This blog post was written by Jon Bozard, Reference Assistant at the New Jersey State Archives.
I would like to thank everyone that attended Researching Your Civil War Ancestors on Monday November 14th. It was a nice turnout with a great audience and you asked very good questions! I hope that you will be inspired to start or continue your research.
As I stated during the talk there is not one place to get information on Civil War soldiers. Start with what you know about your ancestors. Where did they live? If New Jersey, start with the New Jersey State Archives website, Civil War Service Records.
If you are not sure where they lived, the Soldiers and Sailors Database (National Park Service) may be of use. This has information for all states participating in the Civil War. You will only get information about State, Regiment, and Company but it is a place to start. Whatever state they lived in contact their State Archives and ask what records are available that may help you.
Federal Pension records are a great source to investigate. There are many types of records within pension files; I was only able to cover a few in the time I had for the talk. Do not be afraid to go to the National Archives in Washington DC. You can order these records, but by seeing them in person you are able to hold your ancestors letters and applications in your hands. As these records are digitized you will no longer be able to do this. You may find letters from your Civil War ancestor, their spouse, children or friends. If you go to the National Archives remember to also request their Combined Military Service Record. This record will contain information specific to their time in the military and may have information about battles they participated in.
Closer to home local historical societies where your ancestors lived could have collections relating to Civil War soldiers.
Remember, do not be afraid to ask questions when you visit the Archives – we are here to help you!