How do I search for Civil War Family History records if I want to find my ancestor?

Heirlines Professional Tip: Query -How do I search for my ancestor who may have served in the Civil War?

civil war family historyDo you have an ancestor who you believe served in the Civil War? Are you trying to figure our where exactly to begin in your search for information? Civil War research can be extremely exciting as we uncover our ancestors’ role in history. It can also be tricky in some cases. The following are some beginning steps to take when researching your Civil War ancestor.

Step 1 – First things first – Each generation must be accurately documented to properly establish your lineage and correctly determine your Civil War time period ancestor.

Step 2 – Once you have a documented or authenticated pedigree, you will have some sound evidence about your ancestor who may have served in the Civil War. It is very important to acquire correct information about your ancestor’s name, location, and timeline, who may have served in the Civil War. The records hopefully will have produced some solid collateral information about the people who were associated with your ancestry as well as providing additional valuable information to use as you continue your search for your ancestor’s part in history. With the name of a potential Civil War Soldier who may have served in either the Union or the Confederacy, we then need to learn more about him in relationship to his family by searching the 1860 or 1870 Census for their name and location. If the soldier has a real common name, then we will need to look for other items first and then search the Census. You will need to check your repository to see what records they have that might be useful in your search for your Civil War Ancestor. Here are some valuable records to search for.

Step 3 – The Compiled Service Records Index is available for Union Civil War Ancestors in the index for the state of service (if known). indexes. In the case of Confederate Soldiers, searching the Consolidated Service Records Index is required. If the state of service is not known for a Union Soldier, the Pension Files must be searched.

Step 4 – When the Company and regiment (or the described unit) is identified, then search for copies or summaries of that Service Record. The compiled services records for the Confederacy can list all known military units for each state, with the compiled service record cards for each soldier in the Regiment arranged in alphabetical order as well as many important military notes and comments about the soldier and letters and documents.

Step 4a – Some states have published abstracts of military service records for their soldiers, such as Georgia and Virginia. Some states do not. You will have to know the state of service to determine the potential records for research on your ancestor.

Step 5. Search for a Pension Application File for the soldier. If Union, all soldiers and sailors should be listed. If Confederate, pensions were not readily available and are more difficult to find. Because there is no general index, it is necessary to find the soldier in the state where they were residing when the pension was applied for. Get a complete copy of their pension if it is available.

Step 6- Identify if possible the history of the company or regiment that the soldier served in to learn more about your ancestor.

Step 7 – Additional Sources may be available. Remember, they may have been a prisoner of war in a Military Prison or have had a history written about them if they were famous.

Looking for help with hard to find records or genealogical questions? Contact Heirlines Family History and Genealogy, breaking through family history walls for almost 40 years. We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees™ and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions™. We’re ready when you’re ready!

Give us a call and speak with one of our professional genealogists today. Call toll free 1-800-570-4049 or visit us at

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