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Using the Civil War Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records & Others

Civil War FlagsRecognizing the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) is a wonderful opportunity to investigate any ancestors who participated on either side (Union or Confederate) during that war. However, you might be unsure if any of your ancestors did military service.

First, if you have the approximate birth and death dates for that ancestor that will narrow down the possibilities. If they died before April 1861, they did not take part during the war years.  At the other end, they may have been too young.  If they were born between 1847 to 1852 or later, it is very unlikely they were enlisted soldiers for either side.

True, many soldiers were as young as 12 and 13 years old, and may have been drummer boys or could pass for an older person. However, most soldiers enlisted when they were age 18 to 22 during the years 1861 to 1865.  So it is possible for an ancestor born in 1848 to have joined at age 18 in early 1865.

If you do know that an ancestor was of the right age and living somewhere in the United States or its territories during that war it is a strong possibility they enlisted or were drafted.  Yet, not all men who fit that age and location group were in the service.  Men of wealth or wealthy families many times paid someone else to take their place in the military service.

Starting with the U. S. Federal Union (the North) side and using the World Archive Project of
U. S., Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 is a great location to begin researching.

The only problem is that this database has only approximately 837,600 listings; certainly not all Union soldiers are listed yet. This information comes from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D. C.  The compiling of information on the Union soldiers started in 1890, but not all has been much into a digital format.
What was produced were compiled service records known as CSR. On each card using the army and naval muster rolls, information from regiments, records from hospitals and enlistment documents.  It was not just one card but rather a new card created with additional information each time a soldier’s name was on a different document.

Another good source to check and verify with is the National Parks Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System.

Plug in a surname and a state they may have served at to locate any tie-ins for names you located in the Compiled Service Records. You might locate the same regiment and name.  However, it is not uncommon for a soldier to have serviced time in a couple different regiments.  There were Army soldiers who were in service to the Confederacy and later left and joined the Union troops.

Once you have some basic information of an ancestor, which regiment, state they served and the length of time you can then research the regiment itself.  This way you can learn the battles and locations that regiment participated in between 1861 and 1865.

Another good step would be to order copies (for a fee) of  that ancestor’s pension records at the National Archives (NARA), but you would want to be sure of the regiment and length of service so to get the right people’s records. Complete the available NATF 86 form (for military records) and / or NATF 85 (for the military pension documents, which do have more information) and make the payment fee of $75 to receive in about two months the ancestor’s military / pension records.

< Return To Blog Hello, The pension files can have a great deal amount of information about your ancestors as mine did. However, they can be very expensive at $75 a pop for each pension file. However, you could contact a genealogist in the NARA area to have them copy the records for you. I was able to do this for three pension files I needed. It cost me less than 1/2 the cost it would have if I ordered it from the NARA. I also recieved the records much sooner. For details, check out my blog: Hidden Genealogy Nuggets Regards, Jim
Jim Sanders 3/06/11

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