Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Questions About SS-5s and Civil War Records

Public Service Announcement: Did you know that FamilySearch has Facebook pages for every state and for most countries? For those of you that like Facebook this is an easy way to connect with other researchers. To find these pages just type in Mississippi Genealogy Research (fill in your state or country where the word Mississippi is). I belong to all of the pages for the southern states and I am one of the administrators for the Mississippi page. Networking with other researchers has always been an essential part of genealogy research but today it is just a little more high tech.

Trudy asks:
"Can I send for a copy of my own Social Security number request application?"

Yes you can. You will need to write a cover letter explaining that you would like a copy of your original SS-5 form. You will need to include a copy of a picture ID (driver's license for example), a copy of your social security card and a copy of your birth certificate. You do not need to use the form that is used to request the SS-5 of a deceased person, just a cover letter explaining your request. The cost is $27.00 which you need to include with your request either as a check or money order. You cannot do this online nor are you able to do this at your local Social Security office as they do not have access to these records (they are on microfilm). The address to send the request to is:

Social Security Administration
OEO FOIA Workgroup
300 N. Greene Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022

Donald asks:
"I am interested in Civil War records but I don't want to have to pay for a subscription for Fold3. Are there are free ways to get compiled service records and pension information?"

The first place I start happens to be a free site anyway. The Soldiers and Sailors Database from the National Parks Service is a wonderful tool. No, you can't get compiled service records or pension packets here but if you find you ancestor you can read about the history of the unit in which he served and you can also search by his specific company which will give you a list of everyone he served with. This can be very helpful when you are trying to piece together families as fathers, brothers, cousins, brothers-in-law, neighbors etc. often served together.

Civil War records are housed at the state level and some states have some of their records online. For example, Illinois has a nice database, the Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls, that will give you the abstracted information from their compiled service records. The Georgia Archives has Confederate Enlistment Oaths and Discharges and Confederate Pension Application online at Georgia's Virtual Vault.. Just a warning. Georgia's Virtual Vault has been down for a couple of weeks now as they transition to a new interface on their website so be patient with that one. It is worth the time to take a look at your state's archives page.

If your state archives does not have any records available online, you can get copies of the records for a copying fee only if you are able to travel there in person. If you have to send them a written request via email/mail then the cost will be anywhere between $10 to $25 [average] for the request and you may have to pay a per page copying fee as well.

The Family History Library [FHL] has a very interesting collection of Civil War records available on microfilm. To find them you will need to search in the card catalog under the state name but you will also need to check under the specific county name as well as records appear in both places. There are some compiled service records and pension files that have been microfilmed but nowhere near all of them. It is a hit or miss proposition depending on the state. However, you will find abstracted works [from compiled service records and pension files], letters and reminiscences from soldiers, histories of units, confederate cemeteries and indexes. These adjunct resources can give you a more complete picture. Some of these records are available online at FamilySearch and the card catalog will tell you which ones. An example would be the United States Civil War Index. If you need to order a microfilm the cost is $7.50 and it will be sent to your local Family History Center for a 30 day period for you to view.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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