Did you watch “Who Do You Think You Are?” last night?
In the season premiere on TLC, singer Kelly Clarkson traced her third-great-grandfather Isaiah Rose from Marietta, Ohio, to his imprisonment at the notorious Andersonville Civil War prison, and back home after his escape. There, he served as county sheriff and a state senator.
The story is common: Lots of Americans have Civil War soldier ancestors, many of whom were held at Andersonville and other prisons. The genealogy research is very doable—and you don’t have to drive around the country like Clarkson did, or meet with a slew of Civil War experts.
It’s neat for “WDYTYA?” viewers to see the original historical records, but the same records Clarkson used are available online or by ordering from repositories. For example:
- The Union compiled military service record, or CMSR, Clarkson was shown at the Ohio Historical Society, is available by ordering from the National Archives. Records of those who enlisted from various Union and Confederate states are on the free FamilySearch.org and the subscription-based Ancestry.com.
- Civil War battle reports, such as the one from the 63rd Ohio that a researcher showed Clarkson at the DeKalb (Ga.) History Center, are part of the The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, also called the OR. You can use the OR online, or just run a web search of the battle name and “battle report.”
- Civil War prison rolls and registers are at the National Archives in Record Group 249, Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners. Ancestry.com has a database of Andersonville prisoners and another database of records from several Civil War prisons. FamilySearch.org has digitized NARA microfilm M1303, Selected Records of the War Department Commissary General of Prisoners Relating to Federal Prisoners of War Confined at Andersonville, GA, 1864-65.
- On her second visit to the Ohio Historical Society, Clarkson saw Isaiah Rose’s Civil War pension application records. Subscription site Fold3.com has some digitized Civil War pension records, but for most, you’d need to order the records from the National Archives for a fee.
Note that many public libraries and FamilySearch Centers offer patrons the use of Fold3 and Ancestry Library Edition for free.
These are just a few of the available resources for tracing your Civil War ancestor. You’ll find many more Civil War genealogy resources, tools and how-to information in Family Tree Magazine‘s Civil War Genealogy Value Pack, which happens to be on sale now—click here to learn more about it.
All that driving from place to place adds historical interest to the show, but it’s not realistic for most of us. Thank goodness it’s also not necessary for researching in Civil War records.
PS: TLC shared on Facebook where you can watch the whole episode online.