U.S. Civil War, 1861 - 1865
Following Your Soldier Ancestor
U.S. Civil War
Soldiers from the Civil War make fascinating ancestors. The records of their service, especially pension records, may be a source of other genealogical revelations. Some families only have vague recollections that an ancestor may have served. The first step for the genealogist is find out the name and regimental unit.
A good starting point is Cyndi's List, where the best references are listed. Once you know the regiment your ancestor joined, you can search for copies of the military and pension records. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC has records for Union soldiers. Confederate records are kept at State Libraries and archives. Cyndi's List has a helpful page on getting records from NARA, or you can contact NARA directly to get the correct forms. Confederate records are typically found at State libraries or archives. There are helpful links to sources for Confederate information at Cyndi's list as well.
The pension records are usually most interesting to genealogists, because they may include affadavits from relatives, information about spouses, parents, war wounds, burial, and much more. Military records may provide little family information, but may tell you about the soldier's skills and daily life. For example, you might learn that your soldier was out sick during the Battle of Shiloh, or worked as a cook after his knee injury at Gettysburg, or was demoted for punching out his cousin. Such is the stuff from which legends are reborn.
Regimental histories can be a rewarding source of information about the lives of ancestors, but not all regiments have a published account. The internet is rapidly filling in the historical gaps. These three regimental home pages are published here to memorialize and pay tribute to my family's relatives, Private Lawrence McDonald, Captain Terrence J. McDonald, Private J. Conrad Kraft, and to their comrades. It is hoped that contributions from other researchers will continue, and these pages can serve as a clearinghouse for resource materials about these men.
These pages include lists of actions and campaigns with links to battle descriptions and a bibliography to help with your search. There are some indexes to the military rosters (with more on the way), as well as contributions from other researchers. Anyone who wants the full entry on a a name from a roster index should send a lookup request to email@example.com.