Discovery Your Family History

Did Your Ancestor Serve In The Civil War

During the course of your LDS family search, you may discover that you possibly have an ancestor who served in the Civil war between 1861 and 1865. Many of the men who served in the Civil war were not only U.S. citizens, but many were from other foreign countries as well. If you think you may have an ancestor who fought in the Civil war but are uncertain how to go about finding him, here are some suggestions to help you in your LDS family search.

 Always start With the Basics

 Start with information you know or information that can be easily obtained. For instance, begin by searching for the relative’s name, estimated date of birth, places where he might have lived and other factors that make him unique. People often get side-tracked by searching for civil war information on a supposed relative to find that they have gathered all this information about the wrong person. However, if you don’t have one particular ancestor in mind, begin searching by using a specific family lineage and start tracing it from the present backwards through the generations. Begin by searching through vital records such as birth, marriage and death certificates, obituaries, wills, census records, church documents, land and cemetery records in order to connect every generation you plan to search. The ideal goal of your LDS family search is to find an ancestor who lived and served in this country whether or not he was an actual U.S. citizen between 1861 and 1865 and who was between the ages of 16 and 42 during that time. When you have identified this possible relative and found information that differentiates him from other men with the same name, then can you determine whether he actually served in the military during the Civil War or not.

 Follow the Paper Trail

 Checking your ancestor’s death certificate or obituary will tell you where he is buried. After you have found the cemetery where your relative is buried, a trip to the cemetery may give you all the information you need. Many veterans who served during the Civil War were issued headstones by the United States government, or the information about when he served in either the union or confederate army was engraved on his grave marker. However, if he was a union soldier, his information may be found on his Grand Army of the Republic GAR medallion near his grave site. The GAR was formed for and by the Union Armies, and was in existence until after the last veteran passed away in 1956.

 Check the state and federal census records for more information about whether your ancestor served in the military during the Civil war. Federal censuses records can be found on sever web sites via subscription. These sites include:,, and heritage quest. Libraries often offer free access to these and other such Internet sites. If you can’t find the information you need online, you can borrow copies of these records on microfilm through your local historical society, family history centre, libraries, and National Archives offices. On the other hand, state census records must be reviewed on microfilm or in their original ledgers at the office of your county clerk.

 If your ancestor was living in 1910, and you have obtained the information about his place of residence, you can find more information about him in the 1910 federal census. Column 30 of the census contained a listing of men over 50 who served in the Civil war who was alive at that time.

If they were listed, they were entered as UA for Union army, UN union navy, CA confederate army and CN confederate navy. Although most civil war records pertained to union soldiers, the census is a wonderful source for finding out information about your confederate ancestors.

 Where to Look If You the Census Doesn’t Help

If your ancestor wasn’t listed in the 1910 census, you may want to search the 1890 special listing of Union veterans and their widows. When researching this record, there are four important factors to consider:

  • Only a certain portion of this special census exists today. The only records available to genealogists are the ones from certain parts of Kentucky through Oklahoma and British Columbia. The records pertaining to citizens living through the rest of Kentucky through Alabama have been lost over the years.

  • This special census only provides information about a veteran’s service and where he lived in 1890. This record doesn’t give information about his family, so you will have to check other resources to verify that this is the person you are looking for, not another person with the same name.

  • It was not necessary for a civil war veteran to be living in 1890, because if his widow was still living, then the information about the veteran would be listed under the widow’s name. It is always best to check your other resources for any other information, such as the widow’s name if she remarried and other important details about the veteran’s family.

  • This special census is a valuable source of information for confederate veterans as well as union soldiers. The objective for checking the census is to find any information about your veteran ancestors. When you work backwards through these records, making note of this relative’s age, place of residence, and family relationships, this gives you a means of determining whether you have found your ancestor who served in the civil war.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for in the federal census records, you may find some state censuses that were taken in odd years. These censuses often asked about a person’s service during the Civil war. Check these records for more information about your veteran ancestors.  

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