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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

October 28, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Finding Records on Civil War Veterans

Q: I know two of my ancestors were Civil War veterans. If all I have are their names, how do I find their records. I do not know what regiment, company, etc. -- David

A: There are necessary steps to locating records for individuals that you suspect were in the Civil War. There is not an all encompassing list of all those who were in the Civil War. However, over the last few years, more and more has been compiled to be of use to those of us researching our ancestors from the Civil War period.

First, it is important that you determine where your ancestors were living at the time they likely joined up to fight in the Civil War. If they were in one of the northern states, then it is almost a given that they were part of the Union army. If they were in one of the border states or in the south, then it is possible that they could be on either the Union or the Confederate side.

While there isn't an all encompassing list of those who fought in the Civil War, there is a comprehensive list of those who fought for the Confederates. The National Archives has a compiled index of service records for the Confederate Army. So, if your ancestors were in the southern states, this would be the first place to begin your research. These records are available on microfilm.

If your ancestors were from the north, you will want to look for records based on the state where they lived. Each state offers different records. While recently researching my paternal line, I knew only that my third great grandfather had joined the army in Unity, Piatt County, Illinois. Unfortunately I didn't have any information about the regiment or company. However, Illinois has an index to the Adjutant General's Report. I searched this for my ancestor and then went to the Adjutant General's Report. This supplied me with the regiment and company for my ancestor. I was then able to turn to an index of pension records and since I had his regiment and company I was able to pin him down in that index.

You appear to already know that the important piece of the puzzle is the regiment and company. And the place to start in finding that information is to begin your search in the state of residence for your ancestors.

Early Births in England

Q: Family records indicate that my great grandfather was born 22 July 1822 in Appleby, England. I contacted the Cumbria County Council Archive Service, Kendal, Cumbria, England and they could not find any records of birth. I would like to get information on his parents. -- Thomas

A: Civil registration was not instituted in England until 1837. Therefore, when you are researching those individuals who were born prior to 1837, it is necessary to turn your attention to the church records. Now, not all church records may have survived. This may explain why no records have been found.

Another aspect to the church records is the denomination. If you are unsure of the denomination, you will need to research all possible church records. Even if you do know the church that your ancestors were members of, if it was a nonconformist church, you may still want to search the Church of England records. There were times that even nonconformists are recorded in the Church of England records.

Some of these records are available on microfilm from the Family History Library, through your local Family History Center. To determine the parish where the records are likely to be located, it may be necessary to turn to a gazetteer. Gazetteers often will tell you the parish that governed the smaller townships, making your search a little easier.

Teamsters in the Civil War

Q: I have a Union Civil War record showing info on a soldier: "Jun to Sept 1864. Detailed in Pontoon Train as Teamster. Oct. '864 to May '865 Teamster." Exactly what does this tell me? I presumed a teamster was someone driving in a wagon. -- Nancy

A: You are correct. A teamster is someone who drove a wagon with either one or two horses. And the army used a number of them to transport their supplies. A pontoon was something that would float, such as a flat bottom boat. They were used to support the bridges that army engineers built over the various rivers they found they had to cross. It is likely that in the building of such a bridge that your ancestor was involved. Not everyone who was in the service of the Union army was a soldier that was fighting.

So, it appears that your ancestor was a teamster during the time period of June to September 1864 and then October 1864 to May 1865. He was in service to the Union, probably pulling a wagon that had supplies for a given regiment or company.

Starting Research in Mena, Arkansas

Q: This is my first time trying to search for my family. All I know about my great grandfather is that his name was Isaac Levi MITCHELL and that he lived in Mena, Arkansas in 1897. I also have his wife's name and her birth date and death date. I am trying to find any info I can about him. -- Margaret

A: Since you appear to know where Isaac MITCHELL was in 1897, the first place to look would be in the 1900 census. This census is indexed for each state. You can access these records on microfilm in a number of places. Many public libraries with larger genealogical departments very often have these microfilmed records. They are also available at the National Archives and its branches around the country. Finally, if neither of these repositories are a viable option to you, you can also visit your local Family History Center and borrow the needed microfilms from the Family History Library.

The 1900 census will supply you with the month and year of birth for Isaac Levi MITCHELL. If he was married at the time, it will also include how many years he was married. Finally you will have information on the birth place for Isaac and his parents.

Even if you find Isaac in the index, if the county that he is living in turns out to be on the small side, I encourage you to go ahead and search the entire county, line-by-line. It is very possible that other MITCHELL families found in the area are somehow related. By extracting them now, you won't find yourself having to return to the census next month to check on a new family.

Where Was He Buried?

Q: I am trying to find where my great grandfather is buried. His name is William Archibald CAMP. All I know is that he probably died in the 1930s and is buried in Atlanta, Georgia. I have tried four of the oldest and largest cemeteries but to no avail. -- Mary Eva

A: One of the best places to find cemetery information is on the death certificate. If you haven't already done so, you will want to write for his death certificate. You mention that he was buried in Atlanta. You didn't mention where he died. However, if he died in Georgia, you will want to write to the state vital records and request a death certificate.

Another useful avenue when searching for cemetery records is the abstracted records that genealogical societies publish. These are usually for a given area, such as a city or county, and can contain the entries for a number of cemeteries. Even though your ancestor died in the 1930s, it is still possible that he could be listed in such a volume. Many of these volumes contain deaths in the 1950s or even more recent depending on when the cemeteries were transcribed.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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