Taking a Look at the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

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An often over-looked resource when researching our military ancestors is the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers or commonly referred to as the “Old Soldiers Home”.

The homes were established for Civil War veterans who had been injured during the war and found they or their families just couldn’t care for them. The homes were established across the country and veterans were able to voluntarily check themselves in and out. Your veteran may have lived close enough in proximity to have stayed at a home for awhile.

These homes were located in Togus Springs, Maine as the Eastern Branch, Dayton, Ohio, Central Branch, and Wood, Wisconsin was the Northwestern Branch. Other Branches included Hampton, Virginia, Southern Branch, the Western Branch was in Leavenworth, Kansas, the Pacific Branch was at Sawtelle, California, the Marion Branch in Indiana, the Danville Branch was in Illinois, the Mountain Branch was at Johnson City, Tennessee, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium was at Hot Springs, South Dakota the Bath Branch was in New York, (these records are not available on FamilySeach.org) the Roseburg Branch in Oregon, the St. Petersburg Home in Florida, the Biloxi Home in Mississippi, and the Tuskegee Home in Alabama.

Records were kept on each veteran who checked in and those registers are now kept at the National Archives in Record Group 15, in the Records of the Veterans Administration. The National Archives has a very informative page on the history of the Homes for Disabled Soldiers at http://1.usa.gov/L3BtR2, but they do not have the records online. They are available for research on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.

When searching either website you’ll be able to view a copy of the actual record. I have found most records to be well-filled out with valuable info. Information contained in an individuals’ record includes name, rank, company, regiment, discharge, date admitted to home, birthplace, age, religion, residence, marital status, name and address of nearest relative, pension info, date and cause of death and place of burial (if applicable). The bottom of each veteran’s page has a space for general comments as well. I also found height, hair color, eye color and complexion included on one record.

If your Civil War veteran fought for the Confederacy he would probably stayed at a state-run Soldiers Home. In that case, contact the state archives in the state where the home was located. A list of state-run homes can be found on the National Archives website as well at http://1.usa.gov/JZgsam

Using this resource adds another dimension to your military ancestor. His injury and need for health care makes him a “real” person and helps us tell his life story more completely. Good luck in your continued search!

**Previously published for IDG digi-magazine but I thought you’d like it here too!

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