Keys to finding your Civil War ancestors

As we now observe the sesquicentennial anniversary of our nation’s most divisive war, some of us may be wondering about our ancestors’ participation in that war. But, where might we begin this genealogical/family history quest?

The first place to look is on-line at or (formerly for Civil War Pension records. But not all soldiers received a pension. The filing process took so long that some died before collecting a pension. If they outlived their spouse and/or dependents, no pension was paid. Records for these individuals might be found in the national or state Service Record files and/or Muster Rolls. Another place to look is at the local level, where the soldier was buried.

Veterans’ graves in all of Ohio are/were registered at the County Recorder’s office. For soldiers buried in Cuyahoga County, the Recorder’s Office has compiled a Graves Registration list that can be searched at This list is an ongoing project in Cuyahoga County, in conjunction with the Memorial Day Association of Greater Cleveland. Their registry covers veterans from all wars. However, this collection is not complete and some errors exist.

Another place to look for your Cuyahoga County veteran ancestor is in an old ledger called the Soldiers Burial Record. The original burial records are housed at the Cuyahoga County Archives in Cleveland. The ledger chronologically lists the names of veterans, widows of veterans and some mothers of veterans, for whom Cuyahoga County paid part of their burial costs, spanning 1914-1938. 

These were the veterans of the Civil War, Spanish-American War or World War I. The name of the deceased, the cemetery, the date and usually the amount of the payment, as well as the undertaker and the committee members who approved the payment, are given. This date was usually 2 to 6 months after the date of death. Most burials were in Cuyahoga County, but many payments were made for burials out of the county and state, an important genealogical clue. 

This ledger refers back to a set of individually indexed volumes, the "Record of Committee on Burial of Ex-Union Soldiers."  Each volume covers about a twelve-month period of the applications, with approval or rejection of the ward committeemen. The veteran’s service and unit are given here, as well as actual date of death and cemetery.

In 1993, Lois Ippolito, former editor of Cuyahoga West O.G.S. Chapter’s "Tracer" newsletter, compiled an alphabetical index to this material and it was published in the Tracer, shortly after her death in November 1993. A chance discovery in 2005 revealed that over 1,000 names were not included in that initial printing!

Lois Ippolito’s successor, Jeanne Workman, has completed a revision of this index, combining and adding in the missed names and making numerous corrections, by cross-checking the ledger and the additional volumes. The printed index totals 30 pages and has been uploaded to Cuyahoga West Chapter’s webpage at, by webmaster John Noble. 

Included in this index are: name/ledger page, date of payment and cemetery or other burial location. This index is a good complement to the Veterans’ Graves Registration posted by the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office and is an excellent example of how your local volunteers work to provide aids that help you with your genealogical research.

Jeanne Workman recently authored "Pioneers of Westlake, Ohio: Settlers in 1820 and Their Families" and in 2003, edited "Maple Ridge Cemetery, Westlake, Cuyahoga County, Ohio: A History of Its People and Families." Both books may be purchased from Cuyahoga West Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS). The chapter offers free help sessions and informational meetings regularly at Westlake Porter Public Library, 27333 Center Ridge Rd. The next help session is Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 1-2:30 p.m., in the Computer Room. The public is invited. For more information, visit or email

Jayne Broestl

Publicity Chair for the Cuyahoga West Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.

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Volume 4, Issue 2, Posted 1:56 PM, 01.24.2012