March’s Newsletter – Finding More on Your Civil War Ancestor

Hidden Clues in Civil War HeadstonesMarch’s Newsletter –

Finding More on Your Civil War Ancestor is out. Did it land in your inbox? If not you’re missing links and suggestions for new ideas on researching your Civil War ancestor.

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Jen Holik and Cindy Freed talk Military Research from Civil War to World War II

Jen Holik

Jen Holik

Jen Holik and I have had the privilege of writing for the In-Depth Genealogist magazine, Going In-Depth, for the last couple years.

Jen’s column specializes in World War II research. In fact Jen has two books coming out soon, Stories from the World War II Battlefield vol.1 & vol. 2 They’ll cover how to research all branches of the military in World War II. They’re a must have for your WWII research.

Jen and I’ve both been interviewed for the Meet the Writers series for the In-Depth Genealogist. It’s a fun way to learn about us and our research. You can find our interviews on YouTube. Jen’s here. Along with mine here.

After you watch both interviews you’ll see a lot of similarities in the records and sources Jen uses for World War II research and the ones I use in Civil War research.

The In-Depth Genealogist

When Jen and I realized we use similar records we decided to write blog posts comparing the records and strategies for research. Please read Jen’s post today describing her research methods for World War II records.

Here are my suggestions when researching your Civil War ancestor.

Where do you start?

Check the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for the location of your ancestor. You’ll need to know where your ancestor was living just prior to the Civil War to have a better idea which state’s militia he joined. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census can be found several places online like and

Where do I find my ancestor’s enlistment dates and regiment? With his name and where he lived check the several online sources for enlistment info. These sites also list regimental histories which you’ll find valuable, learning about troop movements and battles fought.

*National Parks Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System




*Try Individual State rosters too. For example the Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Vols. 1-12 can be found online and in local libraries. Search the state roster from where your ancestor served.

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania, Genealogy, Family History

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania

How do I find out more about his military service? 

Through Pension Files and CMSR files at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Washington, D.C.

* First check United States Civil War and Later Pension Index 1861 – 1917 to see if your ancestor received a pension or the family applied for one. Index found at FamilySearch,, Fold3.

* If your ancestor did receive a pension, request a copy from NARA. Using NATF Form 85 it can be ordered online at for $ or you can download the form and mail it in. You have the option of receiving hard copies or a cd/dvd for your files.

* Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) also at NARA is a file for each veteran containing muster rolls, pay vouchers, hospital rolls and so on. They can have additional information like  muster in and out dates, some limited biographical information: age, eye and hair color, height, weight. These can be ordered with form NATF 86 like the pension files above.

* 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 to contact for Confederate soldiers pensions.

What can I find in Courthouse Records? 

* Soldier’s Discharge Papers – Union veterans did receive discharge papers and were supposed to file them at their local courthouse once back home.

* Money account – In some counties families sent soldiers money via the local courthouse. Soldiers were able to send money home the same way.

* Graves Registration File – file of veterans buried in that particular county.

* Indigent Union Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Interment – if you’ve hit a brick wall, or not sure you’re ancestor was buried by family.

What are some online sources for Civil War research?

* Civil War Draft Registration Records –

* Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows aka 1890 Veterans Schedule FamilySearch and Ancestry.

* The Official Pension Roll of 1883 – Ancestry and

* U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers – FamilySearch and Ancestry

* Confederate veterans – a list of state-run home can be found on the National Archives and Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home Applications for Admission

Where else might I locate information? Your ancestor likely belonged to a veterans group after the war.

* Grand Army of the Republic

Library of Congress –

Grand Army of the Republic Library and Museum –

* Sons of Union Veterans –

* United Confederate Veterans – – %22United+Confederate+Veterans%22

* Sons of Confederate Veterans – veterans.html

Ancestors In A Nation Divided

There’s also more research help in my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided. Please check it out.


Be sure to check Jen’s post today to learn about researching your WWII veteran!

Civil War Saturday – Medical Cards

Carver General Hospital, Washington City

Carver General Hospital Photo Credit: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, (Record Group 111) Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives. No known restrictions on publication.

About a month or so ago I saw wrote a blog post about Civil War Medical Cards. These are medical files, for Union Civil War soldiers, and are housed at the National Archives in Washington DC.

These Medical Cards document the health issues of Union Civil War soldiers. If your ancestor was wounded or contracted an illness the details were recorded on a card.

This information is not found in a pension file or in a Compiled Military Service Record. Medical Cards are a file all their own.

The files can contain a lot of information you may not already have, and like all files some cards are may be more detailed than others.

Some of the information you may find on the cards: the injury or illness the soldier suffered, the kind of treatment he received, where he recuperated like a field hospital or a barracks. There’s also the results of his injury or illness such as a surgeons certificate of discharge, return to regiment, or died. There can be a list of the soldiers personal belongings, and even information on the soldiers family or next of kin.

Civil War Medical Cards are available for you to research at the National Archives if you happen to be going there. But even better than that, copies of the files are free upon request.

Let me tell you about my experience.

I went to the National Archives site and emailed, – If you scroll down on this link there is an email form further down on the page titled:
I have a question about research and records at NARA” with a text box to fill in your request. I asked for a copy of three of my ancestors Civil War Medical Cards. I included their name, rank, regiment and company in my request.

Pvt. George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Pvt. James R Vanmeter Co F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
Cpl. George S Vanmeter Co F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

and then further down on the page was a form for your name, address, etc.

It only took two weeks and I received copies of the Medical Cards of my three ancestors by snail mail. Now their medical cards didn’t contain all the details listed above but I did learn new information on two of the soldiers.

For example my great-great-grandfather, George W Lowery, was wounded in the right chest at the Battle of Cumberland Church on April 7, 1865. That’s all the information I had.

Through his Medical Card I found that his gunshot wound to the right breast received a simple dressing after battle. He went to a field hospital on April 8th in City Point, Virginia. Then on April 15th he was transported on the U.S.A. Hospital Steamer Connecticut to Carver Hospital in Washington DC. He was discharged from the hospital June 7, 1865 and mustered out of the army.

New bits of information on our ancestors is always exciting and this was no exception. I have new leads to follow up.

If your Union Civil War ancestor was ill or injured during the war contact the National Archives for his Medical Cards. This free research information may be just the info you need to tear into a brick wall.

Happy Researching!

Are you or a family member researching your Civil War ancestor?




Check out Ancestors In A Nation Divided – available in Kindle and also in paperback. Great research help as you start to learn about your family in the Civil War.


I’d love for you to sign up for my monthly tipsFinding more on your Civil War ancestor here. I’ll share pointers and info to help in researching your Civil War ancestor. Please take a moment to sign up and thanks so much!

My 3 best online sites to begin your Civil War research all are Free!

Civil War blog reading

Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Civil War is the one single event in our country’s history that still captures a lot of attention today. More books are published and read about the Civil War every year than any other era in our history. Maybe you’ve even wondered if your ancestor(s) played a role in this powerful time in our county’s history. Nearly 3 million men from both the north and south fought in the war. All these men left their homes and families to fight for their beliefs. It’s more than likely one, if not several, of your ancestors participated.

So, where do you begin as you search for your ancestors place in this monumental struggle known as the Civil War? First look through your family tree at the generation of men born in the late 1820’s, the 1830’s and 1840’s. Also, remember many youths lied about their age and served when only 16 or 17 years old. So flexibility with dates is a plus! Now where do you go from here?

National Parks Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System

Armed with a name try finding your potential soldier at the National Parks Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System Database. It’s a good, free website provided by the National Parks System. While there be sure to click on the Tools page and Info page. There’s a lot of great information available and many details on regiments and battles. Knowing a little about the battles your ancestor fought in puts you in his footsteps. How far from home was he? Did his regiment move often? Did he see major casualties? All these variables were sure to change him forever and certainly helps the genealogist identify with their ancestor.

Family Search

Continue researching your Civil War ancestor at the site. Along with their database this free site, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has info pages, video demos, a blog, and free courses. There’s a lot to find on this site beside the records you’re searching for and all free!

Cyndi’s List

Another avenue to follow as you research your Civil War ancestor is Cyndi’s List. This is not a database where you’ll find your particular soldier listed but a compilation of links when researching your Union, Confederate, and African-American soldiers. There’s listings for battlefields and battles, prisoners and prisons, censuses, and the lists go on and on. With links to just about every Civil War internet site known to mankind you could quite possibly spend the rest of your life pursuing leads from Cyndi’s List alone. Stop here when you have time on your hands.

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