The holiday season well underway, and even if you’re not able to be with family, they’re probably in your thoughts. Today let’s look at how the story of any given ancestor can be greatly enhanced when you look at it in terms of the whole family.
When I showed you how to organize your ancestor’s information in a previous column, I recommended that you create a spreadsheet that contained not only your ancestor’s information, but that of his brothers, father, and even cousins depending on what their age was. Let’s go back and look at the example of my great-grandfather, James Calvin Donald.
\We documented that he served in three different units. I also started digging through his Compiled Services Records on Fold3. (Compiled Service Records can be found under “Civil War” on Fold3. Then click on” Civil War Service Records,” and choose either Union or Confederate. You can then search by name or browse to your soldier’s unit.)
As I looked through James’ records, I found that he was captured in Rockbridge, Virginia, in June of 1864.
I then discovered that he was in prison in West Virginia and was later transferred to Camp Chase in Ohio, on 2 July 1864.
He signed an Oath of Allegiance on 13 May 1865 and departed the camp.
So now I know where my great-grandfather spent the last year of the war, and I suspect a prison camp was not a happy place to be. It would be easy enough to stop there. I’ve documented my great-grandfather’s time in the Civil War. I know where he was and have some colorful details. But few people live solitary lives. What did James’ brothers John and Benjamin do during the war? Did their paths cross? Did they all survive?
I decided to dig through both John and Benjamin’s Compiled Service Records, and I found that they were both captured in Rockbridge in June of 1864 and were also sent to Camp Chase.
They both also survived the war and swore an oath of allegiance on 13 May 1865 and departed for home. Now I don’t know if they were together at Camp Chase, but one does wonder if having their brothers with them made it easier to get through the year that they spent there.
As you enjoy your family this holiday season, remember that just as our lives our intertwined with our families, our ancestors were no different. Understand the lives of their siblings and cousins may indeed shed light on the lives of your direct ancestors.
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Search Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the “Ask Ancestry Anne” column for the Ancestry.com “Monthly Update” newsletter. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina for many years and is pursuing her CG certification.
Other articles in the 04 December 2011 Weekly Discovery