Civil War Buffs and Volunteers Enlist in Campaign to Publish Millions of Historic Records Online
By Dena Brett
SALT LAKE CITY—As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, people who had ancestors involved in the conflict can access millions of historical records recently published on the familysearch.org website. And millions more records are coming, as Civil War volunteers enlist in an epoch online campaign over the next five years to provide access to the highly desirable historic documents.
FamilySearch announced the release today of hundreds of millions of online records at the National Genealogical Society conference in Charleston, South Carolina. The collections include service records for both the Confederate and Union armies, pension records, and more. Some of these records have been available for some time but are now being added to familysearch.org/civilwar as part of this project. Here is just a sampling of what is available:
• Arizona, Service Records of Confederate Soldiers of the Civil War, 1861-1863
• Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929
• Civil War Pension Index
• Louisiana Confederate Pensions 1898-1950
• Missouri Confederate Pension Applications and Soldiers’ Home Admission Applications
• South Carolina Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers (NARA M267)
• South Carolina Probate 1671-1977
• South Carolina Probate Records, Files, and Loose Papers, 1732-1964
• United States, 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows
• United States, Index to General Correspondence of the Pension Office, 1889-1904
• United States, Union Provost Marshall Files of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians, 1861-1866
• United States, Union Provost Marshall's File of Papers Relating to Individual Civilians, 1861-1866
• U.S. Civil War Soldiers Index 1855-1865
• U.S. Navy Widows’ Certificates, 1861-1910 (NARA M1279)
• U.S., Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914U.S., Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933
• Vermont Enrolled Militia, 1861-1867
“These records are significant because nearly every family in the United States at that time was impacted either directly or indirectly by the war,” FamilySearch project manager Ken Nelson said.
“Each soldier has a story to tell based on what his unique experience was during the war. Each family has their own story to tell. This is the paper trail that tells the stories about that period in our nation’s history,” Nelson said.
Many of the records are specific to the war itself, such as enlistment or pension records. These documents can provide key family data, including age, place of birth, or the name of a spouse. Other collections, such as census records, tell the story of ordinary civilians who lived during that turbulent time. Even a local or state death record far away from the battlefront may contain death information on a soldier that was submitted by a family member back home.
FamilySearch’s chief genealogical officer, David Rencher, said many people can benefit from the records.
“With the wealth of records created by the Civil War, I am inspired by the plan laid out by FamilySearch to make a substantial amount of this material available on their website over the next four to five years. This growing collection will be one that will serve the needs of the numerous descendants of the participants on both sides of the conflict,” Rencher said.
About 10 million of FamilySearch’s Civil War records are already indexed, so they can be easily searched by a specific name. However, there are many more records that need to be indexed, and that’s where FamilySearch indexing volunteers come in. These volunteers view a digital image online of the record and enter in important information such as names, dates, and places.
FamilySearch project manager Jim Ericson said this data will be used to create free searchable indexes that enable people to more easily find records about their Civil War ancestors.
“Once these records are indexed and published online, anyone can search for the name of an ancestor and link to a digital image of the original record, if the image is also available online,” Ericson said. “Indexing helps people save time when finding records and enables a more powerful, engaging search experience.”
Ericson said that more than 130,000 people helped with other FamilySearch indexing projects in the last year, but more volunteers are needed for the multi-year Civil War era project.
“We expect to maintain some focus on indexing records from the U.S. Civil War for the next three or four years to make the collection of Civil War era records extremely robust,” Ericson said.
For those who want to learn more about their Civil War ancestors, there is also additional help on the FamilySearch Research Wiki. This includes information about each regiment that fought in the conflict and records created by each state that participated in the war. There is also information for beginners who are just getting started learning about their ancestors who lived during the Civil War.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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