Historian to tell how to trace family members in Civil War

Lance Ingmire will talk about the great conflict between the states that began 150 years ago in a ta

Of all the military engagements in world history, the Civil War, more than any other conflict, continues to fascinate most Americans. Lance Ingmire thinks he knows why.

“For the first time, people had photographic evidence,” said Ingmire, a town of Stillwater resident and chairman of the New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.

“Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner began to photograph places and events during the Civil War, and that was the first time that had ever occurred for any military battle. It’s also really not that long ago, so people feel like they can make a connection with an ancestor and maybe even find a picture.”

Ingmire will talk about the great conflict between the states that began 150 years ago in a talk titled, “How to Research Your Civil War Ancestor,” Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

‘How to Research Your Civil War Ancestor’

WHERE: Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady

WHEN: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. refreshments and 2 p.m., presentation

HOW MUCH: Free for members, $2 for nonmembers

MORE INFO: 374-0263 or www.schenectadyhistory.net

“I’m entirely self-taught, but learning how to do this, learning the process, took the better part of 30 years,” said Ingmire, a Saratoga Springs native. “I’ve been doing it long enough that I learned a lot before we had a thing called the Internet. So, I’ll be talking a lot about the sources I use to do my research. I’ll have some old books with me, and I’ll be showing people how to use the National Archives.”

He has tracked down 14 relatives, 12 by blood and two by marriage, who served for the Union army during the Civil War.

“My great-great-grandfather was a captain in the 192nd New York Regiment and a first lieutenant in the 95th New York,” he said. “Most of my relatives were corporals and privates, but I do have one relative by marriage who was a colonel in the 24th Michigan, the Iron Brigade.”

Along with the photographs of men like Brady and Gardner, the Civil War also seemed to bring out an individual’s ability to write.

“There is so much written about this war, so many diaries and journals, and every American at that time was somehow affected by the war,” said Ingmire. “Everybody either had a father, a brother, an uncle who was fighting, and so many of them wrote about their experiences.”

His interest in the Civil War began when he inherited a few family items.

“I had the presentation sword of my great-great-grandfather, and I really didn’t know what it was or what it meant,” he said. “I also inherited other stuff, and that’s what served as a catalyst to start researching my ancestors, and that’s what really got me into the Civil War. Then, when I took my son’s Boy Scout troop down to Gettysburg for a tour quite a while ago, it turned into an obsession. Then, you start digging and you start finding things. Every time you find some connection between the Civil War and Saratoga County or Albany County it fascinates you, and you start looking for the next one.”

As chairman of the New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, Ingmire is the head of a consortium of other Civil War groups.

“We created the organization, and it was a grass-roots effort with no funding or money from the government,” he said. “It’s a shame, but fortunately there was enough interest from various re-enacting groups, museums like the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga, and other Civil War-related groups to form our commission. It’s all done by volunteers, and we’ve created a website so people can find out what kind of Civil War-related activities are going on throughout the state.”

Since April of this year, he has been a busy man coordinating several events as well as making public presentations like the one he’s doing Saturday in Schenectady.

“I’m working harder now than when I was employed,” he said, laughing. “My wife thinks I’m still working full time. It is a lot of work but I’m loving it.”

While the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter may have heightened the public’s interest in the Civil War and its legacy, Ingmire feels it was Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “The Civil War” that ignited a new passion about the conflict back in 1990.

“We had great historians like Bruce Catton write books about the war, but I think what Ken Burns did with his Civil War series is what really made the big difference,” he said. “He reawakened America about the Civil War. He mesmerized us with that documentary, and suddenly people wanted to know what their connection to the war was. He deserves all the credit in the world.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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