In conjunction with Memorial Day, FamilySearch.org announced today significant updates to its free Civil War historic record collections online. The new FamilySearch.org/civil-war landing page provides a quick overview of the vast array of historic records and aids for those researching casualties and veterans of the Civil War. Collections include: Collections include: Union and Confederate pension, prisoner of war, cemetery, National Soldier Home, and census records. Families can also freely preserve historic photos, stories and correspondence of family members who served in other periods of the armed forces for future generations at FamilySearch.org.
“Each soldier family has a story, and these stories are handed down from generation to generation,” said Ken Nelson, collection manager for FamilySearch. “When you want to get the particulars of what that service was, you start going to these government records that document the service.”
The searchable records are available by state from sources such as widow’s pension records and headstones of deceased Union soldiers. United States census records from 1850 and 1860 help locate anyone alive at the time of the Civil War. And early state census records after 1865 help you locate them after they have retired from service.
Nelson said the census data gives people a “glimpse of what the towns looked like prior to the war.” He explained the state information is useful because “a majority of the men were in volunteer regiments raised out of counties and states. These regiments represented their homes.”
Locating African American Civil War ancestors is possible through Freedmen’s Bank and Bureau records, including correspondence and marriage documents.
Women also contributed to the war effort by serving as nurses and working in soldier aid societies that sent supplies to the front. Nelson said many of their stories are preserved in letters and diaries.
A quick look in FamilySearch’s Civil War collections online can reveal fascinating records and information about the 3 million soldiers who fought in the Civil War and the estimated 620,000 who died.
“I’ve enjoyed working with these records because they tell a story, and these lives are relived through these records,” added Nelson, who said the FamilySearch collections will continue to grow as additional military records for the Civil War and other wars are digitized and indexed.
Decoration Day versus Memorial Day
Memorial Day finds its roots connecting all the way back to our nation’s Civil War and an annual event respectfully called Decoration Day. Following the Civil War, families of the fallen created a day of observance to honor their deceased servicemen by placing flowers on their graves. Dozens of towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, but the first official observance of Decoration Day was May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery.
Northern states all established Decoration Day as an official state holiday by 1890. Southern states didn’t honor Decoration Day until the end of the first World War in 1918, when the holi-day began honoring the American dead from all wars.
Decoration Day was officially established as Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law in 1971.
In the Gettysburg Address, given to honor those who died at Gettysburg 17 months before the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said: “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
This Memorial Day, if you have photos, stories, and correspondence of family members who served in the armed forces, you might want to honor them by permanently preserving their memories for future generations to remember at FamilySearch.org.
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 and its predecessors have 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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