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Question: According to my familys stories, my great-great-grandpa fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side. He is listed in the 1860 Alabama Census & was in Alabama after the war. No matter where I look, I cant find a service record for him. How can I prove that he was in the war?
Answer: If you have not checked with the Alabama State Archives, you should do this first. For any state that had Confederate troops, the state archives is the best source for service records. It is very possible that no service record exists. The Confederate Army did not keep as many records as the Union Army did to begin with and, at the end of the war, many Confederate military records were destroyed. If the state archives does not have a service record, check to see if they have a pension record. Confederate veterans did not qualify for Federal pensions, but they often received a state pension for their service. It is important to note that the pension would be paid by the state the veteran resided in, not the state from which he served. It is also possible that he was a member of an organization such as United Confederate Veterans. There were numerous veterans organizations to check into, and many records for these groups and their annual encampments still exist. Some states also asked their veterans to fill out questionnaires, which are often kept at the state archives. Many of these have been published.
Question: I have a picture of my immigrant ancestor arriving in New York. I know from family tradition that he came in the 1920s. On the back of the photograph, someone wrote the name of the ship, but not the date. How can I find his passenger records?
Answer: You have several alternatives. First, there is an index to the New York Passenger Lists that covers that time period. It is Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, July 1, 1902 December 31, 1943 (NA film #T621). St. Louis Public Library owns this set of film. Your ancestor should appear there, with his date of arrival indicated. You may also want to check the Ellis Island website, American Family Immigration History Center, http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/. Remember, these records end in 1924 and are not complete, so theres a chance you may not find your ancestor, but that doesnt mean he/she didnt come through Ellis Island. Conversely, it is important to remember that Ellis Island was not used as an immigration center until 1892, so if your ancestor arrived in New York before that, he/she did not go through Ellis Island. A final option is a book called Morton Allen Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals: For the Years 1890 to 1930 at the Port of New York. (NY: Immigration Information Bureau, Inc., 1931. 387.1) This directory provides the date of arrival of each ship in the port of New York, broken down by shipping line and name of ship. Using this, you can determine when your ancestors ship arrived in New York, then search the passenger lists for those dates.
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