Research Tips and Genealogy Resources

Find Your Civil War Ancestor

The African American Civil War Memorial Museum (AACWM) offers visitors an opportunity to learn about their family members who served in the Civil War. We provide information on how to find artifacts, databases, websites, and more. Check out our tips and resources below.

Tips for Getting Started:

  • Gather information from living family members before you begin research on your Ancestor. For example, you can collect oral histories and compile a family tree.
  • Establish a line of descent by searching for your Ancestor’s name in the U.S. Census records. Ancestry and have collections of census records. You can also search the census for free by visiting the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Once you have identified an Ancestor who was old enough to serve in the Civil War, search the National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System database for your surname or your Ancestor’s surname. If you need assistance using this system, please contact the Museum at 202-667-2667.
  • The AACWM’s wall of honor only provides the regiment and name of soldier,  from the Soldiers and Sailors database you can find the soldier’s name location on the memorial wall as well as company, and rank in/out during service. We encourage you to visit the National Archives and Records Administration to retrieve your Ancestor’s pensions or military records. You can also access military service records online at

Document Resources

The following documents will assist you in organizing your family’s ancestry and locating records online. 

Pedigree Chart (PDF)

This pedigree chart records ancestors' information and provides a basic overview of your family tree.

Get Your Pedigree Chart (PDF)
Family Group Sheet

Each piece of information concerning a pedigree ancestor and his/her family is placed on this worksheet, offering you a glimpse of more complete family units at a glance. provides the Family Group Sheet.

Get a Family Group Sheet

Please visit to access more documents to assist you with your search. 

Website Resources

The following websites offer guidance on how to access online records. However, it’s important to note that some pension records are currently unavailable as digital copies and you must request a copy of the record from the National Archives. 

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives is a repository of all documents and materials the United States Federal government created. You can view original copies of military, pension, and census records.

The National Archives has different locations and collections that can assist you in your genealogy research. Please visit their website before planning your visit.

Visit the National Archives
The Library of Congress

The repository of congressional documents at the Library of Congress has a vast holding of documents that depict American culture and history.

The library’s prints and photographs division contains one of the largest collections of photographs of African American Civil War soldiers. Many items, such as newspapers, laws, and interviews of formerly enslaved people at the library, can assist you in your genealogical research.

Visit the Library of Congress

Fold3 provides convenient access to U.S. Military records, photos, and personal documents of service members. Unfortunately, many pension records aren't yet available in digital format.

Fold3 also has a pension index available online. There is a vast collection of online records, including census records and city directories, to preview during your research. Some records on this site are free to view, and some require a subscription fee.

Visit Fold3
Family Search

Family Search is a genealogy organization supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The platform provides online access to records and resources from repositories worldwide. Their records include billions of names spanning across hundreds of collections, including vital, probate, land, military, census, and more.

All records in their collections are free to view.

Visit Family Search provides access to billions of online census, vital, probate, military, and newspaper records. The website has an extensive African American collection that includes information on the United States Colored Troops, Regular Cavalry Regiments (Buffalo Soldiers), U.S. Southern Claims Commissions (Freedmen's Bureau Records), slave ads and abstracts, slave owner petitions, and U.S. interviews with formerly enslaved people. 

The site requires a subscription fee to view records.