United States, Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Civilians (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.


Collection Time Period

This collection covers the years from 1861 through 1866.

Record Description

The collection was digitized from microfilm and is arranged alphabetically by the first two or three letters of the surname. It consists of correspondence, provost court papers, lists of transportation permits, claims for compensation for property used or destroyed by military forces, affidavits, oaths of loyalty and other lists. Although the records were kept by the Union Army, they primarily deal with information about confederate citizens and union citizens who were suspected of supporting the confederate cause.

Record Content

The records contain a variety of genealogical facts which vary by the individual record. Those most often found in the collection are listed below:

  • Name of the civilian
  • County and/or state of civilian’s residence
  • Why the civilian was brought into question
  • Residence
  • Occupation

How to Use the Record

Provost marshal records can be used to place an individual in a specific location at a specific time. They can show how individual citizens were involved in the Civil War. They may also indicate the profession of the civilian, as well as other biographical information.

When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct. These records may give initials rather than full names so you should use caution in determining if the record is for your ancestor. If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, check for variant spellings of the surnames.

When you have located a document about your ancestor, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example, use the residence or locality listed to find the family in census, church and land records.

Record History

The provost marshals were the military police of the Union army. They dealt with a wide range of individuals including those who were suspected of disloyalty or of giving aid to the enemy, who violated military orders, were prisoners, were authorized to travel in or to enter the Confederate states, and others. During the war each division, brigade, and corps of the Union Army had a provost marshal.

Why the Record Was Created

  • Provost marshals kept records of their activities as the military police
  • Provost courts were established to try civilians who violated military orders as well as military personnel suspected of committing civil crimes

Record Reliability

These records are usually reliable.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Examples of Source Citations for a Record Found in This Collection

  • "United States, Union Provost Marshal Files of Individual Civilians, 1861-1866." index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org): accessed 8 April 2011. entry for Silas M Donett; citing Provost Marshal Files. Dons-Dov, Image 245; United States War Department.
  • "United States, Union Provost Marshal Filed of Two or More Civilians, 1861-1866." index and images FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org): entry for Glen Winchester, prisoner from 16th Tennessee Infantry; Citing Provost Marshal Files, Prisons by Location, Gallatin, Tennessee, through New Orleans, La, varying dates, Image 4; United States War Department.

Citations for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

  • "United States, Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Individual Civilians 1861-1866," images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org); citing United States. War Department, “Union provost marshal's file of papers relating to individual civilians” FHL microfilm, 300 rolls. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • "United States, Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians, 1861-1866," images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org); citing United States. War Department, “Union provost marshal's file of papers relating to Two or More Civilians” FHL microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.


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