Battle of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, 27 August 1861
In my previous column, we discussed how to look at your tree and determine who might have served in the Civil War. And some of you wisely pointed out that while 1816–1846 as a birth year may be a good rule of thumb for choosing candidates who may have served, it is by no means definitive. Younger and older ancestors may have served, but this is a good starting point.
So now that we have a list of candidates, it's time to determine which side they fought for and identify the unit in which they served. This will help us figure out which battles they fought in and where to start digging for clues as to what their life was like during the war.
So which side did your ancestor fight for? If you know where they lived in 1860, you may have a good idea whether they were a Yankee or a Confederate, but their location is by no means an absolute. Family legends and stories can also give you a clue, but remember sometimes those are just wishful thinking.
Here's a quick review of the United States during the war.
Union States: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Confederate States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Years ago I searched for my great-grandmother's family in the 1900 census and found my grandmother at age twelve living with her mother and siblings in Philadelphia on June 2. Recently searching for my grandmother under her own name, I found her on June 13 (after school was out) living with another family as a servant. Her father had been killed in an accident in November of 1899 and her mother, left with five young children to support, needed help. It always pays to look for the individual, not just the family.
Butcher, baker, candlestick maker, what did your ancestor do? Whatever your ancestor's occupation was, his life was deeply intertwined with his trade. And while it's neat to learn what your ancestor's occupation was from a census or some other record, just knowing he was a farmer only skims the surface.
Wouldn't it be great to know what he grew? What kind of livestock he kept? How many pigs? How many milch cows? What was the value of his farm in comparison to others in his area? And better yet, wouldn't it be great to see his progress a decade later?
This is a photo of my mother's Girl Scout Troop in Chicago about 1924. My mother Laverne (Meyer) Newton is in the third row, fifth from the left (just left of the girl in center with the white shirt). My aunt Evelyn (Meyer) Herndobler is also in the same row, three to the right of her sister Laverne. Many years later I joined the same Troop 102 in Chicago.
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