Mormons Provide Free Civil War Records
It’s been 150 years since the Civil War and many who have ancestors who lived in that era are especially interested this year to find them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often referred to as Mormons, offer a variety of free resources and training on the internet to help with that work. The material is also of interest to writers, historians, and students studying that time period.
FamilySearch.org is a free website for genealogists of any faith or none at all. The website has a special anniversary site on the Civil War. Sixteen collections help genealogists locate their Civil War era ancestors. Some of the collections include:
The Faces of the Civil War presentation introduces you to famous people from both sides of the war. It offers background information, photos, and genealogical or historical records for researchers. A wiki introduces researchers to places, regiments, and events from both sides. The historical background articles offer extensive resources to documents, websites, and books about each topic. For instance, the wiki includes an article on United States Colored Troops in the Civil War (USCT), which were organized in 1863. The article explains the importance of these regiments to the success of the war, explanations of abbreviations found in records, listings with links to regiments by name and number, information on regiment burial grounds and a list of links and books for further study.
The site offers five free courses on Civil War era research, including four sponsored by other organizations. These do not require registration and are videos placed online. The courses are:
Civil War Genealogical Research Sponsored by the Midwest Genealogical Center
Basic U.S. Military Records Sponsored by the Midwest Genealogical Center
Finding the Slave Generation Sponsored by the Midwest Genealogical Center
African American Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress Sponsored by the Library of Congress
There are currently about ten thousand records indexed, which means they are transcribed and put into a form that can be searched when you access the site on your computer. The Mormons anticipate focusing on this project for several years and there are many more records waiting to be indexed.
The indexing work is largely done by volunteers working from home on their computers. They work whenever they have time to do so, without a formal commitment, making it an ideal volunteer project for people who are in especially busy periods of their lives. After registering as a volunteer and taking a brief online training class, they select a project that interests them from those available. They have a week to finish the project, which usually only requires thirty to sixty minutes to complete. If they are unable to complete it, the project automatically returns to the site for another volunteer to finish. Each project is done by two volunteers. If discrepancies are found, an arbitrator evaluates them and decides which is correct. This protects the transcriptions from errors. Volunteers have access to training and advice as needed. Many of the volunteers are not Mormon. They are simply genealogy fans who want the records made available as soon as possible. Because they have access to these records at no cost, they volunteer to help transcribe records for others. Once downloaded, the projects can be done offline, so many volunteers work on them during train commutes or in places without internet access.
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