By NATALIE EASTWOOD
The Carroll County Times
FINSKBURG, Md. (AP) — For those who have ever wondered if their ancestors were war heroes or war prisoners, Debra Hoffman, professional genealogist, will provide the tools to uncover the stories of Civil War soldiers buried in family lines.
At 7 p.m. Thursday at the Finksburg Public Library, Hoffman will explain how to begin the research for Civil War soldiers, a process that involves searches for documents such as prison and pension records, Hoffman said. Most of this research can be done online but sometimes it’s necessary to delve into old archives.
Hoffman said she began to investigate into her own ancestry when she was 10 years old.
“I had a soldier out of Kentucky who was a Confederate,” said Hoffman.
This soldier, Richard A. Webster, was not the first soldier Hoffman researched but definitely someone she has spent the most time researching, she said.
“You feel like you get to know (the soldiers),” said Hoffman.
Through prison records, Hoffman said she learned that Webster was captured as a prisoner of war in 1863 and released in 1865. Hoffman said that sometimes letters are found with the prison records, although she was not lucky enough to find any of Webster’s letters.
Some aspects of research differ when looking at Confederate and Union soldiers, said Hoffman. After the Civil War, Confederates were viewed as traitors and were not granted pension from the federal government, therefore were forced to seek pension from the state. As a result, there are different pension documents for Confederate and Union soldiers.
Hoffman said she will use examples of the soldiers, Confederate and Union, to walk her audience through the research processes for each.
Documents such as pension records can lend insight to the soldiers’ lives after the war. Hoffman said that her Kentucky soldier, Webster, entered the Civil War a wealthy man but returned home to live a life of poverty. The impact of the war on the soldiers’ families is one aspect that interests Hoffman, she said.
“Each one’s different,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said she wants to give others her knowledge of researching Civil War soldiers.
“I want to get people excited,” Hoffman said.
Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)