A Guide to Civil War Research.
Finding the Name of Your Ancestor
Well my name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and that was my grandpa's name too. So why can't I find him in the war?
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There are a number of considerations for matching up a name, but first a note about finding a name of an ancestor if you don't know it already.
1. Start with what you know.
Check family Bibles, ask relatives. Check old photo albums if you have them. Often these will turn up a name. If you don't have these, find out what county they lived in and what church they may have attended. Often the church cemetery and other records will give you names to begin your research.
If these do not work, the next step is to check the census records. The census beginning with 1850 included the names of the entire family and the 1880 census included the parent's names and where they were born. Many of the census records prior to 1920 are now available on line and we have statewide census indexes available for South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. These indexes will show the name and the year and county where the name appears.
Spellings on the census records and in fact all Civil War records are notoriously inconsistent. A Soundex search will often help. You should always check all known alternative spellings.
To calculate a Soundex code for a particular name, you can use the FREE Soundex calculator program on our website at
or use the following formula:
1. Take the first letter of the name.
2. Throw away all of these letters
A - E - I - O - U - H - W
3. Take the remaining letters and assign numeric values from the following chart. For any double letter combination, throw the seccond away - thus an MM in HAMMOND is coded as HMND = H553.
B - P - F - V = 1
C - S - K - G - J - Q - X - Z = 2
D - T = 3
L = 4
M - N = 5
R = 6
4. Once you get 3 numbers, quit coding.
5. Take the first letter of the name, and add the 3 numbers to produce the Soundex code.
For example, the names RAKE ROSS RUSS RACHIE ROCH ROCHE ROSE REES RICHEY ROACH REACH REESE RICHEE REECE RICH ROACH ROSE ROUSE & RICE all share the Soundex code, R200. You should check all the alternate spellings and names which sound similar.
Schmidt and Smith both code out as S530, but you also get Schumate with the same code, so sometimes the Soundex will not give you the desired results.
This set of OnLine lessons is excerpted from our "Guide to Civil War Research" books. We have specific volumes for some states and a general volume which will help you research other states.