Civil War Saturday – My Civil War Toolbox

Tool BoxWe’ve all heard the term “Genealogist’s toolbox” or “Genealogist’s toolkit” in online posts and at workshops. Genealogists and family historians have come to know a “toolbox” as the resources available to them for their research. Examples from a genealogist’s toolkit can range from links to websites and databases, to books and repositories. Some may even include software and apps but usually all the tools are found online.

I’ve seen toolbox collections that cover genealogy topics ranging from a Beginning Genealogists toolbox, to an Irish Genealogy Toolkit to a National Archives toolkit. In this article I thought I’d share with you my Civil War toolbox. It’s my list of go-to sites for Civil War soldier research as well pages for learning about the war itself. My hope is that you find a site or two you’ve never used before or you find one you haven’t checked in awhile and want to stop back again and research.

So let’s open my Civil War toolbox and see what’s inside!

Websites for Research

I thought I’d separate this first section of websites into two categories. The initial category below will help with links to track down your individual ancestor. These sites will assist you in locating your Civil War ancestor through rosters, obits, databases, etc.

Leslie Lawson has one of the most detailed genealogist’s toolboxes I’ve ever seen. Her site, Lawson Research Services lists genealogy links for all 50 states as well as a few other topics like DNA, vital or jails. Here you’ll find link upon link for your search. Each of the individual states are broken down into counties. Some counties are further broken down into probate, obit index, naturalization records and so on. She includes Civil War info for each state. Ohio for example has a link for Names of Union Soldiers with Civil War Service in Ohio Units and Ohio Civil War Rosters. Don’t overlook Leslie’s extensive information. Just click on the toolbox tab in the header menu on her site.

 Lawson Research Services with permission from Leslie Brinkley Lawson

Lawson Research Services – Used with permission.

Another great site is Lorine McGinnis Schulze’s Olive Tree Genealogy. I have a soft spot for Lorine’s site. It was the very first one I checked out when I started my Civil War research. There are a variety of links here from U.S. Civil War POW Records, to Confederate Disability Applications and Receipts to Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers Home Applications for Admission. She lists many seldom used and seldom talked about record sets. Stop by and take a peek.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze's Olive Tree Genealogy  -  Used with permission

Lorine McGinnis Schulze’s Olive Tree Genealogy – Used with permission

Cyndi’s List For more than 18 years Cyndi has been compiling and updating online genealogy links for family research. There are 1,116 in the Civil War category alone. Her site is constantly evolving. So a researcher should check back often. New links are added continually. Cyndi’s List is a must in your toolbox.

National Park System Soldiers and Sailors Database This is a free database with the names of both Union and Confederate soldiers. I’ve heard a few complaints that the database is not as complete as it could or should be. This may be the case yet it is a good place to start your research and certainly shouldn’t be the only place you research. Nice informative section on regiments as well.

American Civil War Research Database On their website they claim they are “the largest, most in-depth and fully searchable database of American Civil War soldiers and events.” As of this writing I have not subscribed but plan to. Once I do I’ll write a review in a future blog post. I’m including this little-known site as a place for you to consider. It’s a subscription site but the price seems very reasonable.

Find-A-Grave I’ve found more clues for further research on this site because someone else very generously documented and uploaded the gravesite information from a cemetery. Of course it’s a hit or miss whether the final resting place of the person you’re searching for is on the site but I’ve had good luck finding soldier’s graves here. Which gave me additional clues for my research.

The next few links are of course the standard list of online genealogy resources we use daily but still worth the mention.

Family Search Free

Ancestry $$

Find My Past $$

Archives $$

Websites for Learning

This second website category is for general information about the Civil War. It’s so vital in understanding our veteran’s place during this time in history to know something of the era and the events going on at the time.

Civil War Trust Far and away my favorite site to learn about the Civil War. Want to know about a particular battle, prison or stats? You’ll find it all right here in an easy to read format. This is a free site. They do invite you to donate but you can read and research without paying. I especially like their series Civil War In 4. They’re four minute videos on a variety of subjects like medicine, women, armies, black soldiers and Confederate leaders. Good, solid information told in a concise manner.

Now since I have a pretty big “tool box” I’ll continue my list with next week’s Civil War Saturday. Hope to see you then! As always thanks for reading and Good Luck in your research!

** Previously published in the September 2014 issue of “Going In-Depth” magazine**

#52 Ancestors Meets Up With #Crafting Genealogy again

Ancestor-o-dex completed card

Ancestor Rolodex

Do you remember way back in January when we all committed to #52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks? This brilliant idea by Amy Johnson Crow encouraged us all to . . . 

. . . have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”

What a great idea! Not only should it get me blogging more, but also motivate me to take a deeper look at some of the people in my family tree.”

Well I did just that . . . . for awhile. The plan was I’d write each week about one of my ancestors then I would dedicate a rolodex card to them. See the explanation of that post here. Each card would have a copy of a pic, a memory or whatever struck me at the time. I’d use my vast stash of decorative paper and whatever bits of ribbon, twine, buttons, etc. I had. I was certain working with such a small canvas would ensure I’d get it done every week.

Well . . . that didn’t exactly happen either! Oops! But this past weekend I did work on my ancestor Rolodex file.

Gathering supplies: Rolodex cards, copies of pics, decorative paper

Gathering supplies: Rolodex cards, copies of pics, decorative paper

I grabbed several blank Rolodex cards, copies of my family pics, glue stick, ink pad and leftover pieces of my scrapbook paper. First I glued some background papers to my Rolodex cards.

Trying several layouts before gluing anything down

Trying several layouts with pics and papers

Once I had my photos where I wanted them I glued everything down. I also used an ink pad around the edges and corners. I love the vintage look ink gives this kind of project.

The finished Rolodex cards. I did write names in those blank boxes.

The finished Rolodex cards. I did write names in those blank boxes.

I do identify all ancestors before they go in the Rolodex file. I’m hoping to get several more cards done before Christmas when my older daughters come home. Who knows maybe this will spark a conversation or two! I’m always hoping to share a bit of family history with them.

In the mean time have fun Crafting Genealogy!

Crafting Genealogy: Beautiful Botanicals

Crafting Genealogy - Beautiful Botanicals

Beautiful Botanicals

Welcome back to Crafting Genealogy! This month we’re going to add a little color to our lives with these Beautiful Botanicals. I’m using them as bright and spirited holiday ornaments. They’ll be beautiful on my Christmas tree but could also be used as a tie on for a gift or maybe as a finishing touch to another craft project (book cover, front of greeting card, etc.). If you usually add a few hand-crafted items to your holiday giving these ornaments are ideal. This project barely takes an hour to complete and works well with any skill level. So get the kids to help and let’s get started Crafting Genealogy.

Gathering our supplies is easy:

* Glittery Botanicals – I bought these at Michaels after the holidays but all crafts stores have their Christmas decorations out now. So wander down the aisles and see what you can find.

* Copies of vintage family pics – this time I’m using portrait pics. They fit this project better.

* Paper – I used a page from an old dictionary and book but use scrapbook paper or whatever you have that compliments your botanicals.

* Decorative scissors, cookie cutters, etc. – I used these for different background shapes for the paper

* Glue – I used a glue stick and wet glue like Aleene’s for this project

* Chenille stems (optional)

* Ribbon, buttons, etc.

* Hanger (optional)

Crafting Genealogy - Beautiful Botanicals

Gather your supplies

First off I decided which way I wanted my botanicals to hang. A couple have the stems up and a couple have stems down. On those that have the stem at the top I made a loop out of the stem for a hanger. Those with the stems down I looped and knotted a piece of thread for a hanger. You can use fishing line, thin wire, dental floss or even a twist tie for your hanger. It’s on the back so no one will see it.

Next take your old book or dictionary pages to make a background for your photo Botanical. I eyeballed the size I would need depending on my leaf or branch size. I used decorative scissors to cut out one of the backgrounds but I also traced a tin, or use a cookie cutter, jar lid, even free-hand cut out your decorative background. I like the uneven variations better than perfect circles or ovals.

Crafting Genealogy - Beautiful Botanicals

Cutting out shapes

Now cut your photo copies just a bit smaller than the background. Decide how much of an edge you want behind each pic. Once everything is cut out lay your photos and backgrounds on your Botanicals. Make any adjustments and when you’re pleased with the layout glue the photos to the background (I’ll use a glue stick for this step) and then glue the background to the Botanicals (I’ll use small drops of liquid glue for this step to assure my photos/backgrounds are firmly adhered.

Finally add a few embellishments. I took some chenille stems and twisted them to make frames for some of my pics. (See photo) Add buttons, tie bits of ribbon or lace into bows or add the person’s name.

Crafting Genealogy - Beautiful Botanicals

Voila! Beautiful Botanicals

Your finished Botanicals will look great on your Christmas tree, holiday wreath, as a gift tie-on or string together as a banner. You’re bound to have kids or grandkids ask who the people in the photos are and what a great opportunity you’ll have to share some family history.

I hope you’ll try crafting your own Beautiful Botanicals. If you do and make your own variation of it, please send me a pic or two. I’ll share them in a future post giving all of us even more ideas and inspiration.

In the mean time have fun Crafting Genealogy!

Civil War Saturday A Soldier’s Story

He Fought From the War’s Beginning to End with the 4th OVC

Charles and Amanda Briggs

Charles and Amanda Briggs

Charles Marion Briggs grew up on what could be considered the frontier of Allen County, Ohio. He was born July 25, 1842 while the county was still in its infancy. There were large tracts of heavily wooded land still untouched by settlers. Situated on the edge of the Great Black Swamp the population was still rather small. As a youngster Charles saw the occasional Indian roaming the area. Probably Shawnee, he’d show up at the family’s farm, frightening everyone at home and taking whatever food he could find. Nearby was the tiny village of Spencerville. Just a few miles west of their farm. It was the closest town for supplies, medical help and community. Living here required a certain amount of mettle and the Briggs family had it.

In his early years Charles learned to be strong and independent. His youth was spent with only his father and sister. His mother died when he was just four and younger brother Jacob passed before his first birthday. His hard work and self-sufficiency on the farm would serve Charles very well in the next chapter of his life.

As the summer of 1861 came around Charles turned 18 years old. News of southern secession traveled fast even to rural areas like Allen County. Love of country and patriotism were plentiful as President Lincoln issued a call for troops. Yet it was soon apparent, after the initial enlistment, this conflict would not be resolved in a few short months. More soldiers would be needed and recruiting began.

Allen County was a fertile area to find hard working, active, young men. It wasn’t difficult to raise a company of soldiers there. The Spencerville area produced a number of men ready, willing and able to fight for and defend the country they loved. Charles Briggs was one of them. He enlisted on October 18, 1861 for three years. He was a private in Company I, 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

Charles was well suited to be a cavalry man. He was short, lean and wiry. Very capable of riding a horse for great lengths of time without burdening the animal. Being raised on a farm, the rigors of cavalry life may not have surprised Charles very much. He was well aware of the daily care and maintenance a horse required. He’d spent his life working the land putting in many labor intensive days. So the drilling and training required of new recruits may not have phased Charles much either.

Yet the brutalities of war soon became a regular part of Charles daily life too. He encountered fear, death and bloodshed no one could be prepared for. He was involved in every battle the 4th OVC fought from Stone’s River to Chickamauga to Selma, adding to that the continual harassment of outlaw Confederate cavalryman, John Hunt Morgan.

Charles witnessed the death and injury of hundreds of his comrades. He saw the blood and heard the chilling screams as flesh was ripped open by shrapnel. Charles knew the hollow ache of watching your friends die of wounds or disease because there wasn’t enough doctors or medical supplies. He was fully christened to the atrocities of war. Continue reading

Crafting Genealogy: We’re Making Family Spoons!

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

Crafting Genealogy – Family Spoons

Welcome back to this month’s edition of Crafting Genealogy. Does your family play the game Spoons? The card game where there’s one less spoon than the number of people playing. The object is to get four of a kind as the cards are passed around the table. As soon as one player gets their four-of-a-kind they grab a spoon then so do the rest of the players. The player that doesn’t get a spoon is out of the game. My family loves playing it. It’s always lots of fun and full of laughs! Well we’re playing with spoons at Crafting Genealogy this time. Just in a little different way. We’re making Family Spoons! This project is fun, easy and can be completed in a couple of hours. So let’s get started.

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons


Supplies needed:
Serving spoons/utensils – I used two purchased from a flea market and one brand new one
Copies of family photos
Wire, beads, ribbon, charms, pages from an old book, fabric pieces, buttons or lace. The embellishments you choose may be items you have in your craft drawer. Use your imagination.

I found the two vintage serving utensils at a flea market for the bargain price of $1 a piece. I love working with vintage items. The patina on just about any old item appeals to me but if that’s not your style use new serving pieces for this project. The new slotted spoon I used was purchased at the dollar store. I really like the background design the slots produce.

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

Looking for just the right text from these old book pages

I suggest you work on the handles first. (I didn’t and had to let the glue on the bottom potion of the spoons dry before I could decorate the handles.) I was in a wire mood for this project and used a small spool my husband had on his work bench. It wasn’t marked but I’ll bet it was size 20 or 22. The wire was easy to bend and I used a pair of needle nose pliers to make a few curls. I also wrapped the wire around a pencil as I experimented with different shapes. Once I had the wire in the shapes I wanted I added a few beads and charm and pinched closed the ends of the wires with the pliers.

If you don’t have wire or like a softer look try using ribbon or lace for the handles. You could also use some decorative string or washi tape for another look. Maybe a simple bow at the top or midway is all you need if the handle is decorative and you don’t want to cover it up. At this point if you’d like to add a hanger to your utensils you can make a loop on the back of your handle with your ribbon or wire.

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

Viewing the placing of my embellishments before I glue them down

Next I made sure the serving space on my utensils was free of dust and adhesive. I took my copied family photos and chose the ones that once I trimmed down would fit in the serving space on my utensils. After I trimmed my photos I laid them on the spoons and added different embellishments to see what looked pleasing to the eye.

As you can see on one of the pieces I didn’t use a background, one has a couple scraps from an old book page and the other uses a small leftover piece of fabric. I used very small amounts of Aleene’s Craft Glue to adhere the photos and the background pieces to the utensils. I used a couple of my kitchen bag clips to clamp the photos down where the serving spoon is a bit rounded. (In case your bag clip has ridges use a small piece of waxed paper between your photo and bag clip. That way you don’t leave the ridge pattern from the clip on your photo.)

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

My grandmother

Once the glued photos have dried I added a few embellishments to finish each piece. The bottom of one spoon has clear glitter, another beads.

I’m really pleased with the way the spoons turned out. It was much easier than you might think. Just take a little time and play with the embellishments you’ve chosen. You’ll hit on a combination you’ll love!

Wouldn’t this be a sweet addition to a family recipe book! Add to the cover of the cookbook or as a tie-on to the wrapped gift.

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

My great-grandmother

I hope you’ll try crafting your own Family Spoons. If you do and make your own variation of it, please send me a pic or two. I’ll share them in a future post giving all of us even more ideas and inspiration.

In the mean time have fun Crafting Genealogy!

Crafting Genealogy - Family Spoons

My mom