Using Newspapers in your Civil War Research

Typewriter

Photo Credit: boria at http://www.sxc.hu/

**Newspapers may be one of the last resources you have on your Civil War ancestor check list. In fact as a family historian you may shy away from newspapers. Genealogists are well aware that newspapers, although chock full of history including names and dates can be tedious to research. Many historical newspapers are still not indexed so the researcher needs to select an approximate date and physically scan page after page for any information or a reference to information regarding their ancestor. UGH!

Please don’t let this put you off from researching your Civil War ancestor via newspapers. There is so much to learn about this turbulent era of our country’s history by reading the articles, ads and editorials of the day. Reading historical newspapers really puts you in your ancestor’s footprints. It’s almost like a form of time travel.

Start off by checking the local newspapers from your Civil War veteran’s hometown or locale during the war. The search will produce articles about the regiments that were raised in the area as well as citing soldiers’ by name. These articles may list battles fought, some in extensive detail, naming those injured, killed or missing from the regiment.

Many times soldiers themselves wrote home about their own personal experiences and that of the regiment. The local papers would print those letters in their entirety. There were two newspapers in my hometown during the Civil War. Captain Mart Armstrong, Co. B 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry wrote a weekly letter home that was printed by both newspapers. From training drills in camp to actual combat the folks at home were kept apprised of their hometown hero’s military life.

The political fervor of your Civil War ancestor’s hometown is also revealed in era newspapers. I just assumed living in the Yankee north this area was a big backer of President Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. Reading newspaper articles from that time I find this area had a good many “Peace Democrat” or “Copperhead” residents that were vocal during the presidential campaign.

Along with articles and letters about the regiments movements hometown papers also have snippets about daily life and how the residents were doing their part to support their boys in the war. Some of these columns are just as interesting and important as reading about the soldiers themselves.

Gleaning all this information from historical newspapers helps the researcher better understand your Civil War ancestor, the climate of the times he lived in and perhaps his view on the events unfolding around him. Continue reading

Do local Genealogy Societies have anything to offer today’s researcher?

I attended my local genealogy society’s workshop recently. Held every couple of years the Allen County (Ohio) Genealogical Society‘s symposium provided lots of information for the beginning genealogist as well as the more experienced family historian. So many times members shy away from a local workshop opting for the larger state and national conventions figuring there isn’t much to learn at a smaller, local event.

I disagree!

A local workshop can provide a great deal of information, hints and tips to a family historian without travel, overnight expenses or other additional fees. The meeting I attended is a perfect example of that. Two fantastic speakers took us through the day pointing the genealogy enthusiasts in new directions for their research.

Peggy Clemens Lauritzen

Peggy Clemens Lauritzen

First was well known and well loved genealogist Peggy Clemens Lauritzen or Miss Peggy as her adoring fans call her. Miss Peggy had two presentations for the day. Ticked Off – Those Pesky Pre-1850 Tic Marks and Homespun and Calico – Discovering Your Female Ancestors. With Miss Peggy’s down-home charm and lively presentations the audience received solid research information for their future ancestor investigations and had loads of fun listening to her anecdotes and folksy humor.

Debbie Carder Mayes

Debbie Carder Mayes

Our other speaker was ACGS‘s own Debbie Carder Mayes. Not only was Debbie the force behind the organization of the workshop she was also a presenter. Debbie’s topics complimented those given by Miss Peggy. Debbie spoke on Federal Population Census Data, 1790 – 1930 and Finding Eliza Jane—Using Civil War Records to Fill out Your Family Tree. Out of respect for the speakers and their well researched presentations I won’t give details about their talks but I will say I learned much more about using the Federal Census and will be spending a lot more time on them. I have a few more thoughts on tracking down the female ancestors in my family tree too.

So when the opportunity arises to attend a local genealogy workshop jump at the chance!

  •  You’ll broaden your knowledge and sharpen your skills.
  •  Meet other area family historians and share information. Who knows you may be speaking with a distant cousin!
  •  Attending these workshops also gives you the chance to pose questions to the presenter at the end of their talk. Their recommendations may tumble a formidable brick wall or two.
  •  Just as important your attendance supports your local genealogical society.

Without you, your suggestions and dues, local societies are not able to exist. I hate to think our lack of participation today in genealogy societies may contribute to their demise and hurt the future researcher.

What’s your experience with a local genealogy workshop? I hope you’ll share in the comments!

Everyone Has an Agenda What’s Yours?

My Backyard

As I look out my window

October snuck into our lives this week. With warm temps and sunny skies it’s more like the end of August than the first fews days of fall here in Ohio, but there’s no mistaking autumn has arrived. Leaves are changing colors and the evenings are decidedly cooler. My flowers are looking a bit ragged and will soon be plucked out of their beds with the first frost. Even though it’s very warm out now autumn is in the air.

Am I sad to see summer wane? Oh no. Now don’t get me wrong I love sunny summer days with baseball games and barbeques. Summer has a delicious casualness we all love to embrace from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. It’s truly a reenergizing time of year and probably needed with winter soon on the horizon again. For me summer seems to extend through September and that’s okay. Squeezing out those last few moments of sunshine and flip flops is invigorating, but once I turn the calendar’s page to October I don’t mind what fall brings.

October is “get back to your genealogy research” month. Summer is a hiatus from research with so many other events going on. Lots of reading and fact finding gets put on the back burner but once October bursts on the scene I’m thinking cemetery and courthouse visits with to do lists and field trips. In fact October is sort of a “new year” for me genealogy-wise. I take stock of what I’ve accomplished and where I want to go with my research. (2x grandfather James Nance you’re at the top of my list. I’m looking for you!)

Ironically I didn’t realize October was Family History month until I saw several messages about it on Facebook. Here I’ve been celebrating it every October in my own way. So to all of us family historians and genealogists Happy Family History month! Happy October! May the genealogy gods smile down on us as we ramp up our research!

I’m making out my genealogy to-do list for this fall. How about you? What’s on your genealogy agenda? Please share your thoughts in the comments. You may just give us all some inspiration!

He Couldn’t Stay Away – A Civil War Soldier’s Story

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

Do you remember a post I did a little while back called Checking a Goal Off My To-Do List? I was researching a Civil War soldier who’s surname was one of my family lines. Not only did I fill in the blanks on the soldier I was researching (James Vanmeter) I found he had a brother who also served in the Civil War. George Vanmeter’s story is even more compelling than James!

George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children of parents John and Rachel Stevenson Vanmeter. John and Rachel had deep roots in Putnam County, Ohio. Both were born there, they married there and started their family there nestled in a prosperous farming community.

Certainly George’s closest friend and playmate growing up was his brother James. Only 22 months younger, James and George were close. Their reliance on each other was strengthened when the family left their home, grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins to live in Lucas County, Ohio. Quite a distance from their relatives and friends the family farmed in their new location. The close ties to each other that would develop in Lucas County came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.

George was only 10 years old when his father died. Along with his siblings he brought his father’s body back to Putnam County to be buried. Laid to rest among family members John Vanmeter’s death rocked this family to its very core. Continue reading

Remembering Chickamauga 150 years later

ChickamaugaThis past summer before the great flood (which I wrote about here) we went on vacation. Our trip was to visit one of my daughters and son-in-law in central Florida. It’s quite a drive from Ohio so we figured it would be best to break it up into a couple days. When I checked out a map an eight hour drive put us somewhere in northern Georgia.

I couldn’t believe it when I realized we’d be very near the Chickamauga Battlefield. I had to stop there! I’ve done some research on this battle since so many soldiers from my area fought there.

My husband’s a good guy and it didn’t take much to sell him on it. My daughter was a slightly different story. I had to remind my 13 year old we were heading to Disney World and one day humoring her mother wouldn’t kill her. :)

So off went heading south to Florida with a stop in Georgia along the way.

ChickamaugaA little background on the Battle of Chickamauga. In September 1863, the Army of the Cumberland led by Union Maj. William Rosecrans moved through Tennessee. Union forces took the city of Chattanooga considered the gateway to the south and gained control of the rail lines there. On the defense was Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg leading the Army of Tennessee. Bragg with his men camped just 25 miles south of Chattanooga would attempt to position his troops between the Union army and the city. Both armies would clash near a small creek in Georgia called Chickamauga.

ChickamaugaOn September 19 and 20, 1863 these two armies fought in the bloodiest battle of the war second only to Gettysburg. Union forces numbered nearly 65,000 men and the Confederate army bolstered with reinforcements topped 66,000 men. The brutal fighting lasted two days many times resulting in hand to hand combat. Continue reading