Have you ever been told that you have an ancestor or two who fought in the American Civil War? Perhaps you already know the name(s) of your ancestors who served with either the Union or Confederacy, but don’t know how to go about finding out important information about the ancestor. In which regiment did he serve? In which battles did the regiment fight? Was he injured, captured, or killed? Now, thanks to a very special partnership between two organizations, that information is more easily accessible than ever.
Beginning tomorrow, April 7, 2011, the National Archives and the commercial company Ancestry.com are providing millions of Civil War records from the Archives to the American public FREE for the first time ever. This free access will last for one week from April 7 through April 14, 2011 in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War on April 12, 2011. The approximately 25 million records, which document both Union and Confederate soldiers, will be available at www.ancestry.com/civilwar150. These records will include the 1863-1865 U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, and the complete 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census records as well.
It’s estimated that two-thirds of Americans living today have at least one ancestor who lived through the Civil War, while nearly 17 million of us have an ancestor who fought in the war. Until now, the draft records have been available only to those people who were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to the National Archives for painstaking research. Beginning tomorrow it will be easier than ever before to find out more about your ancestor who fought in the bloodiest war Americans have ever participated in. Who knows? Maybe your ancestor was one of these young men from the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the photo above.
I typically refrain from giving free publicity to businesses and institutions because I don’t want to make this blog about Abraham Lincoln too commercial. But in this case, I’m making an exception. This free access to Ancestry.com will be invaluable to hopefully thousands of Americans who want to learn more about their family tree. DISCLAIMER: I am receiving no compensation of any kind from Ancestry.com, nor any of its affiliates, including a membership. I was contacted by a representative who asked me to write about this release, which I’ve agreed to do.
Here is the publicity release which the Archives and Ancestry.com released earlier today:
WASHINGTON, D.C., and PROVO, UTAH — (April 6, 2011) – Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, and the National Archives, today launched millions of newly digitized Civil War records that are now available online for the first time. This effort is part of an ongoing partnership between Ancestry.com and the National Archives to make important historical records more easily available to the American public. Ancestry.com’s entire Civil War Collection of more than 42 million records, including 25 million records from the National Archives, will be free to access for the general public for one week beginning on April 7. Existing members will have immediate access beginning today. Included are the entire U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865 and the complete 1860 and 1870 Censuses. These Civil War collections are in the National Archives and have been digitized by Ancestry.com to help preserve the original records and provide convenient online access. They now serve as a vital source of information for an estimated 17 million Americans who have an ancestor who fought in the conflict. The entire Civil War Collection can be accessed for free at www.ancestry.com/civilwar150
The highlight of the Civil War Collection is the newly digitized Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865. These records are among the most popular in the National Archives Civil War holdings and served as a virtual male census for the northern states during the war period. Famous 19th century Americans such as Andrew Carnegie, future President Grover Cleveland, Aaron Montgomery Ward and multiple Rockefellers are all found in these records. Previously only available by request in original form in the Research Room of the National Archives, the public will now be able to easily access these records on Ancestry.com without having to travel to Washington, D.C.
“The significance of these records, which document one of the most important events in American history, cannot be overstated,” said Ken Burns, director and producer of the award-winning documentary THE CIVIL WAR and longtime board member of the Foundation for the National Archives. “I’ve been able to make multiple discoveries about my own great-great-grandfather Abraham Burns through these and other records from the National Archives. I’m excited that more people will now be able to have similar discoveries through Ancestry.com.”
Ancestry.com is providing another special experience in searching for Civil War and National Archive information through the new interactive Military Headstone Archives. Dynamic visuals and multimedia tools will enable users to ‘virtually’ explore the cemeteries of the Civil War’s most famous battlefields at Gettysburg, PA; Sharpsburg (Antietam), MD; Stones River (Murfreesboro), TN; Petersburg, VA; Shiloh, TN and Vicksburg, MS. Users can search for their family’s heroes in Ancestry.com’s unique collection of headstone photographs from 33 national cemeteries in the North and South. The new Military Headstone Archives can also be accessed by visiting: www.ancestry.com/civilwar150
Since 2008, Ancestry.com and the National Archives have worked as partners to make important historical records available to the public as part of a shared commitment to preserving America’s heritage. A key component of this collaboration includes digitizing as many of the original paper National Archives’ Civil War records as possible and publishing those records on Ancestry.com.
“The National Archives continues to be a model for preserving important U.S. history and making those records available to the public,” said Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President for Ancestry.com. “We’re honored that our partnership with the National Archives has made millions of records, including the new Civil War Collection, available to the many Americans who want to learn more about their family history.”
“We are pleased that our partnership with Ancestry.com is making these important records available outside of our research rooms,” said Susan Cummings, National Archives Director of Access Programs. “This is just the first of many series of Civil War records that will be made available online-that are scanned from original records, instead of from microfilm in the years to come.”
The expanded Civil War Collection now includes new National Archives records such as: · U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865: This collection lists all Civil War Draft Registrations. There were four drafts between 1863 and 1865, which included 3,175,055 people in its rolls, although of those, just over 46,000 actually entered into service. Historically, the 1863 draft was one of the most tenuous moments in the Union outside of the battles fought on Northern soil. Most of the concern was due to the draft riots that took place in New York in 1863. These records include more than 630 volumes of registries and are lists of individuals who registered for the draft.
· U.S. Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865: This collection contains indices of compiled military service records for volunteer Union and Confederate soldiers who served with units organized in more than 20 states. The indices also include Confederate soldiers who later served with the Union Army, Union and Confederate soldiers, Generals and staff officers, and other enlisted men not associated with a regiment. Individual records contain both military and personal details useful for locating an ancestor in time and place by tracking his movements during the course of the Civil War.
Other additions to the Civil War Collection include:
Union records · New York Civil War Muster Rolls · New York Civil War City Registers · Kansas Civil War Enlistment Papers
Confederate records · Confederate Pension Applications from AL, AR, TX and VA · Georgia Civil War Correspondence · Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers · Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy
To begin searching The Civil War Collection, current subscribers can visit www.ancestry.com/civilwarand new users can visit www.ancestry.com/civilwar150. For further stories and updates related to Civil War family history research, please follow Ancestry.com on Facebook and Twitter.
About Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world’s largest online family history resource, with nearly 1.4 million paying subscribers. More than 6 billion records have been added to the site in the past 14 years. Ancestry users have created more than 20 million family trees containing over 2 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries that help people discover, preserve and share their family history, including its flagship Web site at www.ancestry.com.
About the National Archives The National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency, is the nation’s record keeper. Founded in 1934, its mission is unique — to serve American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. It supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives meets a wide range of information needs, among them helping people to trace their families’ history, making it possible for veterans to prove their entitlement to medical and other benefits, and preserving original White House records. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at http://www.archives.gov/.