Monday, 30 June 2014

Just "Google It"

By:  Tina Marie

Sometimes the simplest research strategy can surprise you by providing a lead to a wealth of helpful information.  A few weeks ago, I decided to Google the name of one of my husband’s ancestors.  I chose his maternal 3x great-grandfather William Thompson because he was a Civil War veteran who we knew very little about.  Since his name was so common, I figured after I Google'd him there would be numerous resources that would have to be sorted through before I found the correct William Thompson.  That proved to be untrue.

June 14th early Saturday morning, I Google'd “William Thompson Civil War 29th Colored Regiment” and up came 444,000 possible results.  The first resource on the list was, "Researching African-American Soldiers of the Civil War."  It was written by Michael Hait on the website  The article covered the history of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War and how to locate their military records.

As I read through the article there was no mention of a William Thompson, then about ¾ of the way through the article there was a copy of a pension file for Sarah J. Thompson.  The author had used the document as an example in the article.  Sarah was the wife of William Thompson and she was applying for her widow’s pension.  Since I did not know if this was the correct William and Sarah Thompson, I didn't do the genealogy dance, but I definitely felt the excitement brewing.

Widow's Pension application for Sarah J. Thompson

As the article suggested, I linked to the website and searched for a military record for William Thompson.  I found his draft registration record, compiled military service record, casualty report, register of death, veteran grave site record, and the pension index.  I also was able to get a regiment history of his unit.  By the time I finished it was late Saturday evening and I had pieced together the life of William Thompson.

Civil War Draft Registration for William Thompson (4th from top)

William Thompson was born circa 1824 in New Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey.  He married Sarah Jane Mitchell on October 1, 1844, in New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut.  They had six children:  Mary (b. 1844), Harriet (b. 1846), Martha (b. 1848), William A. (b. 25 Jul 1852), Ann Elizabeth (b. 8 Aug 1854), and Stephen (b. 8 Dec 1861).  Martha is my husband’s direct ancestor.  William was a free man.  He volunteered enlistment on December 22, 1863, in Company H of the 29th Regiment Connecticut Colored Volunteer Infantry.  He was a cook at the time of his enlistment.  He fought in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights in Virginia on September 29 and 30, 1864, as part of the Siege of Petersburg.  There were 3,300 Union casualties from that Battle, and 391 lost their lives.  William was listed on the casualty list as wounded on September 30, 1864.  He was treated at Ft. Monroe General Hospital in Virginia where he later died on November 26, 1864.  He was buried at Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia.  Sarah and three of their children received a pension from the government.

I was fortunate to find out so much information about this ancestor.  Not all Google searches lead you to helpful information, but it sure was worth the try to "Google it".

29th Regiment Connecticut Colored Volunteers

Wm Thompson, Hampton National Cemetery (photo taken by Jim Adcox)


  1. Congrats! NOW do the happy dance!

  2. What comes to mind is how difficult this search could have been and the many hours, days, weeks and even years many of us gladly spend digging into our family's heritage. This is a special story of someone who willingly enlisted and unfortunately paid the ultimate price! I'd like to personally thank your ancestor for his service. Thank you William Thompson!

  3. I hope you are doing that happy dance now! What a wonderful day of discovery. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I'm a GoogleGirl too, Google has been similarly kind to me. I have found several good leads by doing searches such as yours.

    Thanks for highlighting the worth of this tool.


Hello, thanks for leaving a comment on the World Wide Genealogy Blog. All comments are moderated because of pesky spammers!

Best wishes
World Wide Genealogy Team