Researching Missouri Civil War Soldiers
Genealogists, hobby historians, and students often find themselves searching through records to locate ancestors or persons of interest during the Civil War in Missouri. But how do they know where to search for the stories of these elusive people?
Oft times, it comes down simply to good detective work. This article is to help those starting out or who have reached a standstill in their research to identify common sources available. While this isn’t an all encompassing list, it is a great place to start your research and can often lead to other sources.
Paid sites, such as ancestery.com and fold3.com, are often available at local libraries, historical societies, and other research centers. Ancestry.com also provides U.S., Descriptive Lists of Colored Volunteer Army Soldiers, 1864. African American service records during the Civil War were rarely kept, or as detailed as their Anglo counterparts, however, some records survive and have been collected and made available online. These online collections make census records, enlistment records, and pension records available, as well.
Free websites also offer a fount of information. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, hosted by the National Park Service, has made thousands of records free to the public online. These records include, in part, enlistment documents, prisoner of war records, and unit information. These records are searchable through a variety of terms like soldiers unit, enlistment location, name, and unit function. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-sailors.htm
The U.S. , Colored Troops Military Service Records 1863-1865, made available through the National Archives (and also available on ancestry.com), provides information on African American troops, as well. While these records are more limited, they do offer a great starting point to begin searching pension records and surviving widows claims post-Civil War.
The Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center also has a large collection of Civil War records. Carefully and painstakingly transcribed and entered into a searchable database, these records include troop movements, personal letters, military orders, and a host of other information. The listing of the Archive’s holdings is available online at their website http://mohistory.org/lrc-home\
The Western Historic Manuscript Collection, with the main branch in Columbia, Missouri, has a plethora of manuscripts related to Missouri history, including, you guessed it, the Civil War! These letters, fliers, and other written materials offer insight into personal opinions, feelings, and aims for the Civil War and Reconstruction periods in Missouri. While searching this collection, the researcher must have a targeted name or family in mind, or a specific collection, as these are not divided by topic, but by collection. Though, online http://shsmo.org/manuscripts/, finding aids have been published so that prior to your trip, you can have your notes planned out. Also, since a great many of the materials are not kept on site, it’s best to contact them ahead of time to order your research documents in.
And best not forget, local libraries can be a treasure trove of newspaper articles, photographs, and other primary documents that may just be the key to your research quest!