Civil War Genealogy

This page is designed to assist in the research of genealogy information about ancestors serving in the Civil War. When I started my research, all I knew was that my great-grandfather had served four years and had been wounded twice. This came from oral stories pasted down from other relatives. In just under 90 days, using the Internet, a visit to the Arkansas Historical Commission, and letters to the historical archives of other states, I had uncovered 13 ancestors who had fought in the Civil War. I have unit histories, individual service records, and pension records of many. Provided here are some of the links and connections that assisted me in that search. Visit my Civil War Ancestors page to view the fruits of that labor.

Beginning Your Research

The three most valuable pieces of information when researching a Civil War ancestor are the soldier's name, whether he served for the Union or Confederate army, and the state from which the soldier served. By knowing these facts, other aspects of a soldier's record of service can often be determined. Usually, the piece of information that poses the most problems to find is the state from which the soldier served. Often, you will find that you have vague idea of the soldier's state of service, but you are not quite sure. The easiest way to confirm this is to contact the state archives in the state of possible service. They should be able to direct you to the muster rolls for their state if you go to the archives in person, or inform you of the procedure for requesting that information if you write or call. Remember to keep your requests simple, and offer only those details pertinent to your request. Be aware that names were often misspelled, so do not despair if you have a hard time finding your ancestor. Chances are he is listed under a name with a similar spelling.

With those three pieces of information verified, the next step is to retrieve the soldier's pension records. Pension records offer more information useful to the genealogist, and also provide a more complete picture of a soldier's military career. Some Confederate states issued pensions until 1959, and those pension can be found filed in the state archives in the state in which the soldier retired. All Union pensions and Confederate pensions issued after 1959 can be found by writing the National Archives and Records Administration. A NATF Form 80 must be requested, filled out, and submitted before records can be researched. In order for the National Archives to process the NATF Form 80, you must include the veteran's name, Civil War Union or Confederate service, branch of service, and the state from which he served. They will contact you with an invoice for copy fees, which must be paid before the copies are sent. It will take a few weeks for the request to be fully processed.

If pension records do not exist for your ancestor (Union or Confederate), you can write to the National Archives for the military record of the soldier in question. However, you should be aware that these records aren't as useful, and are subject to the same process as described earlier for requesting pension records.

Getting Started

To assist in getting started it is helpful to know the state and unit in which your ancestor served. There are numerous ways to assist you in finding this out. They include:

If you know his state of residence when he enlisted:

If you don't know his residence when he enlisted:

The links below can provide some assistance in getting started on your search.

Guide to Researching People of the Civil War Era - US Civil War Center

US Civil War Center - Genealogy

Military Records and Pension Records for Union Civil War Ancestors

Beginners Guide to Genealogy

Resources of the American Civil War - ROOTS-L

My Story

Now that I have provided you with the correct information about how to conduct your search, let me tell you how I really did it! I wasn't sure of where my great-grandfather had served. Knew he was from Alabama and migrated to Arkansas in 1870. I contacted a professional researcher concentrating in Civil War research. His name is John Gross and he can be contacted via e-mail [email protected]. I was pleased with his service, but will give you some tips. His prices were $5.00 for a simple search with a unit roster and regimental history of the unit your ancestor served in, $35.00 for a service record, and $40.00 for a pension record. I ordered the service record and pension record.

While I was waiting for the information to arrive (6-8 weeks), I decided to see what I could find on my own. I contacted Arkansas Research and discovered they provided some books listing the Arkansas Confederate Pension applications by county. I ordered the book for Cleburne County and found my great-grandfather listed. I also found my great-great-grandfather Jackson and a bunch of great uncles and other relations.

During a visit to Arkansas, I was able to spend the day at the Arkansas Historical Commission. This is a great place to do research and the staff is extremely helpful. I was able to get service records for my ancestors who had fought in Arkansas units and pension records for those living in Arkansas and eligible for a Confederate Pension. I also discovered that a lot of this same information is available at the LDS Family Research Centers.

Here is the bottom-line. A search via mail will usually cost between $10 and $15 at any of the state historical or archive centers, plus 25-50 cents per copy of material requested. Therefore a pension record will average $15-$25. Ordering a service record from the National Archive is $15 for a search plus 25 cents per copy or about the same price. By using a professional, I spent $10-$15 extra, but since I didn't know the state or other information at first, it was money well spent for them to do the initial research.

Since doing the searches listed above, I have found two more reasonable places to get copies of Civil War service records.

Lineage's - provides the ability to place an on-line order and receive your information via mail within 30 days. It costs $5 per search ($4 each for 4 or more) plus $2 shipping and handling for a search of the Civil War Index. They will provide back copies of all names that match. Then you can order the appropriate record for $11 ($9.50 for 4 or more) plus $3 shipping and handling. I have used this service and been pleased with the results.

Family Tree Maker Search Services - provides copies of Confederate Service Records and Pension Applications as well as other search services. I have not used them yet, but plan to try them for my next search request.

I also got a lot of historical data from the Army Official Records of the Civil War. Most of the detailed regimental history is taken from this source. This CD is available from various locations for about $69 plus shipping. A great value for any serious Civil War historian. If your searching for an Arkansas relative, try the next two locations:

Arkansas Civil War Information

Copywright 1997, 1998, 1999, Tom Martin, All rights reserved


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