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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Requesting Civil War Records

I was just asked about where to request Civil War records.

Remember, I'm not a certified genealogist.  I am a professional librarian with a Masters degree and have been researching my families for over 35 years but I'm sure professional genealogists know more than I do about records.

Still, I have ordered copies of Civil War records of a few of my ancestors so I can give you the information I have on how to do that.

There are 2 basic varieties of Civil War records that may exist for an individual:
  • There's the service record which consists of their service record from enrollment through  discharge, including any re-ups or service for another.  
  • And, there is a pension record which consists of application for pension through a variety of documentation approving or denying pension, statements by family and other witnesses supporting the decision.  
I have both for one individual and one or the other in other cases.  

Each type contains a variety of details about the individual and family and can be very useful in filling in gaps and verify and correcting family information.  How you can get these records depend on which type you want.

There is a fee for the records.  I haven't ordered any for some time.  As I remember you don't know ahead of time exactly how much it will be but it's not much different from the cost of birth, death and marriage records.  I've paid between $10 and $20 dollars depending on how large the file is.

This is taken from the National Archives site (it is not the most user friendly site as you might imagine of a government site.  It was NOT designed for family historians.):


"Requesting Records by Mail or Online

Military Service Records: Paper copies of Civil War military service records can be requested by mail using an NATF Form 86 for each soldier (Volunteer Army or Regular Army). You can obtain the NATF Form 86 by providing your name and mailing address to www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html. Be sure to specify the correct form number and the number of forms you need.
Pension Records: Paper copies of Civil War pension records can be requested online or requested by mail using an NATF Form 85 for each soldier (Volunteer Army or Regular Army, Union Navy or Marine Corps). You can obtain the NATF Form 85 by providing your name and mailing address towww.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html. Be sure to specify the correct form number and the number of forms you need.
You can also obtain the NATF Forms 85 and Form 86 by writing to:
National Archives and Records Administration,
Attn: NWCTB
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20408-0001.
Important! There are no compiled service records for Navy or Marine Corps personnel. Do not used NATF Form 86. Instead, contact Old Military and Civil Records (NWCTB), National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001."
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Ancestry.com also has a lot of military records.  I'm a paying member so I'm not sure if they are free to non-paying members.  They don't, however, have everything so ordering the official copies from the National Archives is the best thing to do.  I did find a Muster Out record for the individual requested but that particular record doesn't usually contain much information.
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Also, many of the regiments have web sites and while they usually don't have actual records, they often do have rosters of men with their specific unit and when they mustered in and out.  If you know the regiment your ancestor was in, you can do a Yahoo or Google search for the regimental number, with the state and you should find some useful information on those pages.
You can always email me at familytracker@yahoo.com with any questions and I'll answer, if I can, or refer you to someone or some place, if I can't.


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