Arches at Glendalough 2009

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Civil War Substitutes

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. (AKA to southerners- the "War of Northern Aggression")There's a buzz in the genealogy world about Civil War Pension files being digitized. (Some widows' files are have been completed at And the National Parks' site has a list of events by state marking this anniversary.

Often when there's an anniversary like the Civil War some clever genealogist finds a way to promote and show a record collection that others didn't look at or think research to research in. I'll admit it-I am jealous of these people. The ideas and strategies that pop up often make me think, "Gee, I should have thought of that!" But I may have found one of those resources.

I've been studying my gr-granduncles' pension files. Four of them served in various regiments in the Civil War from the state of Connecticut. When the 135th anniversary of the Civil War came, I was lucky enough to find some great records in the card catalog at Connecticut State Library. One catalog held cemetery and death information for soldiers. Also found was a microfilm of money paid to the poor families of CT Union soldiers. But it wasn't putting "meat" on the uncles and I put the information aside.

Recently I decided to look for sources other than the pension records for these uncles. One of the items on my "to do" list was to look at the town records where my family lived. Let me tell you that was when the fun began.

At first these records seem mundane...50 cents for a tax abatement, money for the poor, money paid for road and bridge work. But once you look closer and compare the information to the Civil War pension records then all kind of things pop up!

In 1861 the town of Preston, CT paid Hannah Sholes money for boarding a poor lady. This was exciting for me because 5 years later one of my uncles boarded with her son who ran the home after his mother's death. The reason? The uncle was becoming ugly and threatened people. (The poor man was caught between Northern and Southern forces and had a percussion explode near his head.) Hannah Sholes' son later testified that he (my uncle) was fine before the war but wasn't the same after he returned home.

The Town of Ledyard listed bounty amounts for the volunteer soldiers from their town. One of my uncle's family received $30 in May and another $30 in August of
1861. There was also a line item that the town was compensated by the state of Connecticut for the soldiers' families in 1862. And money was paid to compensate one of the selectman for outfitting a poor soldier from the town serving in the military.

The best find was in Groton Connecticut. There, like in Ledyard and Preston, were reimbursements for families. But in the 1865 town record recorded a list of money paid to the substitute soldiers! (Even the librarians were surprised to see that!)

In all, these records hold a tremendous amount of information. Using the town records with the strategy of a timeline and a pension file can help you get the meat on all your ancestors!

Children and Genealogy

Many times I am asked about children and getting them interested in genealogy. "How do you get them interested?" is a common question I hear. It's not that difficult if you pay attention to the child.

1. Know the age of the child and what they are capable of doing. A four-year-old grandchild may be happy helping you putting flowers on the grave of your grandparents but at the age of eight may find it not interesting at all.

2. Know their likes and dislikes. A bookworm child may find the cemetery boring and the athletic child would be stifled in a library.

3. Take time to listen to them. You may be surprised that they are interested and may not express it.

4. Their interests change. One child may not be interested at first but may change their minds once they see/hear a sibling or cousin talking enthusiastically about the great adventures you have had.

5. Don't push. Not every child is ready to take a walk through an old town or cemetery.

6. Make it fun. Allow them to help you read microfilm or browse through a book at the library. Make up plays about the ancestors and have them act the play for the family using puppets, dolls, or other items.

7. Let them own their research. If you are lucky enough to have a child who is willing to help you, make two copies of what you both find. Chances are they'll remember the research if they are active and involved in the research.

8. Let them teach you. Ask them to show you slowly how to create a blog, scan a picture, or the newest technology trick. You'll be surprised how effective it is get their interest.

9. Let them use and have fun with the genealogy. Sometimes it is the little ones who can cut to the chase and make the ancestors come alive. Plays, posters, teas, and dress-ups are just a few ways that you can get them involved. Scan copies of your ancestors and let the children play with the scanned copies. The more familiar gr-aunt Blanche is to them the more interested the children may be in having fun with genealogy.

So what are you doing still reading this blog? Go out and have some fun with your children. And who knows, they may have some fun too!