Researching Your Civil War Ancestor

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A brief guide to researching your ancestors who may have fought in the Civil War.

A brief guide to researching your ancestors who may have fought in the Civil War.

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  • 1. Researching Your Civil War Ancestor …with special attention to local resources in Monroe County
  • 2. Basic information • Are you sure that they served? • What is their name? • What is their age? • Where were they living (city, farm, etc) • Did they survive the war? • Did they have a family? • Unit – Army, Navy, Union, Confederate?
  • 3. 3 Things to consider • Most personnel in the Civil War were between 18 and 30 - but they may have been as young as 10 or as old as 70! Did the person you seek die between 1861 and 1865 (when the war was being fought?) Or later?
  • 4. Useful resources: • Censuses, especially 1865 & 1890 • Service records • Regimental histories • The 1865 NY state census shows newly returned Union veterans; the 1890 Federal census (which survived the destruction of the regular name census) shows those who were alive and in New York in 1890.
  • 5. Beginnings • Check in basic books about CW research. See the bibliography. • Look in the NYS Adjutant General’s reports (and the index thereto) to find the possible units. • Be advised the spelling and names can be exact – or very far off! • Dornbusch and Wilt are also good sources to find soldiers.
  • 6. Check the CWSS
  • 7. 7 The CWSS -
  • 8. Get the pension papers if they exist • They may give when someone came over, when they enlisted, where they served, when they got married, have information about the widow(er), give data about where they lived after the war, etc.
  • 9. The RPL has: the CW master index. • What is the Civil War Master Index? This index is a compilation of names taken from various Local History Division sources such as card files, the 1865 census, and the County Historian's Office. It contains over 38,000 names primarily from the Rochester and Monroe County area.
  • 10. 10 • There is a special 1890 census of surviving soldiers…
  • 11. 11 What does this contain? • The 1890 veteran schedules asked for the following information: names of surviving soldiers, sailors, marines, and widows; rank; name of regiment or vessel; date of enlistment; date of discharge, length of service; post office address; disability incurred; and remarks. Although all of this information is available on the census schedules themselves, information listed in this index includes the veteran's name or widow's name, rank, year of enlistment, and year of discharge.
  • 12. Creative spellings…
  • 13. Or this… His name was actually Philip Krautwurst
  • 14. A local connection…
  • 15. A locally produced web site • is located at: • It has won the right to use the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom badge on the web site.
  • 16. Town historians might also have data • You can ask your town or village historian what they may have available in their collections. This can be very helpful and varies a lot. • This might be tax exemptions for veterans, enlistment records, bounty papers, and other sources. They may even have pictures of the people!
  • 17. Also try the NY Heritage site:
  • 18. And the DPLA:
  • 19. 19 A case history Ancestor is Karl Naukam, from Germany. Simple, right? Unusual last name, easy first name. Right……
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