We are approaching summer and soon Memorial Day Weekend. As you research your ancestors who served in the military, there is an interesting resource that you might want to check out: National Soldiers Homes. These homes often started shortly after the Civil War when many wounded veterans needed additional care. Let’s look.
I have mentioned in the past that I have a couple of ancestors who served in the Civil War. Both survived and came home to their families. Neither was the same after the war with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis brought on from sleeping in damp, unhealthy conditions. Both men applied for pensions which were granted. We’ve talked about pensions in a past blog and you can learn more about them: Remembrance - Herding Cats Genealogy
One of these gentlemen lived to a ripe old age and in his last year he lived at the National Soldiers Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to their site, President Lincoln created “national system of homes for disabled veterans” in March 1865. Because he died there and the government is good at keeping records, there are records about his stay. There were national soldiers homes throughout the country.
Where to find this information?
U.S., National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 | Ancestry® You will need an Ancestry account to access this information. They have an unusual search method if you don’t want to use the standard search, you choose the city and first letter of your ancestor’s name.
The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers | National Archives You can learn more about the history of the national homes as well as gain a better understanding of the soldiers that they cared for on this site. They’ve even included sample menus from the earlier days here. They had some seriously heavy breakfast in those days and light suppers.
Soldier Home (familysearch.org) FamilySearch requires registration, but the site is free to use. You can view the transcript as well as the image from the actual record books.
What type of information can you find in these books?
The page is divided into 4 sections:
Here you learn their date of entry into service, their company, place of discharge as well as their health status when admitted to the home.
Learn next of kin, their home address as well as physical attributes such as age, height, hair and eye color. I love learning more about what they looked like—especially treasured if you don’t have a photo of them.
Home History refers to their history at the home so here you will find their admission date, amount of pension if they received one as well as their discharge or death date. And if they died at the home, the cause of death.
The general remarks in the case of my ancestor referred to when and where the remains were shipped. Personal items were noted as shipped to a son and the date this happened. Interestingly the details of personal items were not included in this document; I did discover them in the Civil War Pension papers.
While some of these places have closed, others have been absorbed into the Veterans Affairs (VA) Services or have been repurposed for other needs. As you research your Civil War Ancestor, take some time to check to see if they spent any time at one of these national soldiers homes. You might be surprised by what you can find. Happy searching!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.