Archive for category Military Genealogy

Writing a Family History – Military Monday – Civil War Service Records

Posted by on Monday, 9 March, 2015

As the first of a series of blog posts about how to write your family history, this post is about using the Civil War Service records to write snippets about your ancestor. Civil War Military Service Records are rather a unique set of records. While they may not have a lot of information about your ancestors relatives, it provides a great source for writing about your ancestor. Using my ancestor Edwin A. Banks, I will outline various types of documents you will find in civil war service records.

Using the civil war service record and a regimental history, I was able to write the following about my ancestor. You may never be able to tell for certain whether your ancestor was at a certain battle. However, you can get a very good indication that he was if the company muster rolls list him as present and no other documents indicate he was away from his unit. You could embellish the writing below to talk more about specific battles and how his unit participated in the battle. Perhaps that will be another part of this series of posts.

Edwin Banks being 5′ 2″ tall with brown hair, a light complexion and hazel eyes volunteered for the civil war on January 2, 1864 in New Haven, Connecticut. He was a farmer who was originally from the town of Newtown, Connecticut. He mustered into the service on January 29, 1864 and was a private of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery unit.

After the start of Edwin’s service, he likely participated in garrison duties at Fort Worth, Fort Williams and Fort Ellsworth. These forts were south of the Potomac River and were defending Washington DC. On May 17th 1864 the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillary was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac in the field. Over the next month and a half the unit was in action at Spottsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomoy, Hanover, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and Jerusalem Plank Road. On July 10, the unit was moved back to Washington DC where they repulsed Early’s attack on Washington.

From August through December the unit took part in Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign. They saw action at Battle of Opequan, Fisher’s Hill and the Battle of Cedar Creek. They took part in the Siege of Petersburg, Dabney’s Mills and Hatcher’s Run. They also took part in the Appomattox Campaign and participated at the assault on and fall of Petersburg, Pursuit of Lee, Sailor’s Creek and Appomattox. Edwin’s unit was there during the Surrender of Lee and his army. Edwin was most likely present at all of these battles and skirmishes including the surrender of Lee and his army as he was marked present on all company muster rolls. The only time it appears he spent away from his unit was when he left to go to a hospital on May 2, 1865. He was discharged from Douglas General Hospital in Washington DC and returned to his unit on June 20, 1865. Shortly after his return, it is further noted that he was “On daily duty as worker Reg. Hd2d since June 28/65″. Edwin would have missed the corp review which happened on June 8, as he was in a hospital in Washington. Edwin was mustered out of service on August 18, 1865.

Most service records will contain the volunteer enlistment form.

Typical Data from a Volunteer Enlistment form

  • Town and State of where he was born
  • His current occupation
  • A signature of your ancestor
  • When and where he enlisted
  • Mustered in Date
  • A brief description of your ancestor (eye color, hair color, complexion and height

early Connecticut School Photo

A document you will almost always find is either Muster and Descriptive Roll and/or Company Descriptive Book. I’m lumping these two documents together as they have the same type of information on both record types. Not every piece of data is found on both document types. Be sure to look at each and every one of these documents. My Edwin Banks is described as having dark eyes in most descriptions. One description indicates his eyes were hazel which is a dark color.

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Typical data in a Muster and Descriptive Roll and/or Company Descriptive Book

  • Rank
  • Unit, where and when enlisted
  • Period of Enlistment
  • Bounty Paid
  • A brief description of your ancestor (eye color, hair color, complexion and height
  • Age and where he was born
  • Occupation
  • Sometimes notes if he received advanced payment

early Connecticut School Photo

early Connecticut School Photo

Another common document you will find in the service records are company muster rolls. Every two months a roll call would be taken to see who was present and who was absent. If your ancestor was absent for some reason, it will most likely say where he was and when he left. It might be that he was at a hospital, which was very common. Using this information and a regimental history, you may be able to get a good idea which battles your ancestor likely fought in.

Typical Data in a Company Muster Roll

  • Present or absent when the roll call was taken
  • If absent, a description of why he was absent and when he left
  • If any bounty was due to the soldier
  • If any money was due to the Federal Government from the soldier (stoppage)

early Connecticut School Photo

You will usually find a muster-in roll and/or muster-out roll.

Typical Data in a mustet-in roll and/or muster-out roll

  • Rank
  • Regiment
  • Where mustered in/out
  • Total bounty (money) due the soldier, less any the soldier owes

early Connecticut School Photo

Another document you might find in your ancestors service records are “returns”. Is your ancestor was away from his unit for some reason and then returned to duty, this document might provide some insight.

Typical Data in a Returns document

  • When he left the unit and for what reason
  • When he returned to duty and where he was coming from

early Connecticut School Photo

Additionally there could be other documents in your ancestors civil war service file. Some of these documents may include a consent in case of a minor, a document detailing the capture of the soldier and his parole, documents pertaining to the death of a solder and a whole lot more.

Source List Entries for resources

1) Civil War Service Records, Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15, National Archives, Washington DC
2) National Park Service, Regimental History,, accessed March 6, 2015, 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillary

Military Monday – Veterans Day Tribute

Posted by on Monday, 12 November, 2012

I know Veterans Day was technically yesterday and today is the federal holiday since Veterans Day fell on a Sunday. In honor of Veterans Day, I thought I’d mention a number of my ancestors who have served in the military. I have ancestors who have known to have fought in the Korean War, World War II, World War I, The Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

Korean War and World War II Veterans

  • My father, William Alfred Sanders served in World War II as part of the occupational forces in Korea. He was later recalled to serve in the Korean War.

World War I Veterans

  • My maternal grandfather, James Francis Fox served during World War I. He was training in the states when the war ended.
  • My paternal grandfather, William Herbert Sanders also served during World War I. He was also training in the states when the war ended.

Civil War Veterans

  • My ancestor John Douglas Laurie served in the 10th Connecticut Infantry. Unfortunately on October 13, 1864, he was wounded and left on the battlefield as the 10th was forced to retreat. He was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was paroled a few days later and died less than a month after the battle.
  • My ancestor Edwin A. Banks served in the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery. He enlisted at the age of 17 and was in a number of battles with his twin brother Edward.
  • My ancestor Patrick Fraher served in the 12th US Regular Army. He was injured during training and was discharged due to a disability. He never saw any action.

Revolutionary War Veterans

  • My ancestor Abel Ford served in the Revolutionary War. He served during the battle when General Burgoyne surrended in upstate New York.
  • My ancestor Moses Oysterbanks served in the Revolutionary War
  • My ancestor James Shepard served in the Revolutionary War
  • My ancestor Seth Gray served in the Revolutionary War


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Military Monday – Revolutionary War Pension Files

Posted by on Monday, 5 November, 2012

For those of us lucky enough to have ancestors who were here during the revolutionary war and who served either with the militia or the regular army, there may be a pension file. These pension files contain a wide array of information about their lives and their military experience.

Below is one page from the pension file of revolutionary war veteran Abel Ford.
Abel Ford - Revolutionary War Veteran
This particular document indicates his service in Captain Benjamin’s company and indicates how much he got paid for his seven months of service.

Here is another document also from Abel’s pension file.
Abel Ford -Revolutionary War Veteran
It describes all of his various service. Other documents in his pension file indicate he was involved in the battle where General Burgoyne surrendered.

The document below is from the pension file of Moses O Banks
Abel Ford -Revolutionary War Veteran
Many of the documents in a revolutionary war pension file may look like the document above. It is essentially an affidavit documenting the revolutionary war veterans service and what battles if any he fought in. In many cases it will contain a signature of your ancestor.

Where can you find revultionary war pension files? You can search for revolutionary war pension files on Heritage Quest as well as other subscription based websites.
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Military Monday Mystery – Civil War Veteran Patrick Fraher

Posted by on Monday, 24 September, 2012

My ancestor Patrick Fraher has always intrigued me. There are many brick walls in my genealogy which surround him. He was born, married and had two children in Ireland. He then went to England where he had two more children. Finally he moved to the United States in about 1860 where he had five more children. I’ve been unsuccessful in finding any records about him outside of the United States. I’ve been unsuccessful in finding any exact date of birth, marriage or death. There’s also a black sheep part of him which I find fascinating. There are reports in newspapers about him being arrested for being drunk. There’s also a report in a newspaper about him escaping from an insane asylum. However, that story is for another time.

This blog post mystery is about his time during the civil war. Patrick apparently served during the civil war. The photo below is him in his civil war uniform.

Patrick Fraher - Civil War

There is no doubt that the photo above is Patrick Fraher. I have in my possession a 19th century photo album known to belong to one of Patrick’s daughters (Mary). Pictured below is Patrick, with presumably his wife Sarah. The head shots of both photos were super imposed on top of one another with different intensities and the facial features are identical. The two photos are of the same man.

Patrick Fyaher and Sarah Hayes

With no doubt left that Patrick served in the civil war, there are a number of questions to be answered. When did he serve? What unit did he serve with? The cap in the civil war photo seems to suggest an artillery unit, due to the insignia. I went to the civil war soldiers and sailors system to see if I could find Patrick. There were two Patrick Frahers. One served for a Massachusetts Volunteer Artillery Unit and another which served in the 12th US Regulars. The Massachusetts volunteer was known to have died in Andersonville Prison, so this could not be my Patrick. The other served in an infantry unit, which was not what I expected from the insignia.

A professional genealogist I had contacted about getting some civil war pension and service records was able to find some information about the Patrick Fraher who served in the 12th US Regulars. This Patrick Fraher served for a very short period of time. He enlisted in the upper part of New York State. He was also born in County Waterford, Ireland. This record seems very promising that it could be my Patrick, even though the unit may not be an artillery unit. My Patrick was enumerated in the 1865 New York Census in Essex County New York, which was fairly close to the place where the Patrick Fraher from the 12th US Regular enlisted.

For those professional genealogist veterans would this satisfy the Genealogical Proof Standard? Would this be enough proof to say that the Patrick Fraher who served in the 12th US Regular Army is my Patrick Fraher? I’ve tried finding other Patrick Fraher civil war veterans. Fraher can and has been misspelled many different ways (Fryher, Friher, Friar, and Frier). No other Patrick seems to fit with the known facts. I believe my Patrick was the one who served in the 12th US Regular and it seems more likely than not. I would love to hear feedback regarding this finding and conclusion.

A family group sheet with Patrick, his wife and children can be found in this earlier post for those who are interested.

Prior Post with Fraher Family Group Sheet