Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun- Your Genea-Bucket List

Are you ready for Saturday Night, and more Genealogy Fun??  I hope so!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

Knowing that a "Bucket List" is a wish list of things to do before death:

1)  What is on your Genealogy Bucket List?  What research locations do you want to visit?  Are there genea-people that you want to meet and share with?  What do you want to accomplish with your genealogy research?  List a minimum of three items - more if you want!

2)  Tell us about it in a blog post of your own (please give me a link in Comments), a comment to this post in Comments, a status line or comment on Facebook., or a Google+ Stream post.

Think big!  Have fun!  Life is short - do genealogy first!  

Here's mine:

1)  The ancestral family history place that I want to visit is South Petherton, Somerset, England.  My VAUX family came from there in about 1840, immigrating to Erie County, New York.  I've been fortunate that several Vaux cousins have done quite a bit of research there and have defined the ancestral families very well.  But there's no substitute for walking in places that you ancestors walked, worshipped and are buried.

2)  I need to visit the New England Historic Genealogical Society again.  I last visited there in 1997 (I think!) and have found many more New England ancestors since then.  I especially want to delve into the manuscript collection.  I want to discuss my Thomas Newton and Hannah Smith brick wall problems with the experts.  
3)  I want to publish books about my ancestors (either digital or paper) for my children, grandchildren, brothers and cousins.  I've done two limited editions myself, but they are out-of-date now.  I also want to publish photo albums (probably digital) for my family.  

4)  I would like to go to every national and regional genealogy conference held during one calendar year.  In the process, I'd like to visit every major regional and national genealogy repository in the same year.  This would be like visiting every major league ballpark in a season.  I'm not sure that I can afford this, and my wife might not approve, but, hey, it's a wish list!  

Okay, I showed you mine, now show me yours!

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Surname Saturday - LNU (WALDRUFF?) (Germany > NJ)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  I have some blanks between 487 and 495, so I am up  to number 497: Ann LNU (Waldruff?) (????-1768). [Note: The 6th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts] 

My ancestral line back to Ann LNU (Waldruff?) is:

1. Randall J. Seaver

2. Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983)
3. Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002) 

6.  Lyle Lawrence Carringer (1891-1976)
7.  Emily Kemp Auble (1899-1977)

14.  Charles Auble (1849-1916)
15.  Georgianna Kemp (1868-1952) 

30.  James Abram Kemp (1831-1902)
31.  Mary Jane Sovereen (1840-1874)

62.  Alexander Sovereign (1814-1907)
63.  Eliza Putman (1820-1895)

124.  Frederick Sovereign (1786-1875)
125.  Mary Jane Hutchison (1792-1868)

248.  Jacob Sovereign (1759-1845)
249.  Elizabeth Pickle (1765-1849)

496.  Frederick Zavering/Zofrin/Sovereign, born about 1715 in probably Germany; died 25 October 1805 in Waterford, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.  He married before 1757 in probably Germany.

497.  Ann ????? (Waldruff?), born before 1739 in probably Germany; died before 1768 in probably Morris, New Jersey, United States.

Children of Frederick Zavering and Ann ????(Waldruff?) are:
i. David Sovereign, born about 1757 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 1845 in Townsend, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married Anna Rarick before 1782 in Probably Morris, New Jersey, United States; born about 1760 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States..
ii. Jacob Sovereign, born 06 November 1759 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 1845 in Charlotteville, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married Elizabeth Pickle 01 March 1781 in Oldwick, Hunterdon, New Jersey, United States.
iii. Leonard Sovereign, born about 1763 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 02 January 1823 in Waterford, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married Rhuhama Culver about 1788 in New Jersey, United States; born 1765 in New Jersey, United States; died 10 November 1828 in Waterford, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.
iv. Frederick Sovereign, born 25 December 1764 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 10 August 1851 in Charlotteville, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married Patience 04 July 1790 in New Jersey, United States; born 16 February 1769 in New Jersey, United States; died 18 July 1852 in Woodhouse, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.
v. Anna Sovereign, born 01 March 1765 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 1853 in Townsend, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married John Heath 26 February 1795 in New Germantown, Hunterdon, New Jersey, United States; born 16 March 1763 in Hunterdon, New Jersey, United States; died 27 November 1847 in Townsend, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.
vi. Elizabeth Sovereign, born about 1766 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey, United States; died 17 August 1823 in Townsend, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada; married Leonard Clouse about 1785 in Morris, New Jersey, United States; born about 1764 in New Jersey, United States; died 07 August 1823 in Townsend, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.

Frederick Zavering/Zofrin/Sovereign married (2) Levinah Culver in 1768 and had seven more children between 1771 and 1782.  

There seem to be no records for the first wife of Frederick Zavering/Zofrin, who came from one of the areas that is currently in Germany.  A website by Robert Whitside ( provides a summary of the evidence collected by him to date for Frederick Zavering/Zofrin/Sovereign, including a discussion of his first wife's name and possible ancestry, plus a descendants report.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Friday, June 29, 2012

Citing an Unsuccessful Search

On the blog, in Citing What I Did Not Find, Michael John Neill just posted this:

""They [James and Elizabeth Rampley] are the only Rampley family in the 1850 census for Illinois, Missouri, or Iowa."

"How do I cite such a statement? Do I indicate the database I searched, when I searched it, and how my search was conducted?"

Unfortunately, Michael does not have a "Comment" link on his blog post for readers to offer suggestions.  So here's my suggestion:

Write a blog post about your unsuccessful search  - when did you search, what resources (online, offline) did you search, what search terms did you use, how do you know the results you received weren't fruitful, etc. 

Having written a blog post, he can then cite the blog post in his article, in a research log, or in his genealogy software.  

One benefit to readers would be to see how an expert genealogy researcher tries to find elusive ancestors.  

Anyone have a better idea?

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Follow-Up Friday - Thinking About Good Citations

It's Follow-Up Friday, where I highlight challenging, interesting and helpful comments to my blog posts.  

On Which Site Provides "Best" Census Source Citations? (posted 19 June 2012), there were a number of comments:

1)  Russ Worthington commented about whether any of the site source citations provided met his standards:

"'None of the above', with the exception of Elizabeth Shown Mills example.  That is why I have spent my time converting ANY Citation from anywhere into the Family Tree Maker Template Format.  What might be interesting is comparing FTM2012, against RootsMagic and Legacy. I would hope that they would be much closer then those provided by your Online Examples."

My comment:  I thought that I had done a comparison of the different source templates in the recent past, and I was right.  See:

*  Creating a 1940 U.S. Census Source Citation in Family Tree Maker 2012

*  1940 U.S. Census Source Citation with Legacy Family Tree 7.5

*  1940 U.S. Census Source Citation in RootsMagic 5 - Free-Form Template
*  1940 U.S. Census Source Citation in RootsMagic 5 - Census Image Source Template

If you read each post, you will note that Legacy Family Tree 7.5 and RootsMagic 5 created source citations almost exactly to the Evidence! Explained model, but Family Tree Maker 2012 did not.  The FTM 2012 citation did have all of the elements in the EE template, but in a different order.

On Russ's point, the three software programs I used above do a much better job of creating Evidence! Explained quality sources than do the online family tree websites or historical record collection providers.  

For me, the key is that the citation elements be present so that the citation is useful to the reader.  My preference is that they be in EE order.

2)  R. Mansfield said:

"I often compose my own sources for information I've provided such as birth or death certificates. I don't have a copy of Evidence Explained because it is (1) so stinking expensive, and (2) not available in an electronic medium for which I could easily carry it with me on my iPad. I'll probably eventually buy it and scan it. 

"However, I do understand the purpose and basic elements needed in a good citation since I work in academic settings. I am in school where Turabian is used and I teach where APA is used, and I constantly have to keep the two methods straight in my head. I probably think in terms of Turabian more than APA when I craft a source, but I know the essential elements necessary to go in the citation. It needs to have enough information so that someone else could find the same source. So while they may not conform toEvidence Explained, I do believe they are complete, which--to me--is the most important part."

My comments:  The PDF version is much easier to carry around - I have it on both computers and in Dropbox where I can access it in my account there if necessary.  

As noted above - the important thing is to cite your sources in whatever way you are able to.  At some point, you may want to publish your genealogy work, and have to comply with the source citation format of the publication.  The source citation style of the different publications vary, but I note that NGSQ is using EE style now.

Since I haven't used Turabian or APA or CMOS, I'm curious as to what a census citation looks like in any or all of those styles.  Any takers?

3)  Kenneth R. Marks challenged:

"Using the Evidence Explained template, can someone please explain to me why the dwelling and household number is necessary? Obviously with the city, county, and state and the ED and Page#, the proper page is found and can be found in the future. I always add the head of household name and ALL members of the household for completeness.

"And why if accessed online is it required to cite where you accessed it from as well as the date? Having the microfilm info seems to be redundant. I must be missing something I guess."

My comments:  As Russ noted in a response, the best explainer of this would be Elizabeth Shown Mills.  She has a wonderful website at, and has a Forum where persons can asked source citation questions (see  

Let me try to answer the challenges, though, but this may demonstrate my lack of knowledge on these issues:

*  Why are the dwelling and household numbers necessary?  I think that they are "finding aids" on the page.  The handwriting is not always legible and the spelling is not always correct.   Before the ED numbers were provided, there were usually two or three page numbers on a page (stamped, a penned town page number, and a scrawled number that was probably from when they bound the pages in a county book).  

*  Why cite where it was accessed, and the date?  The short answer is that "just because it was on a specific website or microfilm on a specific date, doesn't mean it will always be at that website when someone else wants to find it."  Will always be  Will always be  No...  The date helps if the researcher was keeping a research log or needed to find a web page on the Wayback Machine.  That said, I rarely add the access date (my free form citation details are too long as they are)) - I don't see an obvious value to them and have 28,000 citations without them.

*  Why is the microfilm number cited?  Not everyone has access to the Internet, or to the subscription sites on the Internet.  The Microfilm number, and roll number for NARA citations, are useful as finding aids when an online index and image are not available to the researcher, or the source detail (ED, page, etc.) citation provided is wrong.  The NARA microfilm roll numbers, and the FHL microfilm numbers, will probably not change over time.

The latter question raises an important issue - the record providers like and often combine separate record sets into an online collection.  The separate record sets were findable at the repository at which they were held (e.g., National Archives), but source citations may not cite those original record sets and repositories.  I'm trying to add that information to the "Source comments" field in the master source entry in my genealogy software so that there is a clue to where the record was conserved before imaging and indexing. 

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

1940 U.S. Census Update: 29 States Searchable on FamilySearch

As of yesterday, 27 June 2012, there are 29 states in the 1940 U.S. Census that are fully searchable on

Here's the map:

After less than three months, there are only 4 states west of the Mississippi that aren't searchable.  The volunteer indexing effort has been phenomenal - with over 130,000 indexers working at this to index and arbitrate over 132 million names.

The states that are "lagging" are:

*  New Jersey - 35% indexed
*  North Carolina - 27% indexed
*  South Carolina - 35% indexed

The states that I'm most anxious to search are Massachusetts, which is now 45% indexed, and Connecticut, which is 54% indexed.  I guess I will have to do some batches to get them finished sooner.

Since California is now searchable, I will start doing my one-name searches using Linda's Leland, Schaffner, and McKnew families to start with.  I have some unknowns in the extended families, and I think the 1940 census will provide more information about those families. While I found my mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents in San Diego County previously, there are still Kemp, Auble and Smith cousins, and their offspring, to find using the search feature.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1930 U.S. Census Record for Frederick W. Seaver family

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the 1930 United States Census record for my grandparents and their family in Leominster, Massachusetts:

The lines for the family are:

The extracted information for the family is:

*  Fred W. Seaver -- head, owns home, worth $5,000, owns a radio set, male, white, age 52, married, first at age 23, can read and write, born MA, father and mother born MA, speaks English, superintendent in a celluloid company, worked on last working day, not a veteran
*  Alma B. Seaver -- wife, female, white, age 48, married, first at age 18, can read and write, born CT, father born England, mother born RI, speaks English
*  Ruth W. Seaver -- daughter, female, white, age 22, single, can read and write, born MA, father born MA, mother born CT, speaks English, teacher in a public school, worked on last working day,
*  Frederick W. Seaver -- son, male, white, age 18, single, can read and write, born MA, father born MA, mother born CT, ??????? in celluloid company, worked on last working day, speaks English
*  Edward R. Seaver -- son, male, white, age 16, single, attends public school, can read and write, born MA, father born MA, mother born CT, speaks English
*  Geraldine Seaver -- daughter, female, white, age 12, single, attends public school, can read and write, born MA, father born MA, mother born CT, speaks English

The source citation for the census image is:

1930 United States Federal Census, Worcester County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Leominster, Enumeration District 226, page 3A, dwelling 44, family 69, Fred W. Seaver household; online image, (; citing National Archives Microfilm Publication T626, Roll 964.

The only errors I see in this census record, based on other available records, are:

*  Fred W. Seaver was born in October 1876, so he was age 53 on 1 April 1930, not age 52.

*  Alma B. Seaver's mother was Julia (White) Richmond, born in Killingly, Connecticut, rather than in Rhode Island.

My father is the son, Frederick W. Seaver, age 18 in this record who is working in a celluloid shop.  I note that he is not attending public school.  My family information says that he didn't graduate from high school until 1931.

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pennsylvania Probate Records on FamilySearch!

One of the newly added historical record collections on FamilySearch today is Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994.  There are over 3 million browsable images in this collection, organized by County and then by Record type.  Note that there no name indexes for this collection, other than what is in each dataset in the collection.  My educated guess is that these were imaged from the microfilms for the probate records for each county.

The source citation (provided by FamilySearch) for this collection is:

“Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1677-1980,” ''FamilySearch'' ( from various county offices throughout Pennsylvania. FHL microfilm, Family History Library Salt Lake City, Utah.

You can read more about this collection in the FamilySearch Research Wiki - see

I looked for the will of one of my ancestors, Philip Jacob King (1865-1829) of York County.  I figured that he died testate, and was curious if his will, if it existed, named his daughter Elizabeth as the wife of Daniel Spangler.  

Here is the process I used to find this will:

1)  The historical collection description for the Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994, looks like this:

 2  To get to the county list, click on the "Browse through 3,197,552 images" link:

3)  I clicked on the York county link:

The list above provides links to 36 different record collections - each a volume of the probate records in York County.

4)  I picked the "Will Index, 1749-1940" link, and looked through the index for the K surnames.  I found a listing for Philip Jacob King, probated in 1829, on Image 310:

The record above has a listing for:

Decedent:  King Philip Jacob
Residence:  Spring Garden Twp.
Date: March 9, 1829
Executor: Jacob King and George Kass
Book:  Q
Page: 136

5)  Back to the list of collections in image 3 above, and I found that Book Q is in the "Wills, 1818-1833, Vol. O - Q" collection.  I browsed to the image with Page 136 on it ( it was Image 638):

There, in very readable and precise handwriting is the start of the will of Philip Jacob King at the bottom of page 136.  There are two more pages with this will.  

6)  At the top of page 138 is:

That first line reads: "...daughter Elizabeth intermarried with Daniel Spangler ..."  There is one statement that Elizabeth is the daughter of Philip Jacob King.   There is a lot more, of course.  I need to transcribe the whole thing.

It took me all of 15 minutes to find this record.  I think I was probably lucky to find it so quickly.  But this is typical for record collections of this nature.  There are indexes for each record type that refer to a specific record book, and then you look for the specific record according to the finding aids provided.  

I saved the three images for this specific will to my hard drive using the "Save" link in the menu line of the collection in the 5th screen above.

What about a source citation for this specific record?  Here is my first effort (using the example FamilySearch source citation as a model):

"York County, Pennsylvania Probate " digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2012), entry for Philip Jacob King, will probated 1829; citing Wills, 1818-1833, Vol. Q, pages 136-141; York County (Pennsylvania) Register of Wills, York, Pennsylvania.

Using browsable images on is just like using microfilm reels - you have to browse page-by-page, or guess at an image number, and then guess again, until you find the page of interest.  The difference is that you can do this at home any time of the day rather than going to the repository itself or ordering and reading microfilms at a FamilySearch Center or Library.  

Not every search will be as easy as the one I performed above.  These records are not easy to use in some counties - the indexes are not always in alphabetical order, and there may be overlap between different collections.  For instance, York County has Orphans Court Dockets indexes, Orphan Court Dockets, Will Indexes, and Will Books.  Other counties may have different terminology and organization.

There is a wealth of probate records in this Pennsylvania county Probate collection - if you have Pennsylvania ancestry, this collection may become one of your very best resources.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database - Part 3

After I wrote Tuesday's Tip - Use the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Site two weeks ago, reader Kathleen Nitsch emailed me and noted that "...But toward the end of your post, you said 'If they aren't included here, then they probably did not serve in the Civil War.' Perhaps I've misunderstood this comment, but I believe you've overestimated how comprehensive this index is if you're searching for Confederate soldiers and sailors."  During our email conversation, I asked Kathy if she could explain what she meant in an article about her studies of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database here on Genea-Musings.  She agreed, and this is the third article in a three article series.  Part 1 appeared here, and Part 2 is here.

Confederate Soldiers in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database: Special Considerations
Copyright (c) 2012, Kathleen Nitsch

Although I’m most certainly not an expert, I have learned a few things while struggling with the challenges of documenting military service for the Confederate soldiers in my mother’s family. Among my direct ancestors, I have two great grandfathers and two great great grandfathers who served in the Confederate army. So the first time I used the CWSS search engine, I thought I must be doing something wrong. Only one of these four ancestors appeared anywhere in the database. If I had stopped my research after this search, I would have missed very important parts of the stories of those other three men. And, really, that’s the key lesson you should take away from this discussion…

Persistence and knowledge will both pay off handsomely. 

In this final post, I’ll outline some background information about Confederate records and why some aren’t found in the National Archives.

First, exactly how did Confederate military records become part of a U.S. archive? 

That’s an important consideration. Throughout the war, Union forces confiscated any Confederate military records (muster lists, pay sheets, requisition papers, correspondence, orders, etc.) that they came across. It wasn’t their highest priority, but still a fair number of Confederate records were preserved by the Union forces. Other Confederate records were transferred to the Rebel Archives at the U.S. War Department after the war ended. But you need to keep in mind that the reasons why the Union preserved these records had absolutely nothing to do with helping future generations of genealogists. The Confederate records that were of the most value to the Union might not have been the ones that had all the details about your ancestors.

Why didn’t all Confederate military records end up in the National Archives?

Sigh! It’s hard to know where to start. Here are some alternatives you’ll need to consider…

  • Some muster rolls are held in state archives. The good news is that these records were loaned to the National Archives in the early 20th century so information could be extracted for inclusion in the Confederate CMSRs.
  • Occasionally a few stray records ended up in private hands (in someone’s dusty attic) or buried in uncatalogued material in an obscure archive. You know there must be some interesting tales involved with these records. Any Confederate military records discovered after 1927 would have surfaced too late to be included in the CMSRs, but today you might find these records in state or university archives, museums, historical associations, or any number of other such repositories.
  • A number of records simply didn’t survive the war. Some were lost or destroyed in battle or from exposure to the elements. Others were abandoned when troops had to lighten the load and move quickly (e.g., the retreat after Confederate Gen. Sterling Price’s ill-fated raid into Missouri in 1864).
  • Some Confederate records that you’d expect to find were never even created in the first place. Especially in extreme situations where mere survival was challenging, you might find that recordkeeping was ignored. (Imagine the final days of the Vicksburg and Port Hudson sieges…how much energy would have been devoted to updating muster rolls?)
  • But, to me, this last group is the most interesting (and frustrating) category of permanently lost records: Confederate records were deliberately destroyed by order of high-ranking Confederate officers immediately before the surrender of their troops at the end of the war. Did you know there was a Confederate Marine Corps? One reason why they’re virtually unheard of today is that the majority of their records were destroyed by order of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy.
  • The same thing happened in the army. Confederate General E. Kirby Smith is said to have ordered the destruction of the records held at his headquarters in Shreveport before he surrendered the troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department. That one order wiped out so many records that the final two years of the war has become a black hole for many Confederate soldiers who served west of the Mississippi. Even entire regiments vanished without a trace. (This one fact explains why there’s not a single official military record for either of my great grandfathers.) 
  • Records were also destroyed in the fires at Richmond when the Confederate government evacuated just days before Lee’s surrender. I’ll stop now because I think you’re getting the picture. My point is that if you can figure out where your Confederate soldier might have served, you’ll also know where to start researching the possibility there were major records losses or destruction. Persistence in tracking down records is essential, but a little background knowledge is a powerful ally.  Why waste your time chasing after records that went up in flames nearly 150 years ago? 

 That sounds so grim. Isn’t it practically hopeless to search for Confederate records?

No, definitely not hopeless. There are many other sources of information on Confederate veterans that can be located outside the National Archives. But even when no Confederate records survived for a Rebel soldier, sometimes the Union records at the National Archives held information about him. So, in some Confederate CMSRs you might find…

  • Parole records 
  • Prisoner of War records,
  • Records of Confederate deserters who surrendered to or were captured by Union forces,
  • Enlistment records for Confederate prisoners who chose to join the Union army rather than risk death in a POW camp. (These were the “Galvanized Yankees”—like galvanized metal they were gray on the inside but had acquired an external layer with a blue-ish tint. It was not meant as a compliment.)
  • End of the war surrender records and oath of allegiance documents.

POSTSCRIPT: Don’t jump to conclusions.

Knowing how many records failed to survive the war, you should also recognize the distorted impression which could be created by an incomplete military record. There could be critical information missing. When your ancestor’s CMSR comes to an abrupt halt, don’t be tempted to assume that he was captured or died or that he deserted. You might as well add “abducted by Martians” to that list of unfounded conjectures. Instead, repeat your search of the Soldiers Index to make certain you didn’t overlook a second CMSR under a different name or filed with a new regiment. In the end, even if nothing else turns up, all you can safely conclude is that no other records were found in the archives when that CMSR was created. Then it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

Please be doubly careful that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusion if the last record in your ancestor’s CMSR states he was “absent without leave.” Yes, some soldiers were deserters, but you’ll often find Union documents included in the CMSR of an actual deserter. In many instances, “absent without leave” means quite simply that your ancestor was unaccounted for. He could have been killed or captured or left injured on a battlefield—but he might be listed as AWOL if no one who knew his name had witnessed the incident.

Sometimes the rest of the story is less grim. When soldiers were sent home on medical leave to convalesce, their record could end with an AWOL notation. Those who recovered might be too far away to rejoin their old regiment. In many cases, even if transportation had been available, they wouldn’t know where to go to catch up with their regiment. So, soldiers opted to enlist in a regiment near their home. This was such a common occurrence that an absent without leave notation at the end of a CMSR should always trigger a search for a second CMSR filed with a different regiment.


Researching Confederate soldiers almost always requires you to look beyond the holdings of the National Archives. But even so, you can still benefit from learning more about the Civil War military records held at NARA. There’s definitely going to be information in that large collection of military records that can help fill in the background of both your Union and Confederate soldiers’ service. The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to start.

The following three resources from the NARA website will help you get a handle on the vast storehouse of information on Union and Confederate military records in their collections:

The National Archives also publishes a quarterly journal, Prologue Magazine, where you can find information on special topics from their own experts as well as noted historians. Their Genealogy Notes page is a topically arranged collection of links to the online articles from Prologue that will be of particular interest to genealogists and family historians.

Here is my selection of some of the most useful articles on Civil War and military records (all from the online collection of the Prologue Magazine backlist): 
  •  Musick, Michael P. “The Little Regiment: Civil War Units and Commands.” Prologue Magazine, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 1995). (This is more than an explanation of the organizational structure of the military. It’s a rare gem of an article that introduces you to the emotional significance of your Civil War veteran’s attachment to his regiment. It is a two part article. The link at the bottom of Part 1 will take you to Part 2.) 
  • Musick, Michael P. “Honorable Reports - Battles, Campaigns, and Skirmishes: Civil War Records and Research.” Prologue Magazine, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Fall 1995). (Where does one turn to pursue an interest in a particular military engagement? There are so many choices…let Michael Musick be your guide. He covers a wide range of resources, and his tutorial on the index to the OR has almost convinced me to delve more deeply into the 128 volume set of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.) 
 And, finally, there’s a catalog of the guides published by NARA on specific records collections. These guides provide descriptions of records relating to a single subject in the records of many Federal agencies. The published guides are not free, but National Archives reference papers on a variety of topics have been digitized as (free) PDFs and posted online by the Mt. Vernon Genealogical Society.


My thanks to Kathleen Nitsch for researching and writing this article so that the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database can be better understood by myself and my readers.

The URL for this post is:

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Post 211: Grandfather Seaver at 50

 I am posting photographs from my family collections for (Not So) Wordless Wednesday (you know me, I can't go wordless!).    

Here is a photograph from the Geraldine Seaver Remley  family collection given to me by the family in 2007 after Aunt Gerry's passing.:

This is a photograph of my paternal grandfather, Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942), taken in about 1925, probably in Leominster, Massachusetts.  He is about 49 in this photo, been married for about 25 years, with seven children (six living).  This may have been taken at an anniversary occasion, or the marriage of one of his daughters.  Check out the bow tie, and the pipe.

I can definitely see a resemblance to my own father, and even to myself.  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database - Part 2

After I wrote Tuesday's Tip - Use the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Site two weeks ago, reader Kathleen Nitsch emailed me and noted that "...But toward the end of your post, you said 'If they aren't included here, then they probably did not serve in the Civil War.' Perhaps I've misunderstood this comment, but I believe you've overestimated how comprehensive this index is if you're searching for Confederate soldiers and sailors."  During our email conversation, I asked Kathy if she could explain what she meant in an article about her studies of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database here on Genea-Musings.  She agreed, and this is the second article in a three article series.  Part 1 appeared here.

The Soldiers Index to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database
Copyright (c) Kathleen Nitsch

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database (CWSS) was created from the Civil War military records held in the U.S. National Archives (NARA). Randy’s initial post explained how to use the website to learn about the military service of your ancestors. If you’ve also read the first part of this follow-up series, you know that the Sailors Index to the CWSS contains information on the 18,000 African American sailors who served in the Union navy during the Civil War.

Although the Soldiers Index is much more comprehensive than the Sailors Index, there are still soldiers who aren’t included. Also, it’s easier than you might think to overlook information on some of your Civil War ancestors—even though it’s in the database. To understand why soldiers are missing (especially Confederate ones), you need to know more about the index and about the records that are linked to the index. This basic knowledge will also help you find more of the information that is available for your Union soldiers.

Where did the information for the Soldiers Index come from?

The information was originally extracted from Civil War era military records now held in the National Archives. Additional information was obtained from Confederate records borrowed from state archives. But none of the original military records were directly indexed in the creation of the CWSS database. There were several intermediate steps in the process:
  • After the Civil War, the surviving military records were held at the U.S. War Department or (for some Confederate records) in state archives.
  • In the early 20th century, information from these original records was extracted to create a Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) for every Union and Confederate soldier named anywhere in these records. It was a laborious process. Imagine creating 140 million hand-written individual record extracts and then sorting through them, matching names and unit designations until you’ve located all cards that belong to a single soldier.  
  • Next, a General Index Card was created for each CMSR. This was a very brief abstract of the collection of extracts contained within the CMSR.
  • The original military records, the CMSRs, and the General Index Cards were later transferred from the War Department to the National Archives.
  • Finally, at the end of the 20th century, a massive project was coordinated with public agencies and private voluntary organizations working together to collect information from the General Index Cards (now at NARA), create a database of Civil War soldiers, and make it searchable online through the Soldiers Index of the CWSS. (The Sailors Index was also created around the same time, but the database for sailors was extracted directly from the original Union navy records at NARA.)
(Information about the CMSRs and General Index Cards, including example images, can be accessed through links I’ve included at the end of this post.)

Who is included in the Soldiers Index?

The Soldiers Index includes enlisted men and officers from the following three categories:
  • Union soldiers
  • U.S. Colored Troops
  • Confederate soldiers

What can I expect from the search results returned by the Soldiers database?

There will be less information than you would obtain from a successful search of the Sailors Index. But finding your ancestor in the Soldiers Index isn’t your ultimate goal. You are searching within an index that includes (at best) barely enough information to distinguish your ancestor from other soldiers with similar names. When you find what you believe to be the right soldier, the information in his search result will tell you how to locate his military records in a Compiled Military Service Record. That’s your goal—the CMSR.

Is the database for the Soldiers Index more complete than the Sailors Index?

Thankfully, the answer is “Yes.” It is much more complete, especially for Union soldiers.

In fact, the Soldiers Index suffers from the opposite problem. There is one entry in the Soldiers Index for each of the 6.3 million individual Compiled Military Service Records for Civil War soldiers. Wait…does that sound like too many soldiers to you? It’s estimated that 2.8 to 3.5 million soldiers actually fought in the war. So yes, it’s time to do some math and search for explanations. That surplus of around 3 million CMSRs is not a collection of records of imposters or fake Civil War soldiers. Those are real records of actual soldiers. So, when you search the Soldiers database, keep two things in mind:

  • Soldiers’ names weren’t always recorded in the same way. Let me introduce you to my first cousin (3 generations removed), Maj. J.W.L. Daniel of the 15th Alabama Confederate Infantry Regiment…and to his alter egos: Capt. John W.L. Daniel and Capt. J.W.S. Daniel. Yes, three names for one soldier. I’ll discuss search strategies next, but already you can see why it’s important to be thorough. 
  • As well, many soldiers served in more than one regiment over the course of the war. Maj. J.W.L. Daniel has a CMSR bulging with records from the 15th Alabama Confederate Infantry Regiment, and Capt. John W.L. Daniel’s records document his service with the 23rd Alabama Confederate Sharpshooters Battalion, while Capt. J.W.S. Daniel’s records are filed with Hilliard’s Legion Alabama Confederate Volunteers. And, thus, this one man has three CMSRs—not so much due to name variations, but principally because he served in three different regiments. Thankfully, when his CMSRs were created, an observant archivist added a notation on the jacket (folder) of each CMSR listing the other regiments where additional records were filed for my cousin. But the Soldiers Index doesn’t tell me about that.  
So where does this leave you? In a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, many soldiers’ records are split between two (or more) CMSRs. On the other hand, there are other Civil War soldiers for whom not even one record exists at the National Archives. This is definitely a situation where your search strategy has to be as close to perfect as possible. Otherwise, how can you trust the results? Will you recognize when you’ve found everything or will you stop searching too soon? When is it time to quit and accept that there’s nothing to be found?

Tips on Conducting A THOROUGH search

You know the drill. You want to feel confident you haven’t missed an index record for your ancestor simply because you searched for John and he was listed as Jno or the clerk preferred a creative spelling of your ancestor’s surname or a 20th century indexer was unable to decipher the 19th century clerk’s handwriting. (Sometimes alternate spellings are cross-indexed on the General Index Card, but you can’t rely on this.)
  • Use your experience to vary the surname’s spelling. A search for the Daniel surname will also return hits for Daniell, Daniels, and even O’Daniel. But wildcards don’t seem to be an option here and you can’t do a Soundex-type search—so be thorough. My experience with 19th century spelling of this surname suggests I should try at least 3 different surname searches: Daniel, Danial, and Dannel.
  • Start using the surname plus a first name, and then add a middle name (or initial), or drop back to a diminutive or nickname, or just input the first initial of the given name. Let your results at each step guide your choices for what else to try.
  • You might even consider a surname-only search and scan the results list for likely candidates. There’s a new feature that allows you to download search results in a spreadsheet file. It’s a big help if you need to take notes or want to keep track of which files you’ve examined.
Here’s another tip: “J.W.L. Daniel” with no spaces between the three initials works fine, but try searching for “J. W. L. Daniel” and you’ll be informed there’s no one by that name. The rule seems to be: Always omit the spaces between initials. But if your ancestor went by a first initial and his full middle name, then it’s not so clear what to do about that space. The records aren’t coded in a consistent fashion. To be safe, you’ll need to do two searches: Try “T. Henry Winston” and “T.Henry Winston.”

So far, we’ve discovered a few important facts about the Soldiers database and how to craft a search strategy. Depending on which side your ancestor supported, your search results might or might not give you a definite answer to the deceptively simple question: Did I have any family members who were soldiers in the Civil War? Here is some guidance on how to interpret search results from the Soldiers Index.

If your search of the Soldiers Index locates your ancestor…

The information in the search results won’t tell you much about your ancestor’s service but it will provide what you need to locate his CMSR. It doesn’t matter whether he was in the Union or Confederate army; you now know there is at least one Compiled Military Service Record at the National Archives that belongs to him. It might be skimpy—many of the Confederate ones are—but there will be something in a jacket with his name on the outside. Take a minute to celebrate!

Then, your next step is to obtain a copy of the CMSR:
  • Fold3 has digital images of CMSRs for 
o   Union soldiers (check availability here)
o   U.S. Colored troops (check availability here)
o   Confederate soldiers (almost all files have been digitized, see list here). 
  • The Ancestry database only has digital images for two subgroups of soldiers (both of which are also found in the Fold3 collection):
o   Soldiers who served in military organizations formed by the Confederate government (this is a relatively small number; most Confederate soldiers served in regiments formed by one of the states)
o   U.S. Colored troops (they were nominally part of the Union army but typically served in separate units).
  • Microfilmed records are often available at research libraries (including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City), state archives, and some National Archives branches. You can also order a microfilm roll through your nearest Family History Center. (The NARA film roll number is included in the Soldier Detail results page generated from a search, but you’ll need to translate that NARA film number into a FHC film number. The simplest way to do this is to use the table on the FamilySearch Research Wiki. This state-by-state table also links to PDF copies of the NARA microfilm guides, OCLC WorldCat entries for microfilm holdings, and the Fold3 databases);
  • Or you can order a copy directly from NARA. You can purchase a paper copy or digital copy (recorded on a CD or DVD), but there is no option for a direct download of digital copies. All CMSRs are delivered through the mail.
Once you have a copy of your ancestor’s CMSR(s), your third step is to use the contents as a guide to further research. And speaking of further research…

What can you conclude if a thorough search didn’t find your ancestor in the Soldiers Index?

Here’s the point at which the research paths for Union and Confederate soldiers diverge.
  • Randy’s ancestors were all Union soldiers, so he can feel fairly confident that his search of the Soldiers Index will give him a definite answer. Once he’s conducted a thorough search, if he finds no entry in the index then he knows…
a)      There’s no Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) at NARA and
b)      It’s fairly certain that the ancestor he searched for never served as a Union soldier. (Of course all bets are off if Randy’s landlubber of a great great grandfather up and enlisted in the Union Navy. Improbable, you say? Actually, no. Union sailors were recruited far beyond the eastern seaboard and sailors didn’t serve exclusively on ocean vessels. There were riverine units deployed along the Mississippi and other inland waterways. And don’t forget the Pacific Squadron if you have west coast ancestors.)
  • But, if your family included any Southerners (including residents of the border states) who might have fought for the Confederacy, your situation is different. If you’ve searched thoroughly and still haven’t found any trace of your ancestor in the Soldiers Index, then here is what you know…
a)      There’s no Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) at NARA but
b)      You’ve only just begun your search.

Although some Rebel soldiers left no trace behind in any military records held at the National Archives, most soldiers did leave records somewhere that will tell you about their military service. And even when a Confederate soldier’s CMSR does exist, there could be a gap of two years or more where there’s not a single piece of information recorded. Either way—CMSR or no CMSR—the trick is to make some educated guesses about where to search next. So, pull out your history books and consult some experts on researching Confederate soldiers. Now you’re really getting to the fun part. Enjoy the journey!

Resources describing how Compiled Military Service Records were created:
  • Information about CMSRs at FamilySearch Research Wiki for Union and Confederate soldiers.
  • Description (and sample images) of General Index Cards for Union CMSRs at Fold3. 
More information on how the General Index Cards were used in the creation of the Soldiers Index is available here (link points to the archived webpage from the old CWSS website via the Internet Wayback Machine).

Want to learn more about other Civil War era military records at the National Archives?

A general resource list will be included in the final part of this series. That’s the part where I will finally answer Randy’s question about special considerations for interpreting Confederate Compiled Military Service Records.


My thanks to Kathleen Nitsch for researching and writing this article so that the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database can be better understood by myself and my readers.

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Tuesday's Tip - Find Ohio Records on FamilySearch

This week's Tuesday's Tip is:  Find free record collections for the state of Ohio on FamilySearch!

There are 18 record collections on FamilySearch for Ohio now.  They are:

*  Ohio, Births and Christenings, 1821-1962 - 2,766,197 indexed records, no images

*  Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909 - 3,051,219 indexed records and images

*  Ohio, Marriages, 1800-1958 - 2,198,987 indexed records, no images

*  Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994 - 3,126,256 indexed records and images

*  Ohio, Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997 - 2,535,534 indexed records, no images

*  Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953 - 3,544,429 indexed records and images

*  Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, 1958-2007 - 7,601,864 indexed records, no images

*  Ohio, Crawford County Obituaries, 1860-2004 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Diocese of Toledo, Catholic Parish Records, 1796-2004 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Tax Records, 1800-1850 - 1,101,150 indexed records, with images

*  Ohio, Cuyahoga County Records, 1880-1950 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Cuyahoga County Probate Files, 1813-1917 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Probate Records, 1790-1967 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Jefferson County Court Records, 1797-1940 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Montgomery County Probate Estate Files, 1850-1900 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Stark County Court Records, 1809-1917 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890-2002 - no index, browse images only

*  Ohio, Summit County Coroner's, Hospital and Cemetery Records, 1882-1947 - no index, browse images only.

There is a wealth of information in these databases, and there are many more coming as FamilySearch digitizes the microfilmed records and indexes them.

Many of these collections are still being indexed and/or imaged, so you will need to check back often to see if they have been updated.

There are many Ohio counties that are not yet included on this list.  The records in all Ohio counties can be accessed on microfilm by ordering the films at a local FamilySearch Center from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  For your county of interest, check out the FamilySearch Library Catalog at

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Monday, June 25, 2012

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database - Part 1

After I wrote Tuesday's Tip - Use the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Site two weeks ago, reader Kathleen Nitsch emailed me and noted that "...But toward the end of your post, you said 'If they aren't included here, then they probably did not serve in the Civil War.' Perhaps I've misunderstood this comment, but I believe you've overestimated how comprehensive this index is if you're searching for Confederate soldiers and sailors."  During our email conversation, I asked Kathy if she could explain what she meant in an article about her studies of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database here on Genea-Musings.  She agreed, and there are two more articles coming in the pipeline.

The Sailors Index to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database
Copyright (c) 2012, Kathleen Nitsch

When I read Randy’s blog post about the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database (CWSS), it struck me that he’s exactly right about its importance as a gateway to the records of your ancestor’s Civil War military service. It is always my first stop in researching a Civil War veteran. But with Confederate soldiers, the CWSS database is less than complete. When I mentioned this to Randy in an email, he invited me to explain what researchers need to know about searching this database for Confederate soldiers. First I said “yes” (how hard could it be, right?), then I realized that the Confederate soldiers aren’t the only group who might be hard to locate. Whether your ancestors were loyal to the Union or supported the Confederacy, you won’t get all you should out of the CWSS database unless you understand how it was constructed. 

Sure, I was right about the Rebel soldiers who were missing. But to understand why some soldiers and sailors aren’t included, you need to know more about the index itself and about the records that are linked to it. This basic knowledge will also help you find more of the information that is available for your Union soldiers. And it will even explain why many genealogists with ancestors in the Union and Confederate navies won’t find them in the Sailors Index. 

There’s too much information to cram into a single blog post, so I decided to start with the Sailors Index. Why? First, because it’s quite different from the much larger (and more familiar) Soldiers Index. One of the few things the two have in common is that both are hosted on the National Parks Service website. But I’ve also discovered such interesting stories tied to the Sailors database—and I never could resist an interesting story.

Exactly who is included in the Sailors database?

The Sailors database contains names of the approximately 18,000 African American sailors (including 11 women!) who have been identified in Union navy records at the U.S. National Archives (NARA). There are another 100,000 or so Union sailors whose records have not yet been searched and abstracted and no Confederate sailors are included in this database. 

The Soldiers database is huge (6.3 million records). Why is the Sailors database so small?

The problem stems from marked differences between army and navy records in the National Archives. The original records of the Union navy were not as well organized and analyzed as those for the army. In particular, although there were individual Compiled Military Service Records abstracted from army records for Union and Confederate soldiers, no individual service records had been created for Civil War sailors. Further complicating the situation, the naval records had not even been microfilmed. 

So how did they identify the 18,000 black sailors?

This first stage in a long-term project to compile a database of all Union and Confederate sailors was completed in 2000. Supported by funding from the U.S. Defense Department, the National Park Service partnered with Howard University to identify African American sailors who served in the Union navy during the Civil War. The researchers combed through a very large collection of original records, searching for every instance where a black sailor was mentioned by name. The resulting database was used to create the current version of the Sailors Index. Although it is anticipated that the records of all Union and Confederate naval personnel will eventually be added to the database, I haven’t seen a projected completion date. I’d guess it will be a while into the future before this labor-intensive task is accomplished.   

Since it’s incomplete, should I even bother searching this database? 

It depends. Who were your ancestors? It’s clear that many Union sailors (probably around 100,000) will not be found in the current database. And none of the names of Confederate sailors have been indexed. So for now (and, I suspect, for the immediate future) the Sailors Index can only give persons of African American descent a definitive answer to the question Was my ancestor a Union sailor during the Civil War? 

If your African American ancestor was a Union sailor, there’s an excellent chance that information on his service is included in the Sailors database. But I suspect there are genealogists with ancestors in the database who don’t realize they should be searching the Sailors Index. They might never consider that an ancestor who had been enslaved in a Confederate state at the outset of the war could somehow have managed to join the Union navy. But it did happen—in numbers which were significant. Over 7,800 black sailors in the Union navy were born in the Confederate states. 

Are you surprised? I sure was. 

It’s easy to overlook the fact that sailors were recruited from locations far away from the major Atlantic ports. The Union navy had riverine units deployed along the Mississippi and other inland waterways and many black sailors served as part of the original “brown-water navy.” You’ll find records of at least 2,000 enslaved African Americans from Mississippi River plantations who enlisted in the navy’s Mississippi Squadron. 

For each of those former slaves, their military records will likely be among the earliest documents in which they are recognized as persons rather than property. I do hope the descendants of George Adams (born around 1842 in Vicksburg, Mississippi) will find his entry in the Sailors database. Here’s what’s waiting for them:

Every researcher who finds an ancestor in the Sailors Index can thank a dedicated team of professionals and volunteers who combed through a mountain of unindexed original records at the National Archives to create this database, index it, and make it accessible online. And, if you have African American ancestors and your family lore has some crazy story about a female sailor that sounds like a very tall tale…don’t laugh! Instead, rush to the Sailors Index to see if there might be a military heroine in your family tree. Eleven fascinating stories are waiting to be claimed—and the Sailors Index will open the door. 

Want to learn more?

I used the Wayback Machine to find basic information on the creation of the Sailors database at the old CWSS website.

As director of the African-American Sailors Project at Howard University, Professor Joseph P. Reidy guided the team which compiled the current version of the Sailors database. He has published a three part series of articles filled with fascinating information about black sailors of the Civil War. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the naval records held at the National Archives, you could start with these two articles:

And while you’re waiting for the Confederate records to be added to the Sailors database, here’s some interesting reading about the Confederate Marine Corps. Plante’s article will help you understand why they’re almost forgotten today.

Next time we’ll look at the Soldiers Index to the CWSS database. I’ll also share search engine tips that should increase your chances of finding your ancestors in both the Sailors and the Soldiers databases.


My thanks to Kathleen Nitsch for researching and writing this article so that the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database can be better understood by myself and my readers.