Begin a search for confederate records

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If you have a male ancestor who was born in the 1830s or 1840s and who lived in a southern state or the border states of Kentucky, Maryland, or Missouri, he may have served in the Confederate forces in the Civil War.  Most who served were in their late teens or early twenties but could have been older or younger.  It is helpful to know at least the state where your ancestor lived when the war started in 1861. 

1.  Search online indexes for possible service or pension records. 

  • The American Civil War Research Database  ($) has 4.2 million soldiers' records.  Ancestry ($) has an older version of this database with information on 2.1 million soldiers.
  • Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is sponsored by the National Park Service, the Genealogical Society of Utah, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  Information in this database is from the National Archives General Index Cards to Union and Confederate soldier's service records.  It includes the records of 6.3 million soldiers.  Use variant spellings for your surname if you do not locate your ancestor.
  • Footnote ($) has a consolidated compiled index to all Confederate service records.  You can search the file by either the military unit (usually a regiment), then alphabetically by the soldier's last name.  Or you may search the database by the last name of the soldier, then his given name.  Knowing the state from which your ancestor served is often necessary.  Footnote is available at Family History Centers.

Online indexes and some digital records exist for the following southern states:  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Make a note of your ancestor's military unit, including type of service(i.e. cavalry, infantry), the unit number, and the unit commander.

2.  Once you have located your ancestor in one of the Confederate service indexes, search the National Archives films for the complete service record. These films are organized by state and then by military unit (typically regiment number), then alphabetically by surname.  Each group of films begins with an index which you may skip if you have already located your ancestor's military unit. See Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, or Virginia.

3.  Some Confederate pension records can be accessed at the Family History Library.  See more.