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!

What can be better than me, Civil War research and YouTube!

The In-Depth Genealogist has a new series on their YouTube channel called Meet the Writers! Guess who was interviewed for this week’s segment! That’s right! You can hear me talk about Civil War research on this episode.

If you enjoyed the interview will you give it a like please and share with your tribe. Thanks!!

Also there are a lot of good segments coming up so be sure and subscribe to The In-Depth Genealogist’s YouTube channel. That way you’ll be notified of new releases and won’t miss a thing!

The July Issue of Going In-Depth is Available!

Going In-Depth is a free, digital genealogy magazine presented by The In-Depth Genealogist. In each monthly issue, you’ll find guest articles, regular columns, and free resources such as Ask Ephraim and MIAA to help you along your family history journey. As with all IDG products, they strive to create a resource for every genealogist, no matter the age, stage, or focus of your research.

My article this month is “When It Comes To My Civil War Ancestor: No Diaries, No Letters, No Problem!” Click the magazine photo to start reading excellent genealogy research ideas for free!



If you’re interested in researching your Civil War ancestor’s story check out Ancestors In A Nation Divided – Kindle. Also in paperback. Great research help as you seek your veteran’s place in our country’s history.

We’re going to use some of our previous Civil War research and do something different. We’re going on a road trip!

Civil War, 81st Pennsylvania Infantry, Sailor's Creek Battlefield

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

One of the many helpful sources in searching your Civil War ancestor is the unit’s regimental history. There you will learn where the regiment was formed and its years of service, its officer’s names and battles fought. A regimental history is a road map of where your ancestor journeyed during this time in our country’s history.

Let’s take for example the 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Which also happens to be the regiment my ancestor fought with. Now I know my ancestor joined 19 July 1864 and joined the 81st in November of 1864 after two months training. He mustered out of the infantry on 25 June 1865. So let’s take a look at movements of the 81st Pennsylvania during those eleven months.

My ancestor, George W. Lowery would have joined up with his regiment, the 81st at Petersburg, VA. In November 1864 Petersburg was under siege. The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac were entrenched around the city. Months of fighting had resulted in a multitude of deaths and eventually Grant’s army successfully cut off the Confederate’s supply lines resulting in the fall of Richmond. Without the very basics like food, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia moved west across the state in early April 1865, pursued by Grant and Union forces, which included my g-g-grandfather.

Following this trail, outlined in the regimental history, I can now “march” along with my Civil War ancestor. I’ve made this trek twice. Once with my husband and another time with my genealogy-minded sister.

Civil War, 81st Pennsylvania, Sailor's Creek Battlefield

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

I picked up the trail traveling west out of Petersburg to the little known Battle of White Oak Road. I’ve walked the paths there through trees and underbrush imagining troops bursting through the foliage. Making my way back to the small graveled parking lot I slipped a pine cone in my pocket. It was a physical connection for me. I was standing where my Civil War ancestor had been. Continue reading

It’s not often the likes of little ol’ me gets to do something big but I’m involved in something BIG!

The In-Depth Genealogist

The In-Depth Genealogist

The In-Depth Genealogist (IDG) is an online community of genealogists helping each other in their research. With a well developed website, all genealogists can read the free monthly online newsletter, forums or blog. Readers are encouraged to leave comments or ask questions about specific aspects of their genealogy research. IDG has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter too, adding fun to our genealogy research.


IDG is genealogists helping genealogists and I happen to be a part of this generous community! I write a monthly column for The In-Depth Genealogist. It’s Tracing Blue and Gray. Each month I write about the best methods of Civil War Research and also look into the real aspects of what our ancestors endured during their Civil War service. My first article debuted May 2012 and I’ve been with the newsletter ever since.


That is until this month. No longer is The In-Depth Genealogist a monthly digital newsletter. It’s now a monthly digital MAGAZINE!! Launching their premier issue yesterday February 15th, IDG is an expanded, beautifully formatted, treasure trove of guest articles, columns and genealogy resources. All free! If you haven’t seen the new IDG Magazine just click here! You’ll be amazed at all the info packed inside and if you haven’t subscribed yet click here, so the next issue of IDG is delivered to your inbox.


Kudos to the editorial staff of Terri O’Connell, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman, Jen Baldwin and Jen Alford for putting together such a magnificent publication! They’ve earned a big pat on the back and many thanks for allowing me to be a part of this exciting venture!