Free (and Often Valuable) Civil War Veteran Research Through April 30th

Posted on April 20, 2015 by Jennifer Stingley at
Categories: Paid Genealogy Site Promotions, Resources
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From muster rolls to pension files, and everything in between, civil war veterans’ records can provide a wealth of genealogical information.  From now through April 30th, Fold3 is offering free access to their Civil War records, including digital images of millions of documents.

We’ll take a look at some of the records available, and what information we can glean from them.  I’ll also explain how to gain access to the records available for free through Fold3.

The Records

Civil War Pension Index Records

The most common Civil War veteran records available through Fold3 are the index records.  These documents are basically index cards that provide an index to the pension files that may be useful in ordering files from the National Archives. In some cases, the files available from the Archives contain a treasure trove of documents that you won’t find online.

Civil War Pension Files

Many Union soldiers who survived the war applied for federal pensions.  If they died before discharge, their widows and/or children might have applied for benefits.  Confederate soldiers and their families would have applied to their state government to receive benefits.

Many times these pension applications included letters written by the soldier, or his dependent(s). These letters often detail the soldier’s military service — including such details as their date and place of enlistment, unit, and rank.  They may include date and place of birth (and death, if applicable), as well as information about the soldier’s parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

Affidavits confirming the soldier’s claims are often found in pension records.  They are often written by comrades-in-arms, family, friends, and/or neighbors, and can include further information about the soldier and his family.

Muster Rolls

Muster rolls are lists of soldiers from a particular unit that were present for roll call on any given date.  Usually, they will include the location where that roll was written, so they can be useful in tracing ancestors’ paths across the country during the war.  They can also help us identify a soldier’s rank and physical condition on a given date, which is useful in creating a timeline of his military career.

Appointment Documents

When Union soldiers were given a promotion, documentation was generally sent to the Adjutant General. They can include letters of appointment from their commanding officer(s), as well as statements by the soldier himself, swearing allegiance to The United States.  When creating timelines of our ancestors’ military careers, these documents can help highlight some of the most important aspects of their story.

Example of an appointment document available from Fold3.  This particular document is the oath given by Pleasant Hackleman (a distant cousin) upon his appointment to the rank of Brigadier General.

Example of an appointment document available from Fold3. This particular document is the oath given by Pleasant Hackleman (a distant cousin) upon his appointment to the rank of Brigadier General.

Fold3 Civil War Collections Access

As mentioned above, Fold3 is currently showcasing their Civil War document collection by offering free access through the end of April. You can access the collection’s landing page, complete with search form, here: Civil War Documents on Fold3 – FREE Through April 30th.

You can run a search for free without registering for a user account, but you’ll need to register for a free guest account if you want to view any of the documents listed in the search results.

Registration Tip: DON’T sign up for the free trial when you register.  The trial is a one-time use kind of deal.  Use the free promo offer to research the Civil War veterans in your family tree, and activate the free trial at a later date when you’ll be able to seriously devote yourself to spending the time to research and evaluate the service provided by Fold3.  For many people, their website provides a very valuable resource.

Fold3 Research Tips

  • Save documents! Once the promotional period is over, you won’t be able to access these documents again unless you use your free trial period or purchase a subscription to Fold3. Personally, I prefer to include copies of supporting documents with the citations in my family tree.  Not only does it help me when I’m trying to verify information I’ve entered on an ancestor, but sometimes they’re pretty cool to show to other family members, too.  When viewing documents in the full screen viewer, use the “Download” option to save the document image to your computer.
  • View a few pages before and after the document Fold3 displays. Oftentimes, I find that there are several pages relating to the person I’m searching for.  It helps to examine some of the pages before and after the one that gets displayed when you open a search result link. I’ve even ended up with full pension files for some people!
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Please feel free to use this article, in its entirety, in any way you see fit, so long as you include the byline in any copies, and properly cite it if used as research material.

To cite this post:
Jennifer Lynn Stingley, "Free (and Often Valuable) Civil War Veteran Research Through April 30th," Ancestor Archaeology, 20 April 2015 ( : accessed [22 October 2018]).

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