On April 12, 1861, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard fired shots on Fort Sumter, at Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the US Civil War. Ending four years later, the war left behind over 600,000 dead who fought in the war. For many families, the Civil War would have a lasting impact for generations to come.
Handling Sensitive Topics Related to the Civil War
The events leading up to the War are well document in history, but what about your own ancestors and their involvement? Many researchers shy away from Civil War research since many of the topics such as slavery and its history still have an impact on today’s society.
Genealogists and family historians should not embellish the facts that they find nor distort or change such facts. Accept the facts for what they are and document them as best as possible. Here are areas to explore in your search:
• Slavery: What were your ancestors’ beliefs about slavery? Were they abolitionists? Were they slave owners? Also, think about sharing original documentation of enslaved ancestors, especially since it could help other researchers break down brick walls.
• Economic impact: How did your family fare during the War? Did they prosper through their own businesses which supplied the war effort? Or did they lose land and property during the War?
• Military service: Which ancestors served in the War? Can you determine why they served? Due to beliefs about slavery or did they serve simply for economic purposes?
• Border states: Pay special attention to border states since family loyalties to the Union or the Confederacy were not always clear cut. It is likely some family members favored or even fought for one side, while others took the opposite side.
Capturing Civil War Memories
While there are no living veterans of the US Civil War (although there are still two pensions being paid to children of Civil War veterans), there are many ways that you can capture and catalogue your family’s Civil War memories. If you are willing to do the research, you may find that even information involving these sensitive topics help present a more accurate picture of the lives of your ancestors.
• Determine Civil War Ancestors: Research family members alive during the Civil War and note those who served on either side of the war. Find out as much as possible about their lives and the impact of the War.
• Highlight Civil War Veterans: Once you’ve located the make ancestors who served, locate pension files, photos, newspaper article and anything you can. Consider creating a memorial page at fold 3 (free).
• Create a Virtual Relative: A great feature of Saving Memories Forever, is the ability to create a Virtual Relative and preserve their stories. If you are sitting on a collection of Civil War letters or a diary, consider narrating stories and excerpts from these items with the free app at Saving Memories Forever.
• Trace Post-War Activities: The War was a monumental event that impacted families for many years. Did your family migrate to a new location after the War? Did your family lose land or property during the War? Research the aftermath of the Civil War and document your family’s activities.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.