How the wind blew
Start your research by first confirming your ancestor’s military service. Begin with the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database of all known soldiers from Union and Confederate forces. Another source is the Veterans Schedules of the 1890 US census, which enumerated surviving Union soldiers but included some Confederates, too. Only schedules for half of Kentucky and states alphabetically following survive; search them at FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com.
Several Southern state censuses were taken during this time period, and the few surviving ones can help you pinpoint your ancestors’ whereabouts:
- An 1866 Alabama census is indexed on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
- An 1876 Missouri census for several counties is on Ancestry.com.
- South Carolina’s 1868 agricultural census and 1869 population census are fairly complete and include birthplace and prior residence. Look for the 1869 census on microfilm through FamilySearch and the 1868 agricultural census at the South Carolina state archives.
Land and tax records
- Civil War conflicts led to the burning of some Southern courthouses and the records inside. The October/November 2013 Family Tree Magazine offers strategies to help you trace ancestors from these “burned counties.”
- Look for migrating groups, not just individuals, if you think your ancestors left the South. Finding several familiar names (including in-laws) clustered in a census column or cemetery plot can confirm that this is your family in an unexpected place.
- Courthouse Research for Family Historians by Christine Rose (CR Publications)
- A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Anne Croom (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
- Life in Civil War America by Michael O. Varhola (Family Tree Books)
- The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction by Mark Wahlgren Summers (University of North Carolina Press)
- The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America by James Noble Gregory (University of North Carolina Press)
75 best state genealogy websites
Timeline of US slavery
Timeline of Southern US history
The Family Tree Sourcebook eBook
Guide to land records
Reconstruction 101 for African-Americans video class