Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ellis Bickerstaff, Member of the Grand Army of the Republic

When I learned a few years ago that my great-great-grandfather Ellis H. Bickerstaff served in the Civil War (for 100 days during the summer of 1864), I wondered if he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).  I recently became aware that FamilySearch has Pennsylvania's Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records from 1865 through 1936.  I knew that in later years Ellis lived outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so I decided to search the records.

There he was in Box 4, Image 109, Line 57.  Ellis often appeared as E. H. Bickerstaff in other records, too.
As I followed the line of information across the pages I knew this was my ancestor:  every piece of personal information in the record aligned with the information I'd already found from other sources.  (Click either image to view it larger in another screen.  Or go to the link just above the first image.)

Here is a transcription of the above record.
Number [on page].  57
Name.  E. H. Bickerstaff
Age.  30
Birthplace.  Steubenville, O.
Residence.       "     ["Homestead" is the location above the ditto marks.]
Occupation.  Carpenter
Date.  May 2 64
Rank.  Private
Co.  D
Regiment.  157 OV [Ohio Volunteer]
Date.  Sep 2 1864
Rank.  Private
Co.  D
Regiment.  157 O  [?]
Length of Service.  100 days
Cause of Discharge.  End of Term
Date of Muster into G.A.R.  July 29/82
When Honorably Discharged.  [blank]
When Suspended.  [blank]
When Dropped.  [blank]
When Dismissed  [blank]
When Reinstated.  [blank]
Nature of Wounds Received.  [blank]
When and in what Engagements Wounded.  [blank]
[Indecipherable due to darkened image.]

FamilySearch's Source Citation
"Pennsylvania, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1865-1936", database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 April 2016), E H Bickerstaff, 1865-1936.

I was thrilled to find this record but I still have questions about the books in which the records are found.  I went to the beginning of the book to see if I could find more information about how it was organized, the dates within the book, the location of its creation (if narrower than simply Pennsylvania) but found little to help me be more accurate in my personal citation and record-keeping.  The wiki at this link gives more information but doesn't answer my questions.  I will have to dig deeper.

Ellis was 30 when this record was created.  Because I know his date of birth (April 11, 1840) from other sources I can calculate that this record was created after April 11, 1870 and before April 10, 1871.  (I was unable to find a date of creation on the record.)

When this record was created Ellis was living in Homestead, Pennsylvania, but that he had been living in Steubenville, Ohio.  Ellis and his family were enumerated in the 1870 U.S. Census in Steubenville so the move to Pennsylvania came after June or July, 1870, and before April 10, 1871.

Knowing that Ellis was a member of the GAR may help me find newspaper articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s noting his membership, which may lead to a photograph.  (We can always be hopeful.)

My thanks to Michael John Neill for his post Pennsylvania, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1865-1936 which alerted me to this record set.


Copyright © 2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Very good! For me, one of the really fun things about finding records like this is that it does more than just confirm what I knew; it helps me figure out something else totally unrelated like the date of Ellis's move from Ohio to Pennsylvania.

    1. I agree, Wendy. That second or third piece of evidence for the same bit of information is good, but learning the details of a person's life is so much more interesting.

  2. This is a great record. Knowing more about what our ancestors were involved in adds depth to their life and their personality. I sure love learning every detail I can find.

    1. Yes, I love learning those details, too, Michelle. I think of names, dates, and places as the bare bones; all the other bits of information we can gather helps bring our ancestors to life again. Now I want to know if the GAR had meetings and how often, and what they did in the meetings. Did Ellis attend, participate? I hope I can learn more.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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