Free Genealogy Resource for War Letters

Today's free genealogy resource is an interesting one. Most of us have ancestors that served in some military conflict in their lifetime. While historical records help us piece together their lives, nothing quite brings to life these individuals like their own words.

This morning I came across a collection at The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History called Battle Lines: Letters from America's Wars. This collection contains thousands of wartime letters from not only the soldiers that served in battle, but also their loved ones that stayed at home praying for their return.  The letters span from the Revolutionary War to the more recent war in Iraq.

The collection is divided into five sections referred to as chapters. Chapter one is enlisting, chapter two comforts of home, chapter three love, chapter four combat and chapter five the end of war. Clicking on a chapter brings up the first of the letters in the chapter.

On the left side of the page, you will find the names of the writers. Below the names, you will find information on the author of the pictured letter on the right side of the page. At the bottom of the left hand column is a picture that relates to the letter in some way.

The letters are scanned in. There is a moveable bar that overlays part of the letter. Moving it down the letter shows you a transcription of what is written. This can be helpful in some of the harder to decipher letters.

Some letters have multiple pages. If you look below the letter's image, you can navigate to the other pages. Also below the image is a button that allows you to navigate to the next letter in the chapter.

One nice feature about this free genealogy resource is it doesn't just include famous names. Letters to and from ordinary soldiers are included as well. Even if you don't find your ancestor's name in this collection, it's worth reading the letters to help you better understand the challenges they and their family members faced at the time.

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