Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review: "Genealogical Resources of the Civil War Era"

I recently read the book Genealogical Resources of the Civil War Era by William Dollarhide and really enjoyed it. It has a prominent space in my genealogy bookcase now because it is so valuable for both online and published resources!

In the foreword, publisher Leland Meitzler says:

"This book was not written as a guide to Civil War narratives as such, but a guide to the various records in which one will find the lists of names of both soldiers and civilians. Those lists include records created during the War, records produced immediately after the War, Veteran Censuses, State Censuses taken (1885-1945) with Civil War Veterans listed, and numerous Internet resources."

The major value of this book is that it comprehensively lists the online resources and the repository resources (books, libraries, archives, etc.) for twenty specific Civil War Resource Groups, and then lists the States for which these resources are available. The specific Civil War Resource Groups considered (in Part 2 of the book) are:

National Resources:

* Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System
* The American Civil War Research Database
* Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
* General and Organizational Indexes to Pension Files, 1861-1934
* 1883 List of U.S. Pensioners on the Roll
* 1890 Federal Census of Union Veterans
* Roll of Honor & Veteran Burials
* 1865-1867 Confederate Amnesty Papers
* Consolidated Lists of Confederate Soldiers & United Confederate Veterans Association
* Index to Compiled Service Records

Statewide Resources:
* Compiled Service Records (by state)
* Index to Compiled Service Records (by state)
* 1861-1869 State Censuses and any 1885-1945 State Censuses with Civil War veterans noted
* 1861-1869 Statewide Name Lists
* 1862-1869 Internal Revenue Assessment Lists
* Statewide Militia Lists
* Confederate Pension Applications. Pensioner Name Lists and Censuses of Confederate Veterans
* Indexes to Statewide Records
* Statewide Lists of Veteran Burials
* State Adjutant General Reports

For each Research Group, there is a description of the records - why and how they were created, with a visual example of a record page. A list of the states for which there are online databases or Family History Library (FHL) microfilm is provided, with the relevant page numbers. A two-page table summarizes the resource groups available for each state.

There are paragraphs for each State to define the online and published (book or microfilm) resources available in Part 3 of the book titled "Statewide Name Lists, 1861-1869 & Post-War Veteran Lists." The Online Resources for each state includes:

* The State Archives and/or State Library website; and any Civil War related databases available at that website
* Any Civil War website for the state
* Any 1861-1869 online name list or Post-War veteran list for the state

The Published Resources include:

* Any published Compiled Service Records, Militia Lists, Pension Records, or Veteran Records specific to each state
* Any statewide name lists 1861-1869, including State Censuses, Tax Lists, or Voter Registrations
* Any published guides relating to the Civil War for a state with resource lists.

In these state sections, website URLs are provided for online resources, and FHL microfilm numbers are provided for records microfilmed by the Family History Library.

Part 1 of the book provides a concise description of the Civil War Era - what happened, why it happened, where events occurred, etc.

Part 4 of the book lists "The Best Civil War Resource Centers for Local & County Research." It cites as the most comprehensive locality portal site to identify local and county resources on the Internet. This section provides a detailed description of the top six Civil War era resource centers - the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana; the Library of Congress in Washington DC; the Military History Institute, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; the Historical Research Center, Texas Heritage Museum, at Hill College, Hillsboro, Texas; and the National Park Service.

What is missing in this book about Civil War Era records? I can think of:

* Published books, manuscripts, and periodicals that are not microfilmed, but may be found in local, state, regional or national repositories
* State Archives resources that have not been published or microfilmed
* National Archives resources that have not been published or microfilmed (for example, the Civil War Invalid and Widows Pension Files come to mind)

Many more Civil War Era records will appear in online databases over future years as a result of, for instance,'s digitizing and indexing of National Archives records, and the Family History Library's imaging and indexing of FHL microfilms and other records. It is likely that the content of this book will be expanded in future years to include newly digitized online databases and new publications.

All in all, this book is an outstanding effort by an expert in the genealogy research field. It should be part of every serious American genealogist's library and on the shelf in every local, state and national library as well.

The book is available from Family Roots Publishing Company, owned by Leland Meitzler. The retail cost is $32.95, but it is available through Christmas 2009 for $26.36 on their website.

William Dollarhide, Genealogical Resources in the Civil War Era, Family Roots Publishing Company, Bountiful, Utah, 2009, 191 pages.

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book by Leland Meitzler for review purposes, but was not requested to write a favorable review. The comments and opinions given above are my own.

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