Researching Your Orphan Brigade Ancestor
compiled by Geoff Walden
There are several steps you can take to find out more information on the military service of soldiers of the Orphan Brigade. This page will direct you to the major sources, as well as point the way to some of the more obscure references and resources.
The primary published sources for information on individual soldiers are the company rosters in Thompson's History of the Orphan Brigade and the Kentucky Adjutant General's Report (see our Recommended Reading List for complete citations). Thompson's notes for each soldier generally include his home town or county, the various ranks he achieved, the battles he fought in (including when and where he was wounded), and details on wartime deaths. The entries in the Adjutant General's Report generally show date and place of enlistment, promotions, and date and place of death, transfer, or discharge.
More complete information on each soldier's military service is available from records in the National Archives. Each soldier has a record (commonly called a "Compiled Service Record") showing the information that was recorded for that soldier in wartime military records such as muster and payrolls, casualty lists, hospital records, and prisoner records (for POWs). For a complete description of these records, including information on how to order a copy from the National Archives, click here. In addition to the original records in the National Archives, the Compiled Service Records are available on microfilm (Microfilm Pub. M319) in several Kentucky libraries, including the State Library and Archives, the University of Kentucky library, and the Louisville Free Public Library.
An important source of information on a soldier who lived long enough to take advantage of Kentucky's Confederate Pension law is his pension application and file. These files usually contain basic details on the soldier's military service, and also various genealogical and family data. Unfortunately, Kentucky did not pass a Confederate Pension law until 1912, by which time many deserving veterans had already passed on. The original state pension files are held by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives ("State Archives") in Frankfort (see below for address). Microfilm of these records can be viewed at the State Archives and the Kentucky Historical Society. An index to the files, showing name of applicant, husband's name (for a widow's application), residence, date of application, and application number, has been published in book form - Alicia Simpson, Kentucky Confederate Veteran and Widows Pension Index, Utica, KY: McDowell Publications, 1979. This index book is available in many Kentucky libraries, often in the genealogy research room. Copies of the pension applications can also normally be found in the county courthouses or record depositories, but these are copies only of the applications themselves, and do not normally have all the information in the complete pension file, as maintained by the state. Be aware that not all surviving veterans met the economic requirements for a pension, and some of those who did so never made application.
There are many secondary sources of information available -- these will be discussed below in the listing of where to look for records.
Where to look for records ...
Many larger libraries with good genealogy sections have, at least, copies of the Adjutant General's Report and the Confederate Pension Index. Some, even out-of-state libraries, have copies of Thompson's History of the Orphan Brigade. But for a sure source for these and other Kentucky Confederate records, a trip to Frankfort will be required. We list here the most important records holdings in Frankfort, with notes on their records of interest to Orphan Brigade research.
Kentucky Department for Libraries and
The State Library and Archives has the military service records on microfilm (M319), pension files (originals and microfilm), the Adjutant General's Report, and several useful books (see our Reading List). There is also a Register of Confederate Prisoners who died in Northern POW camps (microfilm M918). Confederate Amnesty records are available on microfilm M1003; these are mostly for citizens, but a few soldiers are listed. A listing of the residents of the Kentucky Confederate Veterans Home at Pewee Valley is available on microfilm. The archives staff conduct limited research and copying by mail; a personal visit is highly encouraged.
Kentucky Historical Society
The KHS Research Library, located in the new Kentucky History Center, holds the Adjutant General's Report, pension files (on microfilm), a Register of Veterans Graves (from a 1930s field survey), the residents listing of the Confederate Home in 1912, and other records of the Confederate Home (on microfilm). The library also holds all or most of the books on our Reading List. This is also the state's largest depository of genealogy records, with holdings representing every county. The staff can recommend local researchers who will do searches for a fee. If you plan a personal visit, it is highly advisable to call or write beforehand, giving the sources you wish to use, as some records (primarily original manuscripts) must be reserved in advance.
Kentucky Department of Military Affairs
This is an often overlooked depository of some very important Civil War records. The holdings include the Adjutant General's Report (and the original manuscripts used to develop it -- these are not, however, actual Civil War period muster rolls), the 1939 Register of Veterans Graves (and the original field files used to compile it), the 1912 listing of the Confederate Home (both original and microfilm), and the original records of the Kentucky Confederate Home from 1902-1917. The library holds many manuscripts on Kentucky military history; among these are the records of the Kentucky State Guard, 1860-1861. Many militia members who later joined the Orphan Brigade appear in these rosters.
Other Sources ...
The following libraries have several manuscript sources and photos of interest, and many of the books on our Reading List can also be found here:
Orphan Brigade Kinfolk Association
The Orphan Brigade Kinfolk Association was founded in 1987 by E. Porter Harned of Louisville, as a group for descendants of Orphan Brigade soldiers. The purposes of the group are to preserve the memory of the Orphan Brigade by gathering military and genealogical information, photographs, and biography on the original soldiers, and to present this collection, with updates on a recurring basis, to various historical repositories. The Kinfolk have had over 700 members join, with over 1500 photos of Kentucky Confederate soldiers gathered. An annual reunion is held each year, normally at the same location the Orphan Brigade veterans held their own reunions 100 years before. For further information, please contact:
John Lewis English,
Alice Rice Bratcher, Secretary/Treasurer
1529 Crosstimbers Drive
Louisville, KY 40245-8411
Current membership dues are $10 per year, or $100 for a life membership. For further information and a membership application, please contact the Secretary or Treasurer.
The Orphan Brigade Kinfolk now have a site at MyFamily.com. Go to http://www.myfamily.com and search for Orphan Brigade Kinfolk Association, or contact Alice Bratcher ARBratcher@aol.com for further info. There are many interesting photos, notes, and links at this site.
A final genealogy note ... If the grave of your Civil War ancestor is unmarked, or the original marker is either broken or old and illegible, you can get a military grave marker from the Veterans Administration, free of charge (you will have to bear any costs of having the marker installed). For more information, contact Geoff Walden at: enfield577 (at) live.com.
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This page last updated on: March 28, 2013
Comments to page authors:
Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at) live.com
All contents copyright ©1996-2014, Geoff Walden, Laura Cook. All rights reserved. No text or photos may be reproduced without the permission of the owners. We gratefully acknowledge the generous permission of the owners in allowing us to show their images and other information on this page.