The American Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865, and it was one of the largest conflicts the country has been involved in, even to this day. It set the country against itself, and sometimes this even meant friend against friend, or even relative against relative (even from people in the same house or immediate family). It is also the first American war to be documented in photographs, in this case, hundreds of them. If you had ancestors in the United States during the Civil War, the chances are that they fought in it if they were male. Even men who didn’t fight, as well as women and children, were affected by it. In fact, there was hardly a person in the country at the time who wasn’t affected by the war in some way.
Because the war was such a large one, and one that touched nearly everyone in the country, it generated a lot of records. Many of these records are of use to genealogists. In fact, you can find out a lot of intimate detail about your Civil War-era ancestors from these records, information you might not find anywhere else, personal family information, and confirmation of things you might have suspected, but couldn’t confirm until you looked at the Civil War records. They are a literal goldmine of American genealogical information.
Where can you find Civil War records? There are a lot of different places, depending on what you’re looking for, and what type of information you hope to find. There are lots of different types of Civil War records that are digitized online on subscription genealogy websites like Fold3 and Ancestry.com. In fact, Fold3 is devoted to just American military records and census records, with a few old newspaper records thrown in. Ancestry.com has some of the same records that Fold3 does, but it also has a larger collection, because it is a larger site. Both places are well worth exploring.
You can also find Civil War records at your local county and state archives. In fact, state archives are often a goldmine of Civil War records, for both the Union as well as the Confederacy. While the federal government only collected and maintained records related to the Union for decades, before finally adding Confederate records to their collections, the state archives kept Confederate records from the beginning. You may be able to locate more information on your Confederate ancestors at a state archive building than at most other places.
The National Archives of the United States has a large variety of Civil War records available. You can search them by request using postal mail or email, or go to them in person in Washington, D.C. There are also good genealogical records of individual soldiers and their families available from lineage societies devoted to the descendants of those who fought in the Civil War.
Wherever you look, these are important records to use in your genealogy and family history research.