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Overheard on the Message Boards: Elisha King in Civil War
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

November 7, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I'm searching for information on Elisha King. He appeared on the 1850 Georgia census, but not on the 1860. I've been told he was in the 27th Battalion, Georgia Infantry (Non-Conscripts). He may have moved to Alabama because he married for the second time to Martha Miller in Attala, Gadsten, Alabama about 1860. -- Sue

A: You may never find Elisa King in the 1860 census. While we would like to believe that our ancestors were always forthcoming with census enumerators, that wasn't always the case. In recording census information, enumerators weren't always as diligent in their enumerating as they could have been. There also times when someone was just simply missed because they moved from one area before the enumerator arrived and the got to the new area after the enumerator had gone through.

However, there may be a way to determine if the Elisha King who was in the 27th Battalion, George Infantry (Non-Conscripts) was the same Elisha King you find married for the second time to Martha Miller in Attala, Gadsten, Alabama. I do have to wonder though if you meant Gadsden, Etowah, Alabama. (There is no Attala or Gadsten in the USGS Geographic Names Information System.)

Service and pension records offer lots of information.

How Many Elisha Kings?

In your message, you mentioned the 27th Battalion Georgia Infantry (Non-Conscripts), but I did a search of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System to see how many Elisha King's it showed for the Confederate Army. While not complete yet, it currently has 5 million names and is a good place to begin when searching for a soldier. The system came up with seven soldiers named Elisha King. They are:

  1. Elisha King - 8th Regiment, Florida Infantry
  2. Elisha King - 10th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry
  3. Elisha King - 33rd Regiment, Tennessee Infantry
  4. Elisha King - 27th Battalion, Georgia Infantry (Non-Conscripts)
  5. Elisha King - 2nd Regiment, South Carolina Rifles
  6. Elisha B. King - 2nd Regiment, North Carolina Cavalry
  7. Elisha F. King - 4th Regiment, Alabama Infantry

The first thing you will want to do is to get more information on these seven individuals. While it is likely that you can rule out some of them right away, just by knowing that your Elisha King wasn't in the state in question or didn't have a middle initial, but because there are so few, I think I would go ahead and do a little investigating on each one of them.

The service records should help you in identifying your Elisha King. The service records include muster rolls and descriptive rolls among other things. The muster rolls will give you information about when Elisha mustered in and where, along with his age at the time he mustered in. This information should give you enough to identify your Elisha King.

While the service records are available on microfilm, they are not available through the Family History Library. Instead you will need to either visit a facility that has the microfilm or get the NATF Form-86. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System has the information needed to request the service records, by supplying you with the name, regiment, company and rank.

Pension Records

Because Elisha King was a Confederate soldier, his pension record will not be found at the National Archives. At the end of the Civil War, the federal government decided not to pay pensions to those who had fought against the U.S. government, this meant the Confederate soldiers. This would not change until well into the 1900s.

As there were widows of Confederate soldiers and disabled veterans after the war who could no longer make a living, these soldiers turned to their state governments for aid. These records are generally found at the state archives. You may find that some of them are available through the Family History Library on microfilm, as they have an excellent collection of Confederate records from the state level.

Finding the pension records will require identifying where Elisha was living from the end of the Civil War until his death. He could have applied for his pension at any time, so knowing where he was living is important. He did not have to apply for the pension in the state from which he fought.

You mentioned both Georgia and Alabama. You may want to read up on the records available for both. A good book to begin with is Confederate Research Sources, A Guide to Archive Collections by James C. Neagles. You will also want to visit Web sites for both state archives, as the archives are putting information about their holdings as well as searchable databases.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History has a searchable database of service records as well as information about the microfilmed pension records and the 1907 and 1921 Census of Confederate Soldiers. These censuses enumerate those Confederate soldiers living in Alabama, regardless of where they mustered in.

The Georgia Archives and History Division does not have a genealogy specific page, but they do offer a link to search their online catalog. This allows you to see the records they have on microfilm and in other formats so that you can find out what is available, though you may need to do the research at the archives itself.

Once you have some idea of the records you need, it is a good idea to search the Family History Library Catalog to see which records are available on microfilm through the Library. You can order records you are interested in to your local Family History Center so you won't have to wait to do this research until you could travel to Georgia or Alabama or hire a professional.

In Conclusion

There are a number of records and resources that will help you in determining if the Elisha King who mustered in to the 27th Battalion Georgia Infantry. Keep an open mind when working in these records. If you don't, you may find yourself trying to bend the information you find to make it support your idea that it is the right Elisha. It is always important to let the records give you that answer without any doubt.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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