Genealogy for Geeks, Part 4: Military Records

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Captain Jeremiah Mosher Sample of the 139th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company E. Photo: Jenny Williams.

One of the themes on our extremely long summer road trip is war in the United States, and, specifically, information about my Civil War ancestor, Jeremiah Mosher Sample, who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. We tried to visit his grave in Pittsburgh, but we were unable to find it. We were able to visit where he was shot at Gettysburg, however, and we also saw his name on the monument erected for those from Pennsylvania who fought at Gettysburg.

On our road trip, I was told by someone in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where that branch of my family is from, that my ancestor’s middle name, Mosher, was likely pronounced “mow-zhur” and not “mosh-er” like I thought. Apparently people with that name now who live in the area pronounce it that way. I found this to be useful information.

The bottom of Little Round Top is where my ancestor was mortally wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter. Photo: Jenny Williams

I recently learned much more about Jeremiah through my genealogy research. I found a little bit of information in the material that I already had, but I found much more from online searching, both at Google Books and Ancestry.com.

I started with some general searches on Google main site for my ancestor’s full name in quotes, along with shorter versions of his name. This kept leading me to Google Books, so I narrowed my search to just there. That returned many results about Jeremiah’s grandfather, Jeremiah Mosher, who served in the Revolutionary War. While I took note of those, I left him as a project for another day. But there wasn’t anything specifically for Jeremiah Mosher Sample. I learned from other sources that he was a Captain in the Civil War, so I tried using Captain Sample Gettysburg as my search terms. That returned some first person accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg, including information on my ancestor’s wounding. From those, I learned that Jeremiah was well-respected and was thought of as the Company’s “bravest and best”. He was thought of as old, even though he was only 45. But he already had 11 kids, so his line was pretty well assured. I also learned where and how he was shot, so during our visit to Gettysburg National Military Park, we were able to visit almost the exact spot where it happened.

Page one of an application to be a part of the Sons of the American Revolution. Image discovered through Ancestry.com

The search for my ancestor on Ancestry.com bore completely different fruit. (This is a great example of how using different sources nets a wider variety of results.) I found membership applications for Sons of the American Revolution (remember, my ancestor’s grandfather was in the American Revolution) along with official records and draft registrations from the Civil War. Looking more in more specific collections, I also found a veteran burial card, Civil War pension records, and various military histories. If you are looking for your own military ancestors, Ancestry.com also has plenty of records on veterans of foreign wars, and other documents kept by the military and other sources. Seeing scans of actual documents signed by your actual long-dead family members helps them to be much more real.

Check out Ancestry.com and Google Books to research your own family history. Ancestry.com has plenty of free things to do, including the ability to host and share your family tree, or you can sign up for a membership and dig deeper into your history to learn about your family’s origins.

Earlier posts in this series included Part 1: Who Do I Think I Am?, Part 2: Census Records, and Part 3: Published Histories.

Note: Ancestry.com provided me access to their records for the purposes of these reviews.

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