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

Hidden Clues in Civil War HeadstonesMarch’s Newsletter –

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Crafting Genealogy: Vintage Clipboard Memories

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard MemoriesThis time at Crafting Genealogy we’re going to make a different kind of display for our vintage family photos. We’re using old wooden clipboards in a cool, artful way. We’ll use scrapbook paper, whatever crafts supplies you have around the house and add in your creativity. So let’s get started!


Old wooden clip boards. I like the beat up kind from flea markets but I’ve seen new wooden ones at the Dollar $tore or WalMart.

Decorative paper – Scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, old book pages, sheet music, maps, etc.


Copies of family pics, old postcards, etc.

Adhesive like glue stick or double-sided tape

Foam adhesive squares (for dimension)

Acrylic paint, ink pad

Various odds and ends like ribbon, buttons, flowers, and so on.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Supplies for Vintage Clipboard Memories

I had three old wooden clipboards tucked away in my basement so I grabbed those for this project. Two were full size and one was half size. They’ll make a nice wall arrangement.

First I decided which background paper I wanted for each clipboard, then traced the clipboard shapes and cut the paper out. As you can see from the photos my papers weren’t long enough to cover the entire clipboard so I added a different paper as a border along the bottom of the larger ones. You can also use two or three different decorative papers on a board, add ribbon or lace to the bottom whatever catches your eye.

I’d say the most difficult part of this project is cutting your paper to fit around the clip at the top of the board. On one board I didn’t come close to cutting it out to fit neatly around the clip. (That’s the board with the kids and dog photo.) I didn’t think it took away from the appearance so I just left it. You can always patch with coordinating paper or add some ribbon or lace.

Next I glued the background papers to the clipboards. I had a hard time trying to get my paper lined up on the first clipboard after I covered it with Modge Podge. So I decided to get my decorative paper lined up first on the clipboard, using the clip to help hold it in place. Then I lifted the edges and put the Modge Podge underneath the paper onto the board. I worked in small areas making sure I kept the paper lined up on my board and then smoothed it out. This worked much better. I wasn’t frustrated trying to pry up glued down paper to readjust it so it fit evenly on the clipboard.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Now it’s time to glue our decorative papers to the clipboards

Once the decorative papers are adhered the fun begins! This next part gives you a chance to put your creativity to work. I wanted more than just the plain decorative pages for backgrounds. So I embellished those papers. First I used an ink pad. I ran the pad around the edges of the paper giving it a nice worn look. Then I took acrylic paint (I use the 87 cent a bottle kind) and painted around the bottom of a bottle of water. Pressing the bottle bottom to the paper gave me the broken circles I used on one of the boards. I also painted bubble wrap and pressed it to another board and got an interesting effect. I spattered paint on one board for a different result. I like a vintage, aged feel to my projects and these techniques help to achieve that look.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Now let’s add our photos!

The next step is layering backgrounds as a type of mat for the photos you’re using. I made sure they coordinated with my backgrounds and the pics. Tearing some decorative papers for different shapes and rougher edges adds to the vintage feel. I spent a little bit of time on this portion adding and subtracting to get the look I wanted. I smudged some ink on these papers too adding an aged look. Once I settled on my layout I adhered the base paper to the clipboard but used foam squares on the pics and additional embellishing pieces to give a little dimension to the layout.

I didn’t add names or dates to the clipboards but they could be included with old labels or tags. You could do this project using current school photos, Christmas or vacation photos if vintage isn’t your style.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Putting on the finishing touches

I hope you’ll try crafting your own Clipboard Memories. 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.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some clipboards to hang in my office. In the mean time have fun Crafting Genealogy!

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

The 10 Things on My Civil War Bucket List!

National Archives - Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

National Archives – Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

A couple Saturdays ago you may have caught my post on  Ten Things To Do for Your Civil War Ancestor. It was a lot of fun and I’m working through the list myself. If you missed it you can read here.


That post got me thinking about the things I’d like to see and do. Those things I’ve made a mental note of ever since I began researching the Civil War. After thinking about it I realized it was turning into a Civil War bucket list.


So this is my CW bucket list. A checklist of things I’d like to see and do sometime, some day, all pertaining to the Civil War. They’re in no particular order and don’t necessarily have to do with my ancestors.


Here we go:

Bloody Pond - Shiloh National Military Park Credit: NPS Photo

Bloody Pond – Shiloh National Military Park Credit: NPS Photo

 Visit the Shiloh Battlefield. The first Civil War soldier from my area that died during the war was at the battle of Shiloh. I’ve done some research on him so it holds special meaning.


 Visit Ford’s Theater in Washington DC. and the Petersen Boarding house across the street where the dying president was taken. I can only imagine the emotional experience to be had there.


 Go to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Not only are there two U.S. Presidents buried there, the only Confederate President is buried there too. Theres also a number of Confederate generals including J.E.B. Stuart and George Pickett at Hollywood. But more than all that 18,000 Confederate soldiers were laid to rest there. Im sure it would be a moving experience.


 Tour Carnton Plantation near the Battle of Franklin and see the blood stained floors where doctors worked feverishly on injured Confederate soldiers. Also walk on the back porch (I read Widow of the South by Robert Hicks) and see where several generals bodies lay after the battle.


 I’d like to find out what happened to the body of my cousin George S. Vanmeter. He was shot and killed on picket duty April 13, 1864 outside of Florence, Alabama. He was with Co. G 9th OVC. Wherever his remains were left I’d like to go there and honor him.


John Hunt Morgan

Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan

 I want to learn more about John Hunt Morgan. (You know how women love a rogue and all I’ve read certainly puts him in that category.) Then I’d travel the 1,000 miles he made famous during Morgan’s raid from Tennessee to Kentucky, across Indiana and Ohio before being captured.


 Probably the most important: I’d like to find a photo of my Civil War ancestor, my great-great-grandfather George W. Lowery. He was a private and fought with Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In uniform or later in life, it doesn’t matter. I’d just like to have a photo of him.


 I’ve never been to Appomattox Courthouse which is an absolute must and is very near the top of my list. I can’t wait to walk in the footsteps of both Lee and Grant and see the parlor when where peace was finally reached.


 I’d like to spend a day with Garry Adelman. He’s the Director of History and Education at the Civil War Trust. He’s also a licensed Battlefield Guide for Gettysburg and does tons of neat stuff all pertaining to the Civil War. He was at the Library of Congress awhile back and was able to see actual glass plate negatives taken by Matthew Brady. Also while at the National Civil War Museum he was able to examine Alonzo Cushings belt. Yep, Id like to spend a day with him just like that!

 I’d also like to go to the National Archives and look at the shelves of stored Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Pension files. Medical Cards, etc.  Then I’d dive right in and look at each individual paper and microfilm!

That’s the condensed version of my Civil War Bucket List. The whole list actually takes a couple of pages. So what’s on your list? I’d love to know what you’d like to see and do. Who knows I may just add some of your ideas to my list!

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!

Ten Things To-Do for your Civil War ancestor

Civil War, 4th OVC, Noel Clayton, Civil War Saturday, genealogy researchSince you stopped by today chances are you love doing genealogy research. You’re a family historian who wants to learn all you can about the people that came before you.

In fact, seeing that you’re here, you’re probably doing some pretty serious research on your Civil War ancestor too. You’re like me. You’ve got to know about his military life. What did he do during the war? Was he injured? Was he a hero? How did it affect his family?

So to add a little spice to your research here’s a Civil War To-Do list. Just a few things you might take the time to do to help you better understand your Civil War ancestor. And it can be a lot of fun too!

Civil War Ancestor To-Do List

1. Research the uniform your ancestor wore. You can start here or here Google images for an idea of what your soldier wore. See the layers of clothing these men lived in and marched in. Take a look at the number and weight of items a regimental soldier carried on a daily basis.


2. Eat a little like he ate. Make their old stand-by: Hardtack or Johnnie cakes. Recipes below.

3. Spend some time looking at Civil War photographs, especially the newly colorized versions. Get a feel that these were real men who were lonely, hungry and scared, yet continued on with their duties. The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of Civil War era photos.

4. Find a book (check your library, Google) written specifically about a battle your ancestor fought in. Become really familiar with the movements of his regiment. Then:

5. Walk where he walked. Tour the battlefield(s) where your ancestor fought. Take a moment to imagine the sites and sounds he experienced there. The fear, the blood, the destruction. If you can’t do it physically do it virtually through Google maps.

6. Choose a Civil War era song and read the lyrics. Can you hear your ancestor humming it as he marched or set up camp? If he was a Confederate soldier it may have been Goober Peas, Bonnie Blue Flag or Dixie. If he was a Union man maybe it was Battle Hymn of the Republic, When Johnny Comes Marching Home or We Are Coming Father Abraham.


Civil War, 4th OVC, Jacob Seib, genealogy research

Civil War Reenactors – Photo Credit: Cindy Freed


7. Watch a Civil War movie. Even though movies aren’t exactly historically accurate and produced mainly for entertainment, there are scenes, costumes, firearms and battles portrayed that will help you identify with your Civil War ancestor. Try Glory, Gettysburg, Gone With the Wind or maybe North and South, Red Badge of Courage and most recently Lincoln.

8. Read a newspaper or two from the locale your ancestor was from that was published during the Civil War. Even though it was a week later, I was really surprised at how much coverage the battle at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) got in my own hometown newspaper. I should have known since a lot of men from the area fought there. It’s also neat to see the ads and events of the times. A great place to start your newspaper search is here.

9. Calculate the number of ancestors, direct and collateral, that fought in the Civil War. Did your family fight for both sides? You’ll be surprised at how the war affected your family with many members leaving home and joining the fight. Doing a little research on these extended family soldiers may produce some interesting and sought Pvt. George W Loweryafter family information.

10. Take a photo of yourself by your ancestor’s headstone or if that’s not possible take a photo of yourself at the nearest Civil War monument paying special attention to the inscription and who the memorial honors.

Now if you’ve done all or most of the items on this Civil War ancestor list there’s one last thing to-do. Write a short narrative about your Civil War ancestors military experience. You’ve “walked” in his steps, “tasted” his food, and “experienced” the sights and sounds of war. Whether you post it on your blog or slip it in his file, by documenting his story with your new awareness, you honor his service and that’s what the list is all about.

Let me know how you did working through the list or any suggestions you might have. Either way have fun with the Civil War Ancestor To-Do list!




Hardtack for the Union soldiers

2 cups of flour

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat (bacon grease or lard was used in 1860s)

6 pinches of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff dough, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/4 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet.

Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut dough into 3-inch cracker squares. With a fork or skewer, punch four rows of holes, with about four holes per row, in each cracker.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn crackers over on the sheet and return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes or until every bit of moisture is gone.


Johnnie Cakes for the Confederate soldier

2 cups of cornmeal

2/3 cup of milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (bacon grease was used in 1860s)

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form 8 biscuit-sized dodgers*. Bake on a lightly greased sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Or you can spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses. (If you were lucky enough to have butter or molasses.)


* Corn dodger – a cake of corn bread that is fried, baked, or boiled as a dumpling