If you had an ancestor who fought for the union (Northern) side, you have to check if they ever joined one of the many GAR Posts that formed from the 1880s and stayed well into the early 20th century. Those that joined had served in the US Army during the American Civil War of 1861-1865.
This site online for the GAR can be a great resource of finding records from a post your ancestor may have belonged to decades ago. The posts are listed by states and each have a number and post name. If you know which state an ancestor lived in during the late 1800s would be a start. Recheck their obituary, many times it would state if they were a member of the GAR providing the post’s name and number.
Once you know a state, click on the link #1 ‘go to post by state’. Then click on the specific state name. There will be in PDF format for each state which posts existed. That includes southern states. The state of Alabama had 21 GAR posts. There were also many African-American GAR posts. One in Maryland, named “Kilpatrick” Post 34 in Frederick County was one of the African-American posts. There were also in the northern states including the border states like Maryland which created these GAR posts right after the war, beginning in 1866.
Some of the types of items that have been saved by GAR posts include: minute books, ledgers and account books, journals, membership applications, transfer records, descriptive rolls and rosters, scrapbooks, officer reports and orders, correspondence, death and burial books, banners and flags, and photographs. Records of GAR posts and of other veterans’ organizations may be found in historical societies, state archives, museums and state libraries.
The numbers of men joining grew until by 1890 there were about 400,000 members which represented about 40% of all Union Army soldiers. With this membership limited to those who served during the Civil War, by the 20th century and an aging membership, witnessed a gradual decline in the organization as time took its course. By 1940, the membership had dropped to about 1,000 members. In 1949, when the last National Encampment (annual convention) was held, the membership had dropped to just 16. In 1956 with the death of its last member, Albert Woolson, the charter was vacated and the GAR came to an end.
FamilySearch.org does have several states’ GAR post records on microfilm. With this link is the list of what is available.
Look at photos of ancestors who might have served and see if they are wearing the GAR membership pin. See if they had any GAR postcards, which were very popular. You never know what be located about that ancestor.
Photos: GAR postcard, GAR pin and Capt. Joseph Groff, in 1892 – a Maryland member of Reynolds Post #2 GAR and GAR postcard.
Related FamilyTree.com genealogical blogs:
< Return To Blog