Friday, April 23, 2010

A Solemn Observance

April 12, 2010 marked the beginning of the Civil War. On this date In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter in South Carolina. While war is nothing to celebrate, it is a significant anniversary, when you consider the 600,000 Americans who gave their lives. An article on The American Interest Online, "Civil War Still Echo in our Heads," recaps those first shots and illustrates how in some ways, even today, the Civil War has not ended. I particularly like one quote noted in the piece, "The past isn’t dead, Faulkner once wrote.  It isn’t even past."

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2

In her last article on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" Jean Hibben presented lyric variations on the original melody written by William Steffe, lyrics that were often crude, prompting Julia Ward Howe to create her more inspirational tribute.  Continuing the story, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2," the author explores the variations in the Howe version, which involves mostly its verses relating to the Civil War. One variation, which changes the lyrics entirely, pays tribute to the women behind the battle lines.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1

Which came first the chicken or the egg? It's an old joke, and you might find differences of opinion as to which is the correct answer. You might also get a different opinion if you asked the same question of two very old, yet familiar songs: which came first, "John Brown's Body" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1," Jean Hibben answers the question. Perhaps an even more intriguing question is, which John Brown was the subject of the original lyrics. We think we know, but do we? All this and the story of how the lyrics changed . . . and why, is presented, along with the author performing the song.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2

The holiday season is a time of joy. In times of war, on the battlefield and for those at home, the holiday season takes on even greater meaning. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2," Jean Hibben reflects on holiday songs born of wartime. With emphasis on the song, "Christmas Bells," better known as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the author recalls and performs the song, including the more somber verses "almost lost to obscurity."

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Friday, November 13, 2009

What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?

We always  appreciate hearing about those little known and untapped genealogy resources -- this is the way we expand our knowledge and our family tree at the same time. That said, finding an ancestor among these records could be met with mixed emotion. 

In her article, "What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?, Melissa Slate explains The Amnesty Proclamation of December 8,1863 and outlines amnesty requirements. Being a United States record, the Confederate Amnesty Papers are housed at the National Archives. Indexes may be available for some states, such as those for Tennessee. In addition, has made these records available online. You may look for hints to amnesty among a soldier's compiled service record. According to the Civil War publication on the National Archives website, "References to oaths of allegiance and paroles from Confederate soldiers can often be found referenced in compiled military service records for captured soldiers/prisoners." Civil War paroles, also noted in that document, might be another resource to consider.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 3

In the continuing series on everyday words and phrases originating during war time, the American Civil War takes center stage, as Jean Hibben presents, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 3. And who can reference the American Civil War without acknowledging Abraham Lincoln? Although Lincoln may have borrowed rather than coined the phrase, the concept (and potentially damaging consequences) of "swapping horses midstream" is accredited to him. This along with several other familiar words and phrases can be traced back to that same time period. 

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Footnote gives 1860 U. S. Census a new twist

As noted on, the 1860 U.S. Census made an appearance at historical records subscription site this past week and brings something "a bit different to the table," - allowing users to enhance census listings by adding photos, stories, comments and related documents. has included the 1860 U.S. Census to its Civil War collection which also includes service records of Confederate soldiers, a pension index for Union soldiers, and Southern Claims Commission files. Footnote is also working with FamilySearch and the National Archives to digitize the actual pension applications for Union widows -- this alone is excellent news!

The new 1860 U.S. Census database is available online to paid subscribers at, and is also available for free to users at local Family History Centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. If you're unable to locate someone you expect to find, don't panic. As of today the 1860 census database is only 66% complete, with the rest to come.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Keep an open mind when browsing resources

In her article, "Researching Civil War Volunteer Infantrymen from Havana, Illinois,"
Judy Rosella Edwards reminds us that key information may be found in the most unlikely sources. In this case, a Civil War military regimental history happens to include the names of those who pre-paid for copies of the book -- you never know who that might include. So keep in mind when browsing resources for your time and place, there may be more to a source than meets the eye.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Forgotten Records of the Civil War

While we may all sing the woes of taxation -- and it has been historically so -- early tax lists are a valuable resource, locating people in time and place who, in many case, might not be found otherwise. In her article, "Forgotten Records: Tapping the Power of Civil War Income Tax Records," Melissa Slate sheds light early income tax records, some of which survive. As noted in the article, many such lost or forgotten records exist, it is through the efforts of earnest researchers that such records rise to the surface, to the benefit of all.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Civil War POW Records

For those with Civil War ancestry, Melissa Slate, in her article, “Civil War POW Records,” has pulled together a number of resources on Civil War POW prison camps. Some of the prisons mentioned in the article had a familiar ring. My second-great-grandfather, serving for Confederacy, was captured in Missouri and imprisoned at Rock Island, IL Not long before the end of the war, as part of a prisoner exchange, he was transferred to Point Lookout, MD and then on to Richmond, VA where he was furloughed in March 1865.

I first learned of this through his military service record, ordered many moons ago from the National Archives. Later, with the advent of the Internet, I was able to learn more about Rock Island Prison, his regiment, and maneuvers that brought about his capture. The military record -- more readily available today -- is a good place to find the regiment numbers Melissa mentions in her article, to help you in locating your POW ancestor and learning more about his place of imprisonment.

One resource mentioned is the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, which allows easy searching for those serving on either side of the battle. It’s a credible resource, drawing on reliable sources and credible volunteers.It's a facinating search, and we are always happy as more and more of these collective records become available.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Researching female ancestors during the American Civil War

This month as we focus on women in history, Gena Philibert-Ortega provides information on researching women in the Civil War era. On both sides of the battle, with so many husbands, sons, and brothers at war, women "took over for the men on the home front." Seems this pattern repeats itself each time a nation goes to war. Researching the women on our family tree is always a challenge, as a woman's individual identity is absorbed in taking her husband's name. In her article, "Researching Women Ancestors in the American Civil War," Gina directs us to a variety of sources to help identify these courageous women and understand more about their life and times.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Was your family member a Southern loyalist?

Did you know there were Southerners who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and those who suffered personal property losses, could file a claim for damages with the Southern Claims Commission? Yes, it's true. But before you go on the defensive, read on. In her article, "Southern Claims Commission Records," Gena Philibert-Ortega provides insight on this little-known resource, along with places where these records can be accessed. The so-called "Southern loyalists," we are told, made 22,298 claims between March 1871 and March 1873. Of course not everyone who claimed loyalty really were, as the article points out, "people did what they had to do to receive compensation [and] did not consider it "lying" to "lie" to a Yankee." The most refreshing aspect in learning about these records is realizing that many more little known resources may be out there hiding in plain sight to help us in our search for ancestors.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

American Civil War, the rest of the story

If you thought there was nothing new to learn about the American Civil War, think again. In her article, Confederates in Brazil, Gena Philibert-Ortega provides insights into a group of Southerners who fled to Brazil at the end of the Civil War in search of a new life and cheap land.

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