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Family Archive Review:
Roll of Honor: Civil War Union Soldiers

(CD 351)
Reviewed by Dick Eastman

"The Roll of Honor: Civil War Union Soldiers" is a listing of approximately 191,000 Union soldiers who were buried in more than 300 national cemeteries, garrison cemeteries, and soldiers' lots, as well as many private cemeteries.

The Roll of Honor was first published in 27 volumes by the U.S. government between 1865 and 1871. These thick books were originally described as a memorial to "those heroes who have given up their lives on the altar of their country, in defense of the American Union." While a monumental work, the original 27 volumes suffered from one major flaw: there was no index. All 27 volumes were republished in an 11-book set in 1994 by Genealogical Publishing Company. In 1995 GPC published an "Index to the Roll of Honor." Martha Reamy, former editor of the Maryland Genealogical Society's "Quarterly," spent thousands of hours indexing every entry in these 27 volumes. Suddenly the huge volumes became practical to use.

The "Roll of Honor" lists the following information about each individual:

  1. Name
  2. Rank
  3. Regiment
  4. Company
  5. Date of Death
  6. Location of Final Burial Site
About two-thirds of the Union dead were reinterred after the end of the war. In those cases, the original burial sites are also listed.

The original volumes do have errors and omissions but are still the largest compilation of Union war dead ever made. This CD is identical to the printed versions with two exceptions: 1. It contains the new index. 2. An additional "Unpublished Roll of Honor" containing 8,000 additions to the original volumes was compiled by Mark Hughes and is also included.

The entire "Roll of Honor" series, including the index, can be purchased as 12 printed books (there are multiple volumes in each book) for $550.00 or as one CDe for considerably less! All 12 books now fit onto a plastic disk weighing one-half ounce that is much easier to use than the printed versions.

The Roll of Honor contains data that can be read by either of two programs: Family Tree Maker or Family Archive Viewer. Family Tree Maker is a general-purpose genealogy program, while Family Archive Viewer is designed to simply read the CDs. In both cases, version 3.02 or higher is required to use the "Roll of Honor: Civil War Union Soldiers." Both programs work well on Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT.


October 23, 1996

Related Data on CD-ROM
Military Records: Civil War Confederate Pension Applications Index
Military Records: Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865
Military Records: Massachusetts Civil War Soldiers & Sailors, 1861-1865
Veterans' Schedules: U.S. Selected States, 1890

More Articles
Bringing Civil War Ancestors to Life
More About Civil War Research

Helpful Web Sites
United States

On the Message Boards
GenForum: Civil War

After spending a few minutes reading the introductory notes, I went to the Index and entered the name of Malvin Eastman. Names are normally entered as [last name, first name], so I actually entered "Eastman, Malvin." Within 4 or 5 seconds, the name was found along with all the others that were close alphabetically. I clicked on the name, and the appropriate page appeared on the screen. It showed an entry for grave number 617 at the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. It also listed his rank as Private in Company K of the 15th Vermont Regiment. He died 8 December 1862. Almost all entries have similar information which, thanks to the Family Archive, can be located in seconds with a few keystrokes.

The original 27 volumes of the "Roll of Honor" have been scanned by computers. That is, an actual image of the original page appears on the screen. This is better for genealogy purposes than transcribed records or OCR (optical character recognition) scanning because there are no errors induced after the original printing. In most cases the scanned images are clear and easy to read. There are icons to zoom in and zoom out, which is helpful when reading the few pages that are not as clear as others. When going from the index to the original page, the software does not automatically display the line with the needed data. It normally shows the top part of the page that contains the individual you want. You may need to scroll down to find the person.

The complete image of the page in the original volume can be printed on any laser printer and most inkjet printers. One nice feature is that the bottom of every printed page has a reference to the original volume, such as "Volume IV, National Cemetery, Alexandria, Virginia." The page number is shown in the original scanned image. This results in a self-documenting record showing the actual source of the information. The printed pages from the CD look much nicer than the typical photocopies of the original volumes that genealogists have made.

A complete copy of a page can also be placed on the Windows clipboard and then imported into a word processor or graphics program. Again, this is a scanned image and must be used as such; that is, the individual words will not appear in a word processor and cannot be manipulated like normal text. A dedicated genealogist will probably prefer the image as it reduces the chance for transcription errors.

Some of the original pages have the word "colored" to indicate that the soldier was of African descent. Apparently several thousand African-American Civil War soldiers are listed. Also, some entries contain question marks, such as "B????, William". The question marks indicate that the name on the original hand-written record was either unknown or impossible to read.


When you obtain this CD, do not overlook the various reports and other texts on the disk. Most of the volumes contain background information about the various expeditions that catalogued the graves. I read a rather poignant report of the cemetery audit at the infamous Andersonville prison, conducted by Captain James M. Moore some months after the war ended. A lot of American history is contained within the CD besides the simple listing of names, rank and regiments.

In short, the "Roll of Honor: Civil War Union Soldiers" makes its extensive contents readily accessible and affordable to anyone with a personal computer. The program is easy to use, a bargain at less than 10% of the cost of the same information in print.


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Roll of Honor:
Civil War Union Soldiers
(CD 351)

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About the Author

Dick Eastman is the forum manager of the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe as well as the Genealogy Forum on WOW! and is the author of "YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer" published by Ziff-Davis Press. He will be featured in an episode in the upcoming "Ancestors" television series on PBS member stations.

Dick Eastman also writes a popular weekly newsletter of online genealogy news and reviews -- "Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter." You can subscribe to this newsletter by sending email to The message title and text can be empty.

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