Genealogy • Access to army, pension and census records is free.
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As its contribution to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the LDS Church-sponsored organization, FamilySearch.org, has released millions of online records from the Confederate and Union armies.
FamilySearch disclosed the move this week at the National Genealogical Society's Family History Conference in Charleston, S.C.
"These records are significant because nearly every family in the United States at that time was impacted either directly or indirectly by the war," FamilySearch project manager Ken Nelson said in a news release. "Each soldier has a story to tell based on what his unique experience was during the war. Each family has their own story to tell. This is the paper trail that tells the stories about that period in our nation's history."
The collection includes thousands of enlistment or pension records that can provide key family data, including age, birthplace or spouse's name, the release said. Other collections, such as census records, are more focused on "ordinary civilians who lived during that turbulent time."
It's all useful for finding a lost ancestor, the release said. "Even a local or state death record far away from the battle front may contain death information on a soldier that was submitted by a family member back home."
Although many of the records have been available for some time, FamilySearch is adding them to its familysearch.org/civilwar site, the release said, and is looking to enlist volunteers "in an online campaign over the next five years to provide access to the highly desirable historic documents."
These volunteers will index current records and add pertinent information to make the records more searchable online.
So far, more than 130,000 people have helped with FamilySearch indexing projects, but project manager Jim Ericson said even more volunteers are needed.
"We expect to maintain some focus on indexing records from the U.S. Civil War for the next three or four years," Ericson said in the release, "to make the collection of Civil War-era records extremely robust."
Finding the records online
O To access the Civil War records, go to https://www.familysearch.org/civilwar
Also available are links to helpful articles, such as information about each regiment that fought in the conflict and records created by each state that participated in the war. There also are free online classes about how to research Civil War ancestors and tips for family history beginners.