Updated 1 Jan 2011
How do I obtain proof of Civil War service?
You can request copies of a veteran's Compiled Military Service Records from the National Archives in Washington, DC. These papers generally show when and where he enlisted, the amount he earned each pay period, and those days he was absent or present from duty. There is very little to no genealogical information available in these records, but they serve as proof of service. Sometimes they will include a physical description of the veteran. To purchase copies of your ancestor's military service records, use form NATF-86.
Civil War pension records are a much better source of genealogical information; however, not every Union soldier applied for a pension. If your ancestor died in the Civil War, his widow, his dependent children, or his dependent parents may have filed for a pension. If your ancestor survived the war, he may have applied for a pension himself, or his widow may have applied after his death.
There are two indices to the pension records. NARA Microfilm Series T288 is sorted by surname and is available at the National Archives, as well as on Ancestry.com (a subscription service sometimes available at no charge at local libraries). When looking for a pension file by surname, be sure to check not just the veteran's name, but also the names of his parents and his wife or wives. NARA Microfilm Series T289 is sorted by Regiment, Company, and then surname. This series is available at the National Archives, and online at Footnote.com. Once you have found a pension, you can purchase a copy of it from the National Archives, using form NATF-85.
You can pick up copies of both forms at the National Archives Eastern Region in New York City at 201 Varick Street, or you can order forms online from the the National Achives and Records Administration (NARA). If you don't want to wait to receive the forms, you can place an order directly online by clicking here and choosing the ORDER ONLINE option.
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