Civil War

Civil War genealogy: Can I see a picture of my Civil War ancestor?

One of my Civil War students posed a question I actually hadn’t heard before: could she “see” a picture of her Civil War ancestor.

My first response was “Maybe.” Soldiers often had portraits taken before they went to war- but you need to be lucky enough to have inherited either the photograph or a negative. She wasn’t in that group.

So what were her other options? As it turns out, there are quite a few:

1) The Library of Congress has an extensive online collection. Start with the “Glass Negatives” page, as it links to other collections.  I searched for Connecticut. The results wasn’t impressive – only 20 entries – but three were group shots of Connecticut companies. With a 100 men or less, there’s a good chance you can find your ancestor.

2) Check with colleges in your ancestor’s area or with universities that have strong ties to the War. Gettysburg College has a Civil War photographs collection. Check here if your ancestor was an officer.

3) Look for GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) records. These would be held in the area where your Union ancestor lived after the War. As part of their war commemoration, “posts” (local groups) often collected pictures or photographs  Check out this collection from Seattle.

… and I could keep going.  Even your ancestor isn’t pictured, these images are fascinating.

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