Breadcrumbs: Following the Paths Already Taken

Are you looking for entry into a lineage organization such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Daughters American Revolution? College students often turn to these organizations or start hunting up Cherokee ancestry in hopes of finding scholarship money. Other people just want to know where they came from. But finding answers to your genealogy, property history, and even military history questions can be daunting. While not everyone is lucky enough to work in a museum or library where documents are readily available, there are some nice resources out there. Let me introduce you to some of my favorites.

Military Records
Are you looking for Civil War soldiers? The National Park Service has created an excellent database for sailors and soldiers from the Civil War. They have the list of those who served, were buried, and were imprisoned, as well as some information on Medal of Honor recipients.

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database screenshot

National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database screenshot

Are you looking for gravesites?  If your soldier’s family applied for military burial or grave markers through the Veterans Administration, the National Cemetery Administration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a searchable gravesite locator. You can search by cemetery or by name. Be careful about putting in too much information, though. If your information does not match exactly what they have, no results will turn up.  Caveat: This will provide you only with information for applications submitted after 1997.

Department of Veterans Affairs Gravesite Locator screenshot

Department of Veterans Affairs Gravesite Locator screenshot

Cherokee Heritage
Are you looking for a Cherokee ancestor for a roll number? Many of the Old Settlers passed through Northwest Arkansas, so if you family has been in the area for several generations, you may have a Cherokee connection. Try the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center.  There are a couple of routes you can take on this page. Check out the Dawes Rolls, a list of individuals eligible for membership in the “Five Civilized Tribes”: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. Some Native Americans in Indian Territory did not want to be classified as Indian; a search of land records may lead you to these folks if they lived in the Territory between 1898 and 1914.

Property Records
Several times a month, we receive a research request for locating a building’s history. For some of the counties covered in our sphere, this is formidable. I rely on photographs and research files about architecture in the town where the building is located. But in Washington County, I have a few more options available.

First, if you have the legal description for any location in the United States (section, township and range) you can access the Bureau of Land Management.  Here you will find the original land grant and a copy of the deed. If  you are looking for an early settler who received a land grant from the government, you can also search by surname.

Bureau of Land Management land records search screenshot

Bureau of Land Management land records search screenshot

In Washington County, you can search for your location by address and you will receive the most recent—usually back to the 1980s—owners of a property by going to the County Assessor’s search page.  For records going back even farther, try the digitized records going back to the mid-1800s.

Alternative Family Tree Builder
Ancestry.com is an excellent resource for the avid genealogist. But what if you don’t want to pay a subscription? Or maybe you are just getting started and are not ready to commit. Most online genealogy sites are not one-stop shopping—not even the most popular ones. So keep that in mind as you forge ahead in search of lost relatives. If you want to try something a little more pedestrian, but with access to some of the same resources the subscription-based sites offer, try FamilySearch. It will provide you with suggestions, connections, and access to documents and sources for individuals. It also allows you to build your own family tree online (living family members are hidden from public view).

Other Sources
National Archives: digital records available
Arkansas Civil War: muster rolls
Chronicling America: digital newspapers
Gentry Newspaper: free subscription up to the 1940s
Fayetteville Public Library: obituaries from Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville Daily Democrat, Fayetteville Weekly Democrat

Still have questions?  Give me a call (479-750-8165) or shoot me an email.


Rachel Whitaker is the Shiloh Museum’s research library assistant.

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