Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ashley Judd’s Civil War Ancestor–WDYTYA

Ashley Judd’s appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? Friday, April 8, the last episode of Season 2.

Part of the episode focused on her Civil War ancestor, Elijah Hensley, her great-great-grandfather. Elijah Hensley was just 15 when he joined 39th Kentucky Infantry, Company I, a Union regiment.

Ashley Judd scrolled through microfilm at the Kentucky State Archives and found his muster roll pages.  Interestingly enough, Muster Rolls  are available online at and are free this week (until April 14.)

Here is Elijah Hensley’s muster roll.  It is several pages long and gives his physical description (5’ 7”, grey eyes, light hair, and fair complexion) , his capture by rebels, his leg amputation on 10/2/1864, his hospital stay, his recovery at home, and his discharge due to disability.

Ashley had tears in her eyes thinking of her ancestor as a 15 year old kid on the battlefield having his leg amputated without anesthesia and without sanitation. I had tears as well thinking of any 15 year old going though that horror especially after the amputation tools were shown.

Ashley said she wanted not just the records but also the stories behind them, and talked to Dr. Brian McKnight, a Civil War historian. After her talk with him, he sent her an envelope that contained a photo of Elijah Hensley along with a transcription of a testimonial describing him as doing Master's work in the Methodist church as well as being a farmer in Inez, Kentucky. 

The photo and testimonial were part of Elijah’s Civil War pension file available for Union soldiers at the National Archives.  Civil War pension records are well worth sending for as it is the pension files that have a lot of the stories behind the records.

If you want to find your own Civil War story, has made its records free this week only for the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

Not sure how if you have a Civil War ancestor? Download this guide to find your Civil War ancestor or follow this guide to determine if your ancestor was in the Civil War

Order your ancestor’s Civil War pension file online from the National Archives (NARA) and include the name, state, regiment, and especially the application number and the certificate number from the Civil War Pension Index Card, as NARA will not do research.

No comments: