Discovery Your Family History

Tracing African American Civil War Soldiers

African Americans Have an outstanding history of service in the military, which includes the 175 thousand African American or “coloured” troops who served in the military during the civil war. While you are doing your LDS family search, you may come across some fascinating information about the coloured troops that served in the military throughout the Civil War, and even in some cases, the troop members’ post-war lives. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your LDS family search for your military ancestors. There are several ways to identify your ancestors who served as coloured troops during the Civil War.

 One way to get this information is through stories that have passed down from generation to generation in your family. If you interview the elders of your family, write down these oral accounts if your family has them, if not, there are several records you can search to find this wealth of information about your military ancestors. For instance, the 1890 census contained records for Civil war Union veterans and their surviving widows who lived anywhere from Kentucky to Wyoming. The names of these soldiers and their widows are listed in alphabetical order, to make them easier to find.

 Resources for Tracing African American Civil War Soldiers

 Both the 1910 and 1930 censuses question airs asked questions about military service in general, including more specific questions about the family members of those veterans who served as coloured troops during the Civil War. Several newspaper obituaries made mention of a veteran’s military service, which included whether or not the veteran was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R), an organization that was established for union veterans who were honourably discharged from military duty. Gravestones or cemetery markers that were issued by the federal government may or may not list a veteran’s military service. However, other tombstones may contain more information about whether the deceased was in a regimental unit, or if he was a state Civil War veteran, while others have the G.A.R logo on them for union veterans. Along with these particular records, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have compiled several microfilm indexes of records for volunteer soldiers who served in the Union army, with coloured troops. This microfilmed index also served as a resource for the national park service’s database of civil war veterans and sailors.

 If you are searching for compiled service records, here is an interesting bit of information you can use to help you find information for your LDS family search. Throughout the 1890s, the records for Civil War military service were copied onto individual cards. One card had all the information for each individual veteran that was taken from the original records. This meant that each soldier had his records on one card. These cards were then compiled and placed into files for each individual soldier, thus they were called compiled service records, or compiled military service records. These compiled records contain a vast amount of information for each individual soldier, including: place of birth, soldier’s age, occupation, when and where he served during the Civil war, by whom he was in listed, when and when he was listed on the bimonthly muster rolls, and where and when he mustered in and out. The records may also include information such as injuries, illnesses, and/or promotions that veterans may have sustained or received during the war.

 Compiled Records

 These compiled records are available for public view at the Archives I office in Washington, D.C. Although some of the records for National coloured troops have been recorded on microfilm by the National archives, not all of them are available. These records are listed by regiment, and both indexed and digital records can be found at When they are available, a Civil War veteran’s pension records are a valuable resource for family historians and genealogists alike. The circumstances of a veteran’s disability case depend upon what information can be found in his pension record. These records may include depositions of the soldier’s vital records such as date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, slave ownership, if he was a slave, kinship, migration, disabilities, and death of the soldier and his other relatives, such as spouse, dependent children, and aged parents. These records may also contain information from family bibles or baptismal records. If you want to find out whether your Civil War veteran ancestors received a pension or not, there are two microfilm indexes of records, that have been compiled by the National Archive.

 The general index to pension records is indexed alphabetically by the soldier’s surname. This index and other digital pictures can be found at The organized index of pension records is categorized by the Unit in which the veterans served, and then alphabetized by surname. This index is for veterans who served in the military between 1860 and 1900. The original records are housed in the Archives I facility in Washington, D.C. These records have never been recorded onto microfilm, although fold3 has uploaded about 4% of this collection as digital images. Pension records for your veteran ancestors can be ordered from NARA for a nominal fee.

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