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 Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

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

*FamilySearch.org

*Ancestry.com

*Fold3

*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, Ancestry.com, Fold3.

* If your ancestor did receive a pension, request a copy from NARA. Using NATF Form 85 it can be ordered online at archives.gov 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. http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html

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 – Ancestry.com

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

* The Official Pension Roll of 1883 – Ancestry and Archive.org

* 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 – http://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/

Grand Army of the Republic Library and Museum –  http://garmuslib.org/

* Sons of Union Veterans – http://www.garrecords.org/

* United Confederate Veterans – Archive.org – http://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A %22United+Confederate+Veterans%22

* Sons of Confederate Veterans –          http://sonsofconfederateveterans.blogspot.com/2011/01/records-of-united-confederate- 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.

and

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 http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-uniforms or here http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/activities/dressup/notflash/civil_war_soldier.html 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.

Hardtack

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. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/

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. http://www.theancestorhunt.com/newspapers.html

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

Butter

Molasses

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

Civil War Quick Tip – Researching your Indiana veteran

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This is a way cool site if you have a Civil War veteran from Indiana!

http://www.in.gov/icpr/2521.htm

They’ve indexed quite a number of records sets. Just look at this list from their website:

  • Governor Oliver P. Morton
  • Adjutant General Records
    • Index to the Muster Rolls
    • Hospital Records
    • Quartermaster Records
    • The Indiana Legion
    • 1862 Draft Records
  • Civil War Veterans’ Records
    • Enrollment of Soldiers, Widows, and Orphans
    • Indiana Veterans’ Home
    • 1939 WPA Veterans’ Grave Registration
  • Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home
  • Camp Morton
  • Morgan’s Raid
  • Pension Files (not located in the Indiana State Archives)

Some information is digitized and on the website, other records are indexed and in the state archives. Good site to start your Indiana family research.

Keep researching your Civil War ancestor!

 

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

Also I’d love for you to sign up for my monthly tipsCivil War Research Tips – Finding 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!

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 AncestralFindings.com 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, http://www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html – 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?

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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.

Also

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!