A House Divided
Whether your Civil War ancestor served in blue or gray, you can reveal his part in our nation's epic struggle. Our nine research steps will lead the charge.

I grew up in a Blue-Gray household. When watching movies or playing war games about what my Alabama-born mother called “the War Between the States,” my youthful sympathies were nonetheless solidly with the Union. Only later, doing genealogy research as an adult, did I discover that my Illinois ancestors arrived from Sweden much too late to don any color and that my lone Civil War ancestor wore gray: My great-grandfather William “Frank” Dickinson served with the 37th Alabama Infantry. Now that I've gotten copies of his military service records, I have a greater empathy for what both sides endured in “the recent unpleasantness.”

Nearly a century and a half since that great conflict - 2011 will mark its sesquicentennial - it's never been easier to start researching your Blue or Gray soldier ancestor. Not only can you search for the basic facts of his military service, you also can delve into the details of his regiment and battles he may have fought in, trace the unit's movements on historical maps, and perhaps even find an image of him with his comrades. Pension files and other records could provide long-sought details about your soldier's spouse and children, helping you win your own battle to understand your family's past.