Tracing Civil War ancestors

The Church is providing expertise and computer software for an effort by the National Park Service to help Americans find their ancestral links to the Civil War, according to a spokesman in the Family History Department.

The Civil War Soldier System was formally announced July 28 at a news conference in Washington D.C. It has received nationwide attention.By early 1996, visitors to any of the park service's 28 Civil War sites nationwide will be able to use a computer database to determine in which Civil War regiment and battle their ancestors fought.

It is estimated that up to 1 million people may be descendants of Civil War soldiers, and the National Archives, repository of war records, receives up to 1,500 inquiries each week pertaining to the records.

But beginning this month, volunteers across the nation will begin transcribing military information into the computer database from copies of 5.4 million handwritten records made after the war.

"We're providing the software for all of that data collection," explained A. Gregory Brown, manager, project coordination with the Church Family History Department. "It is a slightly modified version of the software used in the Church's extraction program."

He described it as a "win-win" partnership, because once the Civil War database is compiled, it will be made available as part of FamilySearch, a cluster of computer tools for research at the Church's Family History Library in Salt Lake City and at Church family history centers elsewhere.

In addition to the park service the project is being guided by the Civil War Trust, a non-profit foundation, with help from the National Archives, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the Church Family History Department (known in some quarters by its corporate name, the Genealogical Society of Utah).

"There are Church members who belong to these genealogical organizations who are volunteering their time to help with the project," Brother Brown noted.

For example, director L. Reynolds Cahoon of the Family History Department is on the board of the Civil War Trust, which looks after the acquisition, preservation and best use of the Civil War national battlefields. And Glade Nelson, a department manager, belongs to the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

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