research, they can be singled out of a huge group of participants and given a distinct identity and a ‘living’ history.
One of the first places researchers go for information is the military section of the National Archives website. There you can order service records online or download an order form in PDF format to fill out and mail in. While there is a $25 charge for the search and copies of records found, there is no charge if no record can be located. Records available from the National Archives include such documents as compiled service records (whether Union or Confederate), Union pension records, Court-martial case files, medical records, prisoner of war records, draft and burial records.
Another valuable source of information and records can be searched through the various state archives. As mentioned earlier, where Union pensions can be found in the National Archives, Confederate pension records (if applied for) will be found in the southern state archives depending on from which state the soldier served. These pension records can, in many cases, be a small ‘gold mine’ of information. If the soldier was a member of the State Militia and not a volunteer, no matter whether Union or Confederate, the records will only be in the state archives.
As far as published works of importance, there is available the huge 128-volume Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion and the 31-volume set of Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Not to be overlooked and used in conjunction with these two sets of books are the many books, rosters, memoirs, diaries, journals and regimental histories that are available and found in many libraries throughout the country. For instance, regimental histories may trace a particular regiment from its mustering-in ceremony through all of its battles to the final disbanding of the survivors. They will usually contain a listing of the higher ranking officers and hopefully give detailed biographies with a great deal of personal information.
Two magazine publications of note that might also be useful are The Confederate Veteran and Civil War Times Illustrated. The Confederate Veteran was published from 1893 to 1932 while Civil War Times Illustrated in still in publication. It’s worth mentioning that photographs of Southern veterans are unsurpassed in The Confederate Veteran. Many soldiers of the South have been found in the magazine as well as notices of death, even where there is no picture.
On the Union side, there is an 8-volume set of books entitled Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army for the Years 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865. This work lists the volunteer officers who served in the million and a half strength Union army. Another valuable source is the Official Army Register for 1861 – 1865. The 7-volumes contain biographies of all of the regular officers in the Federal army during the war.
Where there is uncertainty about whether an ancestor was Union or Confederate, be sure to check both Union and Confederate indexes. This was especially important in the Southern states. It cannot always be assumed that a soldier living in the South at the time of the Civil War was a Confederate. Every Confederate state *except* South Carolina had its own contingency of Union Troops. Remember, when unsure, check both sides.
Most black soldiers entered the Union Army or Navy. The majority of blacks who were in Confederate service were slaves who followed their masters into battle or on occasion, a free black. Union black soldier records can be found on the National Archives microfilm entitled Index to Service Records of U. S. Colored Troops. Confederate records for black soldiers from Southern states will be found in the individual state archives.
Information on literally hundreds of thousands of Civil War soldiers is available to anyone who knows how to extract it from the millions of state and federal records and countless books. Tracing a Civil War ancestors records and stories is not, for most researchers, necessarily difficult and anyone is able to do it. It simply takes time and some expense.
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Fact: During the war, Matthew B. Brady, the most-noted photographer in America spent the entire four years with the Union forces and recorded the battles and scenes through the eye of his cameras. The 10-volume set of The Photographic History of the Civil War edited by Francis T. Miller contains the most complete collection of Brady photographs.
Tip: The Civil War website has an amazing amount of information on the American Civil War. Currently, there are more than 7,000 pages relating to the conflict with one of the largest collections of Civil War resources on the Internet. Work has just been finalized on a complete run of Harper's Weekly newspapers from the Civil War. This paper was the major source during the war years for passing along to the general public the events that were taking place.
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A Spring Quarter calendar of genealogy computer classes has now been completed. For those who are interested themselves or may know of someone who would like to attend, the schedule is as follows . . .
Genealogy Research Online ~
Classes are from 2 to 4 PM in the afternoon.
May 21st and June 18th
The following classes are on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.
New England Ancestry
Basic Genealogy and Computer Skills Required.
All classes are FREE and held in the Computer Lab on Third Floor of the Main Library.
Register for classes in person or by
Also, two quick reminders. The Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society’s Spring Seminar is this Saturday, May 3rd in the Library’s Main Auditorium. Paul Drake’s topic will be ‘Using 21st Century Methods & Resources in Your Research.
The Huntsville Genealogical Computing Society’s next program is scheduled for 7 PM, May 19th (also in the Auditorium). Their program will be Nancy Rohr speaking on ‘Old Alabama Maps and Many Modes of Transportation . . .” .
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See You In The Heritage Room!
Computer Genealogy Librarian
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
915 Monroe Street
Huntsville, AL 35801