Genealogy Help

A common question that we receive is: How can I find out if an ancestor fought in the war and how do I find out about his service?

The SCV has resources and help available at scv.org/genealogy.php.
On this page have come up with a generalized outline to help get you started with your research.

Making a connection to an Confederate ancestor is an exciting way to bring history alive for you and your family. So the first step has got to be learn your family’s genealogy. The basic facts that you will need to know in order to research on an ancestor are: name, state, regiment, and if possible, the company. Knowing what county your ancestor resided in during the 1860's would be helpful. Start your search by talking with your oldest living relatives. See how much information they can give for building a family tree. Develop a family tree that extends back to the mid 1800’s. Southern males aged 16-40 on the 1860 census are prime candidates for CSA service. Begin your search with these men. Later you can check on older or younger men that may have also served.

It is important now to determine the state and county of residence so that Census records from 1860 may be located and reviewed for information. Census records can be found in local libraries, historical and genealogy societies, government archives and at LDS Family History Centers. Some are in books, but more common are microfilms. Paper copies of census records can usually be made. Develop a list of men whom you suspect may have served. Contact their home county to see if there is a local historical society. Many counties have historical societies that have already documented their local-county men who fought for the Confederacy. Many have "County History" books which contain their men’s involvement with the War. They'll have at least the local companies raised, and sometimes the roster and pension recipient list. Occasionally the battles their local soldiers participated in, their letters home, and more may be found in these books.

Confederate regiments were frequently referred to by the commander's name even when in fact they had a numerical designation. You will find that many states have some sort of indexed listings of a soldiers. The National Archives has published a "Consolidated Index to Compiled Confederate Service Records" on microfilm which is available in many large historical libraries. The service records themselves are also frequently on microfilm at the library.

All Southern states have archived records of men who fought in the War Between the States and records of men and/or widows of veterans who applied for pensions based on service to the CSA. Once you have a name or list of names you can visit or contact the state archives to view and/or obtain copies of service and/or pension records. Remember that not all records survived the war and the amount and quality of information can vary greatly from state to state.

When you have gathered the basic information, you can also obtain copies of your ancestor's service records from the National Archives. A sample of what  the the record looks like can be found here: National Archive Record. You can order your ancestors records on line here: Record Reproductions. The cost is now $25.00 per individual and takes 60-120 days to receive information. Contact Information for the National Archives. You may request NATF Form 86 Military Service Records at Compiled Military Service File (NATF 86). When you have the forms, fill one out as completely as possible and check "Military Service". It is recommended that you write in red ink next to the veteran's name "Please send complete contents of files". The information from compiled service records from the National Archives may be the same, similar or different that the information from the state archives on the same soldier. The National Archives will not have pension records for Confederate veterans. Only the former Confederate states awarded pensions and their archives will have such records.

Another source are the LDS Family History Centers. Most communities will have a Family History Center (genealogy library) within easy driving distance. Check your yellow pages. You can rent an entire roll of microfilm that covers your ancestor's regiment and records. You may view and copy the records at your local FHC. You may find other ancestors on this same roll of film as it was common for family and friends in the same county to join the same regiment. The cost to rent the microfilm is $3.45 for the initial period (6 weeks) and $3.45 for each of the renewals. A second renewal puts the roll in permanent loan status to your local FHC, so for $10.35 up front you can have the entire roll available for your own use (and anyone else who may be interested now or in the future). To look for a FHC in your state go to www.genhomepage.com/FHC/

Also check out these sites:
National Park Service: How to do Ancestor Research
National Park Service Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Index

A very good commercial option is Fold 3


Another commercial option is to order copies of individual Confederate records from Soldier Search at Broadfoot Publishing Company.

Further reading:
In Search of Confederate Ancestors by J.H. Segars.
Civil War Genealogy by G.K. Schweitzer, In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook" by Brian A. Brown (1996)
Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor by B.H. Groene, ISBN 0-345-36192-X
Confederate Research Sources: A Guide to Archive Collections by James C. Neagles, (ISBN 0-916489-11-6
Military Bibliography of the Civil War, (4 vols) by C.E. Dornbusch
Broadfoot’s: Roster of Confederate Soldiers 1861-1865 16 vols.