Thursday, January 7, 2021

5 tips to Researching Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Records

Was your Civil War ancestor one of the 400,000 Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) members? Finding these G. A. R. records and other state-held Civil War Union Veterans’ Association records can be challenging. Here are few tips, strategies, and resources to ferret out your Civil War soldiers’ post-war memberships to the GAR and other popular veteran associations. These records may include parents’ names, dates of births and deaths, and “new” military information. 

Finding G.A.R Posts Names and Locations
There are some resources that you want to protect. What if it disappears from the internet? When I found this G. A. R. posts name list with information on both the honored person name, remarks on the posts and references named I panicked. 

The a3Genealogy researchers as we find these lists across American states, we capture and save.  Why is this so important? Because it is through the names and locations of posts that we can chase our ancestors from one state to another.  

This Coffeyville, KS Post No 153 record located in the online Kansas Memory website allowed us to learn that one resident of Coffeyville, a member of the Post,  was actually born in OH.  As you review this book, you will note that none of these veterans were actually born in Kansas.  Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Alabama Civil War vets were found in Coffeyville, MO as members of this USCT post. In addition to finding birthplace, these records can lead me to their military service term and troop; the age leads us to otherwise hidden ages. 

Other Places to Research
1. Local Newspapers

2. The National Tribune
Did you know the newspaper "The National Tribune" pinpointed and detailed the activities of the GAR between 1877 - 1917? This newspaper can be found on the Chronicling America (Library of Congress)
The National Tribune

3. Library of Congress
The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies provides the researcher with many resources.  Visit: Library of Congress onsite for more information. 

Library of Congress - G. A. R. by State

As mentioned earlier, the issue is that researchers need to not only the location of the post, the naming of the post and the members of the post are more difficult to find.  But this state list of G. A. R. posts does provide us with the post name and the location when known.   
4.  Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War - G.A.R. Records Program
The depth of information compiled at the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War - G. A. R. Program is a treasure trove. That is why a3Genealogy researchers rushed to print the full copy. It is here that researchers can explore the GAR posts by state.  

5. African American G. A. R. Comrades
Africans Americans too served in the Civil War, Union Troops. These U. S. Colored Troops (USCT) veterans were allowed to join their white Comrades across America. Others established colored posts in their small and large towns across America.  
Integrated G.A.R. Post

How to Research for African American GAR Comrades
Here are a few tips to aiding your research for African American Civil War veteran ancestors through G.A.R. records:
  • Identify the "black" posts : Search the GAR Records by State on the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War website.  
  • Find (ctrl + F) the word "African" "colored" and/or "black" within the listing to narrow your search to your African American Ancestors
  • Remember encampments: As mentioned earlier, African Americans may joined their white Comrades across America in integrated (or at minimum "open" posts.) But to narrow your search be sure to check newspapers for encampment lists of attendees.

Researchers may also note veterans / GAR black members listed in newspapers.  In the example above of newspaper searches, we were researching a Willis Cox, USCT.  There were other Willis Cox - which one was ours? Our brickwall was solved through GAR records when we learned one joined the military under the name of "Willis Mills." Military records further explained his name change in his pension files.  

For more information read the Introduction to the G.A.R. 

May 2021 find you healthy and in good cheer!
Kathleen Brandt


  1. I did not know much about the GAR. Thank you. I have one ancestor who, when he died, had a number of Civil War veterans attend his funeral. Perhaps he was a member? I will put this on my radar.