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Genealogy Gazette

 
Volume 7, Number 9
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
May 13, 2015
 
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Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss the G.A.R. which is The Grand Army of The Republic. If you have an ancestor that was a member, finding the G.A.R. records for that area will give you valuable information and could help you tremendously in your genealogy search.
 
Since the records were kept at the local level, the GAR Records Projects is creating an online catalog listing of all known GAR Posts and associated records. You can look to see if there are any records in your area of research.  
 
 
Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press
 
 
G.A.R.
G.A.R. is not the sound that your dog makes, but rather a respected organization from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It is technically known as The Grand Army of The Republic. The fraternity, as it was known in the beginning, was established in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois by Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson and spread across the United States with forty-nine states having units. Only Hawaii did not have units. It was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, Union Navy, Marines and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the Civil War. In the beginning, the units were primarily in the northern states, but by the turn of the century, there were units in the southern states as well. The fraternity was dissolved in 1956 when Albert Woolson of Duluth, Minnesota died, the last Union Veteran. In its place the V.F.W., the American Legion and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War came to the front.
 
The main thrust of the fraternity was to promote “Fraternity, charity and loyalty” to the United States, supported the voting rights of black veterans, promoting patriotic education, veterans pensions and to support Republican political candidates. With the backing of the G.A.R., five presidents were elected – Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, and McKinley. At its peak, 490,000 members gathered in local Posts to carry on the work of the fraternity. One of the main thrusts of the group was to establish May 30 as Memorial Day when families would gather in cemeteries and decorate the graves of fallen veterans. This began in 1868, shortly after the end of the war. As time passed, this day was slightly changed in the south to become Confederate Memorial Day in April of each year.
 
Within various states, the local units were called Posts and were named for some local or national hero. Each was established along military lines with various officers, meeting dates and events celebrating various occasions in each local area.
 
Now comes the important part for genealogical researchers. The records of each group are a gold mine of information about our ancestors. In studying these records, you can glean a number of important facts. The date of admission and dismissal from the Post can give a clue as to when a person was in the area and if they moved by transfer or died. In the case of transfer, many times it is given as to where they were transferred and when. If they died, there is usually a date of death and where buried. Beyond this tidbit is the record of service which usually includes the rank and when they joined as well as the company in which they served. There is one column in the register for each Post called “Remarks” that I find most interesting. It is here that a detailed accounting of the battles in which the person fought and in many cases, if wounded and where on the body. This latter might not be too important to you, but if you knew that he was wounded in the head this is why great grandpaw could not hear in his later years, or if wounded in the knee you can understand why he limped until his death.
 
Having a veteran in service followed by joining the G.A.R. you can almost say they were supporters of the Republican Party in politics. This was one of their strengths while at the same time a major weakness in the organization. Anytime a fraternal group becomes political, it usually means trouble will follow.
 
If you are able to secure the original minutes of their meetings which have been scanned by many states, you will find a lot more tidbits about each of the members. They recorded many facts of personal information for each member. Remember that they were fraternal and they were interested in all aspects of their members. Many of the deaths are recorded as well as the deaths of wives, children, and other family members. In many cases, the Post will be at the funeral with someone usually speaking from the Post, especially when a member dies. Each Post was connected to the state organization, but at the same time very independent in nature so each set of records will vary from the others.
 
To find these records, I would start with the State Archives and then go to local records. These latter records are frequently found in local libraries or in the holdings of local historical and genealogical societies. Since the records were kept locally, often at the homes of the officers, they may not have been sent to the GAR headquarters as the units dissolved. They may have been given to another local organization, destroyed, or still in the hands of the officer's family.
 
Remember, the gold mine is there we only have to find it and dig out the gold.
 
Happy Hunting!
 
 
 

 

 
Civil War Records
 
 

Washington County, VA Roster of Confederate Soldiers
 

Camp Chase - Federal Civil War Prison Camp, Columbus, Ohio
 

Johnson's Island Federal Prison
 

Rhea & Meigs County in the Civil War
 

The Confederate Soldiers of Hamilton County, Tennessee
 

First Tennessee & Alabama Independent Vidette Calvary
 

Confederate Soldiers Buried At Vicksburg; 1862 - 1863
 

Special Presidential Pardons for Confederate Soldiers
 

Remnants of War; 1861-1865: Civil War Records for Bedford County, VA
 

 

 

 


If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.