U.S. Civil War Pension & Service Records - The Basics

A Genealogy Research Guide For Union & Confederate Soldiers

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Researching Civil War Records
  • Two major types of records that you can sometimes obtain for your Civil War ancestor are pension records and Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR).

    The next two sections have information on finding these records for your Civil War ancestor.
Civil War Service Records
  • Each volunteer soldier should have one Compiled Military Service Record for each regiment in which he served. The CMSR contains basic information about the soldier's military career.
Civil War Pension Records
  • Union: Most Union army soldiers or their widows or minor children later applied for a pension. In a few cases, a dependent father or mother applied for a pension. The pension file will often contain more information about what the soldier did during the war than the CMSR, and it may contain much medical information if he lived for many years after the war. Most Union pension records are held by the National Archives.
  • Confederate: Confederate pensions were generally only given to soldiers who were indigent or disabled. A Confederate veteran could apply for a pension from the state where he was living, even if he served in a different state. Confederate pension records are in the appropriate state archives or similiar repository.
Online Civil War Indexes

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