Military service records may give the rank, dates of service, place of residence prior to enlistment, age, place of birth, physical description, and date and place of death or discharge.
What you will need to get started. Service records are normally arranged by state, then by military unit, and then alphabetically by the serviceman's name. In order to find the service records you will need to determine the state from which he served, his military unit, and the name by which your ancestor was identified during the war.
Step 1. Search the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database on the Internet. This easy-to-use database lists over 6 million Confederate and Union soldiers, and 18,000 African American sailors. The search engine finds names alphabetically.
- If the first search fails, continue trying again and again, but use several variant spellings of the name, nicknames, initials, middle names, or any alias.
- If you find too many matching names, try to narrow the field by using clues from your knowledge of your ancestors, such as his place of residence, or relatives or neighbors that joined up with him. Also, each state's ". . . in the Civil War" page on the Wiki has a link to that state's military units regiment-by-regiment. That regimental list sometimes gives the place where they were first organized or discharged. The majority of regiments were raised mostly in one or two counties.
Sometimes the database shows the same person under more than one spelling of his name.
Each entry in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database has the potential to list each serviceman's:
- regiment or battalion (always listed)
- if Confederate or Union (always listed)
- soldier's rank in
- soldier's rank out
- alternate name
- National Archives source microfilm number (always listed)
- If you find your ancestor in this Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database, make a copy of the information, and skip to Step 3.
Step 2A. If you know the state where your ancestor enlisted (but still need to find his regiment), search the following statewide alphabetical indexes on microfilm for your ancestor's name:
- If you find your ancestor in one of these statewide indexes, make a copy of the information, and skip to Step 3.
2B. If you do NOT know the state where your ancestor enlisted, search for your ancestor's name in the following microfilm index:
- Make a copy of any information you find.
- Make a copy of any information you find.
Step 3. Search the compiled military service records. The Family History Library has microfilms of the Compiled Military Service Records for the states that supplied troops to the Confederacy. Return to the US/Canada Reference area for theRegister of Federal United States Military Records, volumes 2 and 4. Find the film number for the state first, then the unit number, then the person’s last name.
- Film Number___________________________
- Get the film, put it on a film reader, and look for your ancestor’s name.
- Make a copy of the documents, and record the results of the search on your Research Log.
Pension records contain information on a veteran’s military service, wife and children, and place of residence. The Federal Government did not issue pensions to veterans who fought for the Confederacy. In an effort to compensate disabled veterans or widows, most of the southern states began paying pensions from state funds. Not all veterans applied for or received pensions.
1. Find the pension record for your ancestor. You must know the state of residence of a veteran or widow after the war in order to search for a file. The Family History Library has microfilms of the Confederate pension files for every state except Louisiana.
- Return to the Register of Federal United States Military Records, volumes 2 and 4 in the US/Canada Reference area to obtain the film numbers for the pension files and indexes for every state except South Carolina. Use the table of contents in the front to find the pages for your state. Write the film number below.
- Film Number_________________________________
The film numbers for the pension records for South Carolina can be found using the Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog under South Carolina and the topic Military Records—Civil War, 1861–1865—Pensions
The National Archives Web site www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war/civil-war-genealogy-resources/confederate/pension.html provides a state-by-state list (and links to) southern state archives which have pension records.
Many southern states maintained soldier homes for needy veterans. Records of these homes can provide biographical, family, and military service information on its applicants and inmates. The Family History Library has records on microfilm for the homes in Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, and Virginia. To find the film numbers, use the U.S. Military Records Research Outline, pages 39–40.
Search other sources. Consult the research outline for the state in which your ancestor enlisted to find other military records, such as state rosters, Adjutant General’s reports, regimental or unit histories, and county histories.
You can also find these sources in the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the state and the topic Military Records—Civil War, 1861–1865.
Look for additional information about Civil War records in the FamilySearch Research Wiki at www.familysearch.org. Search the topic United States Civil War and click on the link to Confederate records.
Read the U.S. Military Records Research Outline (34118), pages 42–43 for help in finding information on veteran’s organizations and lineage societies.
- If your ancestor survived the war, he may have joined a veteran’s organization like the United Confederate Veterans.
- Look in the Confederate Veteran, 40 vols., FHL Book 973 B2cv. This was their official publication from 1893 to 1932.
- Check the records of veteran’s organizations because they may provide biographical information about their members. Some rosters of membership for the years 1895 to 1899 are on FHL Films 1710607 items 10–20 and 1710608.
- Check with the state archives, historical society, or state library for any available records of the state in which your ancestor served or lived after the war. See the research outlines of these states for the addresses.
Lineage societies. descendant of your ancestor may also have joined a lineage society like the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Contact their national headquarters to learn about this organization. Use their web site at www.hqudc.org/.