Get personal: Ask family members for names, dates, stories and information. Veteran’s obituaries are all but guaranteed to note their service in the Civil War. The 1860 census can provide an idea of where your ancestor was living when the war broke out one year later.
Ancestry.com: This online database include a large variety of documents, from census lists to birth, death and marriage records along with military-service information. Free trial; subscription costs vary depending on length of term and levels of access.
Familysearch.org: Maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from records compiled by their members. Includes census files along with birth, death and marriage records. All information is free and no registration is required.
Soldier indexes: These offer information on when a soldier was mustered in and out and the unit he was assigned to. Those injured or killed in action are noted. Ancestry.com offers an extensive searchable index of Civil War soldiers.
Illinois Civil War Veterans Database: The Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls database is a transcription of each soldier's entry in the record series, Muster and Descriptive Rolls. The database contains information about over 285,000 soldiers from Illinois who served in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion.
When and where: Unit information for your ancestor allows you to research which battles that group took part in. Ancestry.com offers links to details on each Civil War unit, but copies of many of those histories can also be found by searching through Google or other online search engines.
Pensions: “List of Pensioners on the Roll” notes all people receiving a Union war pension in late 1882. They are listed by their state, county and post office location. Injury/cause for pension is noted, along with the monthly stipend. Records from this five-volume series can be found for free online; Ancestry.com also offers a searchable index.
National archives: Request copies of your veterans’ military records at www.archives.gov. Cost is $25 for the general service record, $25 for basic pension file, and $75 for wider search in the pension records. There is no cost if your information cannot be found.
Veterans census: A special federal count of Civil War veterans and their dependents was made in 1890. However, records of states from the first part of the alphabet (including Iowa) were lost or destroyed.
Adapted from a list by Melanie Lageschulte as published in the DesMoine Register