I have my ancestors’ Civil War service records from the National Archives and Records Administration
. Do military records offered by some states contain different information? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to check those records, too. A
State archives’ Civil War collections often differ greatly from the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and pension files
available from NARA.
States may hold soldiers' letters, regimental histories, Civil War-era newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic post records, veterans' cemetery indexes, soldiers' home records and more. (Archives of formerly Confederate states also have pension records. Those aren’t at NARA because the federal government didn’t pay Confederate soldiers’ pensions
For example, the Ohio archives
has correspondence to the state’s governor and adjutant general dating from 1859 through 1862 (series 147, volume 42). In May and June, 1862, Col. John W. Fuller and Maj. Z.S. Spaulding of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry 27th Regiment wrote Adjutant General C.W. Hill, describing their encampment and recommending various promotions.
Since state Civil War collections are so varied, I can’t say whether the information would be different from what’s in your ancestors’ CMSRs. But even if the state record doesn't have previously unknown details, You'll have new evidence of your ancestor's presence at the place and time the record was created.
If my ancestor were in the Ohio 27th, I’d want to know whether his commanding officers had anything to say about him, and where he was in June, 1862. (You can browse abstracts of these letters, as well an index to Ohio prisoners at Andersonville and a guide to Civil War-related primary source collections, on the archives’ Web site
Start by searching your ancestral state archives' online catalog for Civil War-era materials related to your ancestor, his regiment, or the county and town where he lived. Likely, you won’t know from the catalog listing whether the source mentions your ancestor, so you may have to visit the archives or contact an archivist for help.
You might be able to save yourself the trip by borrowing materials through interlibrary loan, ordering photocopies of documents or seeing if the Family History Library
has microfilmed copies (which you can rent through a Family History Center
Check local historical society and university libraries for Civil War collections, too.
And learn nine steps to researching your Civil War ancestors in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine
. You can get bonus information and links to additional resources
—including those at the state level—on our Web site.