This week's Tuesday Tip comes from our friend Cindy Freed from Genealogy Circle!
I sort of stumbled into Civil War research. It started when my husband and I made a side stop in Gettysburg, PA while on my birthday vacation trip. We were heading to Philadelphia, PA to take in Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and all things related to our country's birth, with Gettysburg as a last minute side trip. When we toured this infamous Civil War battlefield it bowled me over. The emotion I felt as I stood on Cemetery Ridge and envisioned Pickett’s Charge unfolding before me was indescribable. Chills ran up my arms as tears filled my eyes.
From that moment on I needed to know more about the Civil War and the guys who fought it. Since then I’ve researched many soldiers and the war itself for the past eight years. I’ve learned a lot about my great great grandfather, George W Lowery, who served with Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. I found my first cousins 4x removed, brothers James and George Van Meter. Their lives are a riveting story filled with marriage, divorce, illness, and death. A real soap opera that took place in the mid 1860s!
These stories of my ancestors were lost to history but not any longer because I unearthed them through research and have written about them on my blog. That’s a real source of pleasure for me – knowing these Civil War soldiers and their fight haven’t slipped through the pages of time. They’re written and spoken about on my blog Genealogy Circle, found on my website at www.cindyfreed.com.
My hope is to share what I've learned about researching Civil War veterans with other genealogists and family historians, so they too can unearth their ancestor's story, making sure they doesn’t slip through the pages of time.
So let's get started researching your Civil War ancestor.
Where do you begin? Just like any genealogy research — at home.
• Talk to your parent, grandparents and great grandparents. They may have stories that they were told about your Civil War veteran grandfather. Ask some specific questions like where your ancestor lived. What city, state or territory? Did he serve in the infantry or cavalry? Was he an artillery man or sailor? Was he a private or an officer? Questions prompt memories and those reminisces may produce information you'll find valuable. Write the info down.
• Look into your oral family history, or did an earlier family member do some genealogy research?
• Check out boxes in the attic for family documents, certificates and heirlooms.
• Look at your family tree. Men born between 1820 and 1848 are prime candidates for serving in the Civil War.
• Take a walk – stroll through the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried. Look for military service inscribed on the headstones. Look for military markers.
You have a couple of names now what? Find your ancestor's enlistment dates and regiment.
• Check the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for the location of your ancestor. With that information you can research regiments raised in that area.
• Check the Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows aka 1890 Veterans Schedule.
• Research the National Parks Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System at http://www.itd.nps.gov/ for your ancestor.
• Don't forget to check FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and Fold3.
Most importantly check to see if your ancestor, his spouse or children filed for a Civil War Pension.
• Pension files are filled with family history information. A veteran or his family member had to provide ample proof of his service to receive a pension. Files are filled with fabulous genealogical info like proof of marriage, children's births, letters from family and friends, fellow soldiers verifying service, doctor's exams documenting injuries and so much more. It's well worth the cost to order.
• Check the United States Civil War and Later Pension Index 1861 – 1917 on FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com or Fold3. If there is a pension index card, there is a pension file. Some pension files are digitized and on Fold3. If your soldier's file is not there go to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at http://www.archives.gov.
Pension Applications and Pension Payment Records (NATF Form 85) can be ordered online for $$ or you can download the form and mail it in.
Remember Confederate soldiers did not receive a pension from the U.S. government. Confederate pensions were given by the individual southern states where the soldier served. NARA site has a listing for each southern state's archives. http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html Included are addresses, phone numbers, and the state’s website.
• Take a look at the Official Pension Roll of 1883 — it's like an off-year census verifying your ancestor's service and listing where your ancestor was living in 1883. You can find this record set at Ancestry.com http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=31387 or Archive.org - http://archive.org/details/listpensionerso00buregoog
• Document your Civil War ancestor's story as you research. Don't let the dates and facts accumulate in a file. Write his story as you go. Sure you may only have a few lines when you start your documentation but add to his narrative as you go. First it'll be easier to add new information to his on going story but most importantly you're making sure making sure it doesn’t slip through the pages of time.
I hope these tips will get you excited to start researching your Civil War ancestor or take another look at the research you've done so far.
Good luck in your search!
Cindy Freed is a family historian, researcher and writer. Married and mother of four, she's spent 20+ years exploring her family history and has loved branching out into Civil War research. You can find more about Cindy's family history and Civil War research tips on her website www.cindyfreed.com.
Thanks so much for the great tips, Cindy! I will using these to take another look at my Civil War ancestors.
Are we kin? Need help with your research? Please contact me.
Are we kin? Need help with your research? Please contact me.
Together we can find our people.Thanks so much for stopping by!