Through the years, I’ve had many people ask how they can locate photographs of their Civil War ancestors. It can be a daunting task, but I went to someone I knew would have the answer to that question. Ron Erwin has been collecting Civil War memorabilia for many years. After putting some thought into it, Ron came up with the following checklist for locating family photographs:
First, you would need to know his name and regiment. Without both, it is almost impossible as there may be more than one Civil War soldier with the same name. Check state records for possible alternate spellings.
1. Check with relatives, even distant cousins.
2. Check on line. Google soldier’s name and regiment. Try different spellings. Post request on Civil War bulletin boards.
3. Visit the local libraries. Ask for his regimental history, any scrapbooks that might have information, newspaper indexes for obits or any photos that might have been donated to local history department. Look for County Histories and biographies of local people.
4. Ask at local historical societies. Most towns have a Town Historian. Ask for him/her at the Town Hall of any towns of cities soldier lived in.
5. Put an ad in the local newspapers asking for information on soldier and photo.
6. Newspapers often have a reporter or columnist who specializes in historical articles and might be able to help.
7. Ask at local history museums.
8. The American Civil War Research Database (www.civilwardata.com) has some photos. It is a membership fee ($25.00) site but
has a free demo; perhaps a local historian has a membership. U.S. Army Heritage Collections Online has a large collection of photographs at www.ahco.army.mil .
9. Civil War Round Tables often have members who know collectors who have photographs of Civil War soldiers.
10. Civil War re-enactors are sometimes collectors who have images of Civil War soldiers. Check local regiments. Ask at Civil War Re-enactments.
11. Attend a Gun Show and ask dealers who specialize in Civil War items.
12. As a last resort one could try calling people in the phone book with the soldiers last name and hope to find a relative with a photo.
Special thanks to Ron Erwin for this excellent checklist.
Does anyone else have ideas on ways to locate family photographs? If so, let’s hear them!