If you know you have a local Civil War ancestor but aren’t sure how to launch your campaign to find him, take heart. You have everything you need to get started right here in Wyoming Valley.
Once you have your 1861-1865 military man’s name, go to “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers,” by Samuel Bates. Start with the last four volumes, an alphabetized index published in 1994 giving basic information (enlistment date, injuries, discharge) for each soldier.
Armed with the ancestor’s name (watch for variant spellings) and regiment, look up the regiment in the first nine volumes, published in 1869. You’ll find, among other items of information, the regiment’s structure and history. Appendices cover corps badges, abbreviations of military terms and other useful facts.
The name and regiment will be sufficient for you to go to the National Archives website and fill out the request form for the soldier’s military and pension records. Search at www.archives.gov.
There is more local information available. If your ancestor was an important figure in the community, some of the older history books that are heavy on biography could be of interest to you and even offer a photo. The largest one is the Smith-Harvey “History of Wilkes-Barre and Wyoming Valley” (1929). This work, incidentally, offers in Vol. IV, Chapter XLVI, a listing of regiments and companies that enrolled local men.
“History of Luzerne County, Pa.,” by H.C. Bradsby (1893) gives good information on local troops in Vol. I, Chapter 7. Emerson Moss’ book “African-Americans in the Wyoming Valley” (1992) contains in Appendix B a list of local black troops and their regiments.
“Serving Their Country, Defending the Commonwealth” (2013) by William V. Lewis Jr. does not give rosters, but it does discuss local regiments and troops in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.
All these books are available at the Luzerne County Historical Society’s Bishop Memorial Library, 49 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre.
Many more works are available there, including picture books showing everything from early militia groups to the magnificent GAR Hall the veterans built on South Main Street. City directories, which start in 1870, can tell you where an ancestor lived locally after the war.
As for soldiers’ graves in the region, consult “Gone But Not Forgotten” (2001) by Ryan Lindbuchler. The text has a lot of good stories and photos, and the accompanying disc will give you the burial sites.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac published an annual list of local deaths. If you have a veteran’s name, you might find his obituary in the newspaper microfilm.
Records Update: Local researchers will soon enjoy digital access to more of the area’s historic weekly newspapers, thanks to the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s ongoing records preservation program. The group expects to complete the entire run of the West Side Weekly (ceased publication 1998) this summer and has begun work on the Wyoming Observer, a Sunday paper (1967-1979). The Dallas Post, an active publication that dates back more than a century, is slated for digitizing this fall.
“We have a number of churches, cemeteries, books and other vital records on a waiting list,” said President Alan P. Drust recently. Anyone who has good computer skills and is willing to help with the project is asked to contact Drust at email@example.com.
The society’s research library is in the caretaker building on the grounds of the Hanover Green Cemetery, Hanover Township. It’s open to the public Thursdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and the second Saturday of the month noon-4 p.m.