jackson-mississippi-fire

“Destruction of rebel property at Jackson, Mississippi, May 15” from Harper’s Weekly, June 20, 1863. Image from the Civil War website.

Tracing your Confederate ancestor can be very frustrating at times. At least when I tried to trace the service of my great grandfather William B. Poore I got frustrated a number of times.

The official records are blank regarding William’s part in the war. No compiled service record exists for him.

This lack of records is not unusual. One reason is that the South ran short of paper on which to keep records. Also, near the end of the war, fires destroyed many Confederate records in Richmond, Virginia, and Jackson, Mississippi.

When you run into such a documentary void it sometimes pays to check resources that you had previously ruled out.

One such unlikely source for Confederate research, for example, is the 1890 special census of Union Army veterans and widows. As the name would suggest, this census was for Union men and not Confederates. Nevertheless, some census takers listed Confederates as well.

Nearly all of the schedules for the states of Alabama through Kansas and about half of those for Kentucky were destroyed. So what is left is Louisiana through Wyoming, Oklahoma and Indian Territory.

Information recorded includes name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service. The form also contains the post office address, any disability incurred in the service and remarks.

Fortunately, there was an index for Mississippi where my great grandfather lived: 1890 Mississippi Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Their Widows, compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts and published in 1996 by the American Genealogical Lending Library. Unfortunately, my great grandfather was not listed.

Works Progress Administration materials from the Great Depression were another unlikely source. They were unlikely for my William B. Poore because he had been dead for 20 years by the time of the Great Depression.

In Source Material for Mississippi History, Preliminary Manuscript, Jasper County, I found a “List of Confederate Veterans of Jasper County.” This time, I not only found William but also his brother John. This source helped confirm their Confederate service and put me on track to find additional resources.

Do you have some examples of sources that you at first passed by and later found useful in your research?

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