Though the United States is a relatively young country, its history is a rich source of genealogical information! This week we’re featuring new collections available for United States family history, from the big and exciting to the small and fascinating. Vital records will provide specific names and dates, while newspaper and quilt archives will give a glimpse of your ancestors’ lives in the U.S.
United States: Yearbooks, Freedman’s Bureau, & War of 1812 Pensions
Yearbooks. A brand new genealogy record collection is available at MyHeritage for U.S. Yearbooks 1890-1979. There are over 36 million pages from over a quarter of a million yearbooks from around the country. From the collection description: “Yearbooks are excellent genealogical records that include personal portraits and group photographs. These books can give a researcher insight into students, faculty, and staff who attended or worked at a school. The yearbooks in this huge compendium are primarily from high schools, which in the United States normally comprise grades 9 to 12 or 10 to 12.”
Freedman’s Bureau. FamilySearch has two new Freedman’s Bureau databases available online. The first is the collection of Records of Freedmen’s Complaints, 1865-1872. The complaints consisted of problems which freedmen brought to the Bureau’s attention. Many registers give the names of freedmen and the nature of the complaint, but others give only a synopsis of the case without names. The second new collection is the Freedmen’s Bureau Ration Records,1865-1872. These records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, and more.
War of 1812. In a massive effort by the entire genealogical community, the War of 1812 Pension Application Files are now available for the first time online, hosted online for free at Fold3.com. The project is about 2/3 complete with nearly 2 million documents online today. The files generally contain documentation submitted in support of a claim, such as the original application form, affidavits, and statements from witnesses.
California. All of the nearly 19,000 issues of The Stanford Daily (1892-2004) are available in a new online database. The collection is entirely searchable and provides a firsthand account of life at Stanford University from 1892 to today.
Another interesting new collection of California State Archives photos is also now available online. The archives digitized nearly 3,000 photos of early 20th century California taken by William and Grace McCarthy, who traveled throughout the state when automobiles were a new form of transportation, including images of long-gone North County landmarks.
Georgia. 16,000 pages of the Walker County Messenger dating from 1880-1924 have been added to the Georgia Historic Newspapers (GHN) website. Also newly added to the GHN database are historic Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah publications, including the Bulletin (1920-1962) and the Savannah Bulletin (1958).
New York. Reclaim the Records just announced that they’ve obtained and published the first-ever public copies of the death index for Buffalo, New York, for the years 1852-1944. Over 640,000 names are included, though be aware that the scanned copies may have some edges cut off.
Another unique collection now available is the New York Quilt Project, an archive of over 6,000 quilts and their histories. From the collection description: “Details were recorded like family background, religion, where a quiltmaker learned the craft, why they made the quilt, and where they obtained textiles, and a small tab was sewn into the back of each quilt for identification. These stories often chronicle immigration to New York, as some quilts were brought over from Germany or Italy, and visually show through their patterns and designs the influence of different populations from around the world in the state.”
North Carolina. A collection of 60 hand-drawn Civil War sketches have been added to Digital North Carolina, drawn by soldier Edwin Graves Champney. The original artwork includes scenes showing landmarks, landscapes, and Union military activity. From Wake Forest University also comes a collection of 19 newspaper titles dating from 1857 to 1925. They were written for Christian (primarily Baptist) communities across North Carolina. Finally, almost two decades of the newspaper The Carolina Indian Voice, from 1977-1996, have been added to the collection at DigitalNC.
South Dakota. From a recent press release: “Several Sioux Falls German titles have recently been added to Chronicling America: The Sud (Soot) Dakota Nachrichten (Knock-rick-ten), 1896-1900; the Sud-Dakota Nachrichten und Herold, 1900-1901; the Nachrichten-Herold, 1901-1907; and the Deutscher (Doit-shur) Herold, 1907-1913. To view these newspapers please visit the Chronicling America Website.”
If you want to dive into your American genealogy, you’ll definitely need the brand new 4th edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood. This new 4th edition has been completely updated, incorporating all the latest developments, principles, and resources relevant to family history research. There are now two chapters about technology as it relates to family history research–one dealing with significant concepts and definitions and the other with specific resources and applications, including major family history websites and Internet resources. Click here to get it right now for $49.95 with FREE shipping! *Shipping to U.S. only, up to two weeks for delivery.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Compiled Military Service Records are core genealogical documents for your ancestors’ military service for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican Wars, Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. Expert Michael Strauss tells us what’s in them and how to find them.
What’s in Compiled Military Service Records
Compiled Military Service Records (often abbreviated as CMSR or CSR) are the records that may exist for your ancestors who served in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War to the end of the Philippine Insurrection and Spanish-American War. This set of records represents the volunteer Army and doesn’t include regular Army enlistments. Except for limited records of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 for the Navy, the other branches of the military (including Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service) all have their equivalent set of records.
Information you may find in Compiled Military Service Records varies greatly from each of the war periods. They typically contain:
name, unit, and period of service of the veteran
muster in/out information
rank in/out details
details of the soldier’s career: promotions, prisoner of war memorandums, casualties, and a number of personnel papers which may include enlistment papers and other related documents
for several of the war periods, physical descriptions of the soldiers including name, age, nativity, occupation, height, hair, eyes, and complexion information
John H Lemaster. Photo courtesy of Michael Strauss.
Your ancestor may have multiple entries in Compiled Military Service Records. This could occur if a soldier served in more than one unit, or in the case of John LeMaster, if he enlisted in two different armies during the Civil War! The Civil War divided our nation, testing the loyalty of all persons who lived during this time. Lemaster chose the Confederacy, at least initially, when he enlisted with the 2nd VA Infantry in 1861 in Charlestown, VA. He fought alongside his Brigade commander, Thomas J. Jackson, who later would be known as “Stonewall Jackson.”
After the Confederate loss at the battle of Gettysburg, he deserted and lived in Martinsburg in what was now West Virginia, where on his draft registration he was listed as a deserter from the Rebel Army. In 1864, he enlisted in the United States Army with the 3rd WV Cavalry, serving out the duration of the war until 1865. After the war, he was granted a federal pension, with no mention of his former service in the Confederacy.
Here are his military service records for both the Confederate and Union armies:
Where to Find Compiled Military Service Records
You may access various CMSR indexes and images online. Here are links to collections at subscription websites Fold3, Ancestry.com and even a couple at the free FamilySearch.org:
Compiled Military Service Records at fold3:
Revolutionary War.Compiled Military Service Record images for CT, DE, GA, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and Continental Troops. Genealogists should also search the local state where their ancestors were from as some Militia isn’t included in these records. During the Revolutionary War additional Compiled Service Records were completed for the Navy, which was broken down to include Naval Personnel, Quartermaster General, and Commissary General Departments. One additional set of CMSR images covered Revolutionary War service along with Imprisonment Cards.
Old Wars (1784-1811). After the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States government sought to maintain a regular Army. However, volunteer soldiers who served from 1784-1811 were recorded. (One of the reasons for volunteers to be called up would have included the Whiskey Rebellion of 1793.) Their Compiled Military Service Record full images are available here.
War of 1812. Compiled Military Service Records Indexes for CT, DE, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA and also the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Shawanoe Indians along with United States Volunteers. Full copies of CMSR are online for the Chickasaw and Creek Indians, along with the men from buy herpes medication online uk Lake Erie and Mississippi.
Mexican War.Compiled Military Service Record indexes for AL, AR, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, DC, MA, MI, MS, MO, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and the Mormon Battalion and the United States Volunteers. Full copies of the CMSR are online for AR, MS, PA, TN, TX, and the Mormon Battalion.
Civil War.Click here to search. Union: Indexes for AZ, CA, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI, United States Veteran Volunteers, and Veteran Reserve Corps. Full copies of CMSR for AL, AR, CA, CO, Dakota Territory, DE, DC, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MS, MO, NE, NV, NM, NC, OR, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, United States Colored Troops, United States Volunteers, and 1st NY Engineers. Confederate: indexes are online for AL, and VA. Full copies of CMSR are online for AL, AZ, AK, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA, Miscellaneous, Volunteers, Indians, and Officers.
Compiled Military Service Records At Ancestry.com:
Revolutionary War. Full copies of the Compiled Military Service Records for CT, DE, GA, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and Continental Troops. (This database often doesn’t list the local militia, as most of the men listed were part of the continental line. Researchers search by keyword or location.)
Old Wars. An index and full images of the Compiled Military Service Records of those men who served after the Revolutionary War and before the War of 1812, covering the years of 1784-1811.
War of 1812.Abstracted lists of names, state, and military units from the Compiled Service Records (no images).
Free Compiled Military Service Records at FamilySearch.org:
FamilySearch has fewer Compiled Military Service Records that include images. One of the major collections includes the Revolutionary War CMSR’s that when searched here, the images provide a direct link to Fold3.
Most of the other major war periods are microfilmed and available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. With online access through both Fold3 and Ancestry provided on the computers in the library, though, accessing the film is less desirable. Click here to learn more about changes in microfilm lending at the Family History Library.
Michael Strauss contributes the Military Minutes segment on Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcast. In the recently-published Episode 211, he profiles the 20th-century replacement for Compiled Military Service Records: the Official Military Personnel File. Click here and listen for free!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!
We begin this YouTube journey with the historical footage of the funeral procession of Hiram Cronk. Cronk was the last known surviving veteran of the War of 1812 when he died in 1905, at the age of 105. The clip found on YouTube shows row after row of marching men passing by on the screen. A YouTube comment identifies them as “Civil War veterans in their 60s [and] Mexican-American War veterans in their 80s.” Another comment identifies the last group of marching soldiers as re-enactors wearing War of 1812 soldier’s uniforms.
In fact, YouTube offers us many opportunities to see the faces and actions of earlier generations of soldiers. Have you seen the famous footage of the storming of the beaches at Normandy? It’s on YouTube!
After sharing our last post, The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries, I received a comment from Stephen, a Genealogy Gems reader. Stephen’s father served in the U.S. Army during WWII and was in the Aleutian Islands. That caught my eye because my father-in-law also served in the Aleutian Islands. It was a challenging landscape in which to serve, which is evident in the YouTube video I found online.
Aleutian Islands WWII Campaign: Combat runs over Kiska, Alaska
There are other military history gems found on YouTube you may never have expected to see. This next video is a collection of early combat photos beginning in 1863 with the U.S. Civil War. The creator of this video gave some background on combat photography. He said:
“The first war photography took place in the Mexican-American War by an anonymous photographer, but it wasn’t until the American Civil War that the first combat photos were taken…The limitations posed by the time and complexity it took to take a photo in the mid-to-late 1800’s made it difficult to obtain images during battles, but a few of naval actions did emerge. There was also not a tradition of journalists and artists putting their lives on the line for an image. The overall amount of combat photography before World War I was small, but a few images did emerge from a few courageous and pioneering people. By the time of World War I, governments saw the value in having large numbers of photographers to document conflicts for propaganda purposes and improved camera technology allowed combat photographers to routinely capture most iconic images of many conflicts.”
ENGLAND COURT. Ancestry subscribers now have access to a new collection of Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914(1637-1914). According to the database description, these courts “had both a civil and a criminal jurisdiction, and before 1888 they also had an administrative function. Civil cases usually appear in the court’s order books and criminal cases in the indictment books.”
Here’s our weekly roundup of cool new genealogy records online. Should you search any of these: an 1831 England census substitute; parish records for Hertfordshire; images of French forts in North America; Michigan death records; outgoing passenger lists for the US and War of 1812 pension records?
ENGLAND 1831 CENSUS SUBSTITUTE. There’s a new 1831 census substitute database at Findmypast! England, Pollbooks and Directories 1830-1837 allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, how they earned a living and how they voted. This collection of assorted documents also plugs the important gap left by the lack of a complete 1831 census.”
ENGLAND PARISH REGISTERS. Findmypast now has a browsable collection of parish records for Hertfordshire. The collection spans 1538-1988: that’s 450 years and 1.9 million pages of baptisms, marriages and burials.
NEW FRANCE. Library & Archives Canada has published a new Flickr photo collection with images of North American forts built or captured by the French during the era of New France. It’s free to explore and the history is fascinating!
MICHIGAN DEATHS. A new collection of Michigan Death Records, 1857-1960 is available to Ancestry.com subscribers. Death registers and certificates contain varying amounts of genealogical information.
US TRAVELERS ABROAD. Ancestry.com has a new database of departing passengers and crew from various U.S. locations (1916-1962) by ship and air. These include military transports. “Details requested on the forms varied, but they typically include the name of the vessel, departure date, ports of departure and destination, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence.” Later documents may include visa or passport information.
WAR OF 1812 PENSIONS (US). Images of pension records for US soldiers with surnames beginning A-M have been posted on Fold3, where they are available to view for FREE. This is part of the ongoing Preserve the Pensions project led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Click here to learn more and contribute to funding for this crowd-sourced effort.
Looking for a specific type of record about your ancestor? Want to find more new genealogy records online yourself? Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Google to search for specific records.