This how-to article is excerpted from Discover Your Family History Online
The American Civil War Research Database is one of the most comprehensive, fully searchable sources of soldier and regimental data on the Internet. For an annual fee of $25 or a limited $10 visitor’s pass, you can search through more than 4,000,000 records that currently cover 4,681 rosters and more than 23,000 soldier photos. The exceptional use of the site’s dynamic links will take you into several layers of information, ranging from the names of other hometown enlistees to those who died in any given battle.
Locating your ancestor is as easy as entering a surname and launching a search. Be sure to follow search tips, though, as many records identify soldiers only by an initial for a first name. In addition, many soldiers joined a neighboring state’s military unit, so you may not find them if you specify the state where they lived. Once located, you can click on the name to read an individual’s history including dates of enlistment, age at enlistment, and rank achieved, along with source citations. Because a large amount of information in the database is from state rosters, you’ll find data which was previously unavailable to the public.
As a bonus for researchers, you can follow the link to your ancestor’s place of residence (if known) and see a name of every other soldier in town. If you’re lucky, you may even find your soldier in one of the 5,500 photos on the site.
If you know what regiment your solider served in, use the Regiment Lookup screen to dive into battles fought, regimental assignments, and a graphical view of the unit’s combat experience. From the casualty analysis screen you can view the dates and places where soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or reported missing, along with the names of the individual soldiers in each of those categories.
For those researchers who want a deeper understanding of how the losses in your ancestor’s regiment compared with other regiments, use the Regimental Dynamics screen to sort statistics by several options, including the percentage of men who were killed, wounded, disabled, or captured. Sorting can also be done by unit type, state and length of enlistment. For example, in sorting Union regiments by percentage of deserters, you’ll see that of the 257 men in the 154 PA Infantry, nearly 44% went over the hill. These statistics lead, of course, to questions about the ability of the officer corps, camp conditions, or recruiting techniques.
Although the American Civil War Research Database is available in various Ancestry.com databases, the dynamic links on this site make it a far more valuable resource.
If you’re only interested in locating your Civil War ancestor, and don’t want detailed regimental information, you can purchase a 7-day pass to the personnel database for $10. In either case, a subscription to CivilWarData.com is one of the best bargains on the ‘Net.