Tracking Down Your Ancestors

by Thomas R. Fasulo
37th Iowa Volunteer Infantry

I receive a lot of e-mail asking how to track down a great-grandfather (uncle, aunt, whatever) who fought in the [enter unit name here] during the Civil War. I have never done this myself. My ancestors were in Australia and Italy at the time. We all know what kind of people were used, mostly, to populate Australia [see note below] so I'm not sure I want to research them. And it's a family joke that many of my ancestors in Italy were great dancers, in that they died dancing - at the end of a rope. I know who my parents are and that's good enough for me, and I don't anticipate having any descendants.

[Note: There is a joke that says an American was going through Australian customs and a customs official asked him, "Do you have a criminal record?" The American replied, "I didn't know you still needed that to get in."]

However, there are sites on the WWW that can help you. Two that I know of are the Broadfoot Publishing Company at, and the Confederate Service Records & Research site at There may or may not be a fee involved, depending on the depth of information you require.

However, Captain Bob McLendon, of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, advises those seeking ancestors who served in Florida units to start by writing the Florida State Archives for service and pension records at R. A. Gray Building, 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250.

Richard White has a WWW site describing the records of the Florida State Archives - Confederate Service and Pension Records: Some General Description of How They were Created and What They Contain. While written with a focus on searching for information about Confederate soldiers who lived in Florida and Georgia, the Archives also has records of soldiers from Alabama and North Carolina.

Other states have similar government agencies that possess these types of Civil War records... expect for Hawaii and Alaska. A lava flow covered the building in which all records of the 1st (CSA and USA) Hawaiian Cavalry and 1st Hawaiian Infantry (USA) Regiments were stored, and a tidal wave washed away the vault which held the records of the Alaskan Sled-Infantry Brigade (USA). It's a shame, as these units played a decisive role in the long forgotten Battle of Hell, Kentucky. In addition, the assault of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry on Battery Wagner might have been successful if the planned, coordinated amphibious assault of the 1st Hawaiian Infantry had not been canceled due to the fact that the regiment's surfboards did not arrive in time.

And if you find an ancestor you'd rather not have found, don't blame me. Remember, we can choose our friends, but we can't choose our family.

The Florida Civil War Genealogy WWW site provides information on tracking down your ancestors that served in Florida units. Plus it has links to other state and national sites on Civil War genealogy.

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