Search Your Family Tree through Civil War Records (1861 -1865)
The American Civil War was between the Confederate and the Union States. The Union
supported the abolishment of slavery. During the presidential election of 1860 the
Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, campaigned against the expansion of slavery
beyond the existing states. Before he became the 16th president, seven states declared
their succession from the Union. The administration rejected the legality of secession.
On April 12, 1861 Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation. The
struggle to preserve the Union and putting an end to slavery was the goals of the
Civil War. The War ended in 1865 and all states remained part of the Union. Slavery
was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, declared on December
Search for Male Ancestors
The average age of a soldier was between 17 and 45. In the early period, the boys
were as young as 13. Military pension files, service records, and other documents
are available for both Union and Confederate soldiers. It is one of the most documented
wars. If you ancestor was born between 1811 and 1848 and living in the United States,
you might find documents that can help with your
family tree search.
Approximately 2.5 million applications were filed from 1861 to 1934 and are available
at the National Archives through microfilms. Before you can obtain a copy of a pension
case file, you need to get the pension application and certificate number from an
available pension index. Once you find the pension application and certificate number,
you can request a copy of the case file. For Federal military personnel before 1856,
claim files can be ordered online or by submitting NATF Form 85 through the National
Archives and Records Administration. Information that can be found in the files
is the spouse’s name, rank, military unit, length of enlistment, and residence
information. Some have children’s names, names of deceased wives, physical
description, marriage certificates and children’s birth certificates. You
might even find a photograph that you can then add to your family tree.
Other Pension Documents Available through Family History Centers
There are a couple of indexes that can help with your family tree search. You
can order the microfilm: Index to general correspondence of the Pension Office,
1889- 1904. The index is arranged alphabetically with name of soldier, organization
in which he served, and name of person who made the inquiry.
The Pension roll of 1835 is another resource you might want to use. Entries contain
name, rank, annual allowance, sum received, and description of service, when placed
on the roll, date they started to collect, age, and so on, many includes death dates.
Another microfilm to search: A letter from the Secretary of War reporting the
names, rank, and line of every person placed on the pension list. It is arranged
by state, then alphabetically by name. It also lists rank and service of the soldier.
The film # is 0874189, Item 1.
The NARA has two major archives for Confederate army soldiers: CMSR, and documents
reproduced on microfilm. The only states
to offer Confederate Pensions were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee
Available through the National Archives and NARA: compiled military service record
(CMSR); pension applications file; and documents reproduced in microfilm.
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)
The GAR was a patriotic society composed of Civil War veterans who had honorably
served in the Union Army. Its Motto was “Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty”.
This society was not part of the Federal Government. The GAR reached its largest
enrollment in 1890 with 409,000 members. Most of the documents were treated as personal
property and thrown out when the last member of each Post died. You may search through
GAR death rolls and find some new data to add to your family tree. There are some
existing GAR archives; you just need to hunt for them.
Other Civil War Resources for Your Family Tree Search
The 1890 Census of Veterans Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating
Union Veterans and their Widows. Not all states are available and some counties
are missing. Generally they are available for: Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,
New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas,
Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington
DC. These films can be found at the National Archives and FamilySearch; best of
luck with your family tree search.