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Ancestry.com is sponsoring Season 2 of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and helping the celebrities in the show discover their family stories. We’re here to help you too — every step of the way.

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“I posted a picture of my
great-great-grandfather in his Civil War uniform on Ancestry.com and I received a message from another researcher who wanted to know how I got a picture of
her great-great-grandfather.

Turns out we’re third cousins. We met and she confirmed that our ancestor arrived in America with only his brother after his parents and sister died crossing the Atlantic. The boys were very young and both ended up joining the Union Army as teenagers, if that. Amazing.”

– Beth Einig
Ancestry.com member

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Ancestors who helped shape America.

In Episode 8 of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Ashley Judd learned how her ancestors fought for their beliefs. She used Civil War records to find a great-great-great- grandfather who lost a leg and was imprisoned twice while fighting for the Union Army. And she used family trees and records from England to discover she descends from a famous Mayflower passenger who stood up for religious freedom. Miss the episode? Watch it on NBC.com.

Three steps to discovering your family’s Civil War story:

Step 1: Look for a link. Heard family stories about an ancestor who served in the Civil War? Know a relative with military medals or mementos? Use these sorts of clues to focus
in on a family line you can follow back in time using census records and other resources. When you’ve found someone you think may have been a Civil War soldier, search for him, his brothers and cousins in the Ancestry.com Civil War collection. Explore specific regiment information in the U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 collection, which can help you make sure you’re following the correct soldier.

Step 2: Search enlistment and service records. States often kept unique records during the Civil War, like muster rolls from Alabama, Kansas enlistments and New York
town registers of men who served
. Review service records, too, including those of the
U.S. Colored Troops and Union soldiers. And be sure to look in Civil War draft registration records, which may list a soldier’s birthplace and physical traits, as well as special remarks.

Step 3: Learn what happened after the war. Track down soldiers in the 1890 Veterans Schedule, a special census documenting Civil War veterans and spouses of those who passed away. You may even find details like a soldier’s birth name and alias. Move onto pensions in the Civil War pension index and state pensions, including those from Texas, Virginia and Arkansas. And finally, search Civil War cemeteries in the Ancestry.com U.S. Military Cemeteries collection to see graves of men who died in service as well as military heroes from other periods in U.S. history.

Watch and Learn

Clues to Finding Ancestors at Pivotal Moments in History

Get tips on finding your family’s Civil War
story from the Ancestry.com experts who helped make the discoveries on Who Do You Think You Are? Watch the short video

Revolutionary War pension application

Revolutionary period: Search Revolutionary War pension applications, service records and war rolls to discover your family’s link.

Emancipation: Freedmen’s Bank and Bureau records offer
details about former slaves, along with emancipation records
and slave narratives.

U.S. and Native American relations: Indian census rolls,
the Dawes Commission index and enrollment cards for the Five Civilized Tribes can provide insight into a difficult period in history.

Women’s rights: Voters’ lists from California can highlight political interest, censuses show occupations, industrial schedules point to women in business and historical newspapers can divulge more details about a culture at a given time.