Mouse Pad with Civil War Cap and Canteen

I’ve been asked about the graphic used on this blog. It’s a photo I took when I visited Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

If you like it, I’ve made it available on a mouse pad that can be ordered from Zazzle. It would make a great Christmas gift or birthday present for any Civil War buff that you know or get it for yourself.

Here it is:

Accessing Subscription Genealogy Sites for Free

Genealogy can be an expensive hobby or passion. Ancestry.com alone can be over $150 for a year’s subscription.

Fortunately, it gives you a free two-week trial which has some added benefits down the road. If you sign up for the trial membership, then you get email notices from the site pretty regularly.

Every so often, usually around holiday weekends, it has an open search. If you don’t want to pay for the year’s membership, you’ll want to take advantage of the open access times offered.

At special times during the year, this military records site offers free weekend access to certain records. Sign up for their emails at the site to be notified of these.

At special times during the year, this military records site offers free weekend access to certain records. Sign up for their emails at the site to be notified of these.

The example shown in the graphic above is my email from the Fold3 site which is another genealogy subscription site. It specializes in military records. As you can see, it offers the free access every now and then as well.

Best of luck on hunting down your ancestors!

ONE WARNING: Be sure to cancel at the end of the trial period. Some sites automatically roll into the full membership and charge your credit card.

(graphic created by me using Awesome Screenshots)

Sort Out Your Questions about Your Ancestor

It seems like for every genealogy discovery I make, I uncover another riddle or puzzle to keep me working. When I find several versions of a name, I wonder is it a misspelling? Which is the correct one and how can I find out? The same problem happens with birth dates, death dates and marriage dates.

Then there are the questions that can’t be answered by the facts listed in a census. I wonder about the way my ancestors lived, why they moved from one state to another. What happened to some family members that don’t show up in later census records? Who are the children with different names that are living with the family?

Unfortunately many of these family history questions will remain unanswered. I’m listing my puzzles here and cross my fingers. Maybe someone will stumble across them in working on their own family history. Maybe they will even have some of the answers for me. Miracles do happen.

???  Why was his 7th child, Ezakins Zacheus Tower (1875) born in Indiana when the family was living in Tyro, Kansas in 1873? Did the infant die in childbirth? I’m not finding further information about him.

??? The 8th child, Rueben Theodore Tower was born May 13, 1876 in Boone County, Arkansas. What was the family doing in Arkansas, when the previous year they were in Indiana?
UPDATE: I found online Rueben Tower’s grandson’s essay about the family. He says Civil War veterans were offered free land in Arkansas. I need to find out more about that.

??? Abraham’s 9th child, Malissa Angeline Tower was born in Arkansas in 1879, but the 10th child Emma Lillian Tower born in 1881 was in Indiana. Were they visiting in Indiana or living there again? I’ve also seen Malissa listed as Melissa which would be a more ordinary spelling.

??? Which of Nancy Angeline Tower’s sisters was living in Missouri? The family story is that she went to Missouri to stay with the sister when she thought Abraham was dead after the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

??? Prisoners were allowed to send letters to their family while in Andersonville. Abraham did not. It wasn’t due to illiteracy, as he kept a pocket diary after the war. Perhaps he did not have any money for stamps? Perhaps he sent a letter but it went astray due to wartime conditions. Possibly that wasn’t allowed any longer by the time he entered the prison. (I need to find out when the mail was stopped at Andersonville)

??? Prisoners were formed into groups upon arrival for purposes of roll call and food distribution. Was Abraham with other Company G comrades at this time or did they get separated as the influx of prisoners arrived?
(Strategy: make a list of Company G, 93rd Infantry soldiers in Andersonville, date of capture or arrival, died or survived)

I think I’ll get this to help me work out these questions. The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Individual Problem Analysis: A Strategic Plan (Quicksheet)

It looks very helpful in asking the right questions, looking for the right information, and so on. It’s great to have a checklist by you when taking on the big task of genealogy! Make sure you don’t miss anything important, and you know what you’re looking for!

Tracking Down Your Ancestor in the Census

Don’t give up if at first you aren’t finding your Civil War ancestor in the census for the years or locations you expect. Here is one roadblock you may encounter:

He may have moved. My great-great grandfather lived in Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and was back and forth in those states over the years.

When I finally found him in the 1910 census, he was in the household of his daughter. She was widowed with 5 children, married again, then widowed again.  It wasn’t that easy to find her, but when I did, BINGO.

Here Abraham Tower returned to Indiana and is in the household of his daughter when the census taker comes around.

Here Abraham Tower returned to Indiana and is in the household of his daughter when the census taker comes around.

TIP: Track down their children or their siblings for the missing census year. Sometimes they are living with them.

Look for Land Records on Your Civil War Ancestor

I’d seen a reference to my ancestor and the word “patent.” Had he invented something? No. It turned out to be a land patent.

The place to search for these is the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Bureau of Land Management’s records. It lets you search online for transfer of land titles from the Federal government to individuals. The place to search is the General Land Office Records (called GLORecords).

The records include Cash Entry, Homestead and Military Warrant patents. This helps you locate a place and time where your ancestor was based on a land transaction with the federal government.

Here's the search form for the land records.

Here’s the search form for the land records.

Just click on the examples here to see them larger.

My great-great grandfather's listing.

My great-great grandfather’s listing.

You can view the actual land patent.

You can view the actual land patent.

 

 

 

Put the Power of Facebook to Work for You

There’s an amazing range of interest groups on Facebook. Some have thousands of members. I’ve found ones that specialize in the Civil War and these groups put you in daily contact with some very knowledgeable history buffs, authors, re-enactors and genealogists.

To find these groups, search on Facebook by keywords. The ones I’ve found helpful are:

  • Civil War
  • The American Civil War
  • Civil War Faces
  • The Civil War Buff
  • Descendants of Andersonville Prisoners

There are groups for certain regions, certain battles, for Civil War recipes and many more topics. For groups listed as “closed,” you have to get an invitation from someone in the group to join.

You can join a group and then search the back postings using the little magnifying glass. Search by the last name of your ancestor or a battle or a regiment. At first, I like to get acclimated in a group by liking and commenting on a few interesting things. Then you can put a question or share some information you have once they are used to seeing your face on the site.

Be polite and show appreciation when others help you.

Here's an example of a Civil War interest group on Facebook.

Here’s an example of a Civil War interest group on Facebook.

Make Copies of Information You Find Online

You may think it sufficient to bookmark a site that relates to your ancestor. Alas, the Internet shifts, changes, and sites can disappear.

I recommend saving a screen shot on your computer or using a clipping app like Evernote. Even that isn’t enough insurance. What if your computer crashes. Go one step further and print a paper copy to keep.

Last year I’d found a great website about Belgians in the Civil War. It included half a dozen men who were in my great-great grandfather’s company and several were in Andersonville with him. The profiles on this site were most informative and probably written from the pension files of these individuals.

I made a few notes and saved a link, thinking I could always go back for more details later. Unfortunately the profiles are now gone from online. If I want that information, I’ll need to order their pension records. That’s an expense I wasn’t planning on, so I’m really regretting that I didn’t print all that information when I first found it.

Henri Devillez served in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry with my ancestor. In 2012, I visited his grave in Leopold, Indiana.

Henri Devillez served in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry with my ancestor. In 2012, I visited his grave in Leopold, Indiana.

I’ve included a few notes about him and other enlisted men of Company G on a web page where I was stockpiling links. From now on, I’m also printing out all that I find.