After I published “National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers: A Surprisingly Rich Resource,” a reader contacted me and said she couldn’t find her ancestor in the registers. Family lore said that he was in “the soldiers home,” but his name wasn’t in the collections on Ancestry or FamilySearch. Though the National Homes are great resources, they aren’t the only places where disabled veterans lived after the war. There were also state soldiers homes.
State Soldiers Homes vs. National Homes
Various states opened their own homes for their disabled and indigent veterans. Many of these opened after the Civil War, like the National Homes did. They functioned in the same way as the National Homes — providing housing and medical care for veterans who didn’t have the means to take care of themselves.
The political reasons for these were numerous. Some states didn’t have a National Home; their veterans would have had to go far from family and friends to get care. Others wanted more direct control over the services provided to their veterans. Southern states had an additional reason for opening their own homes: Confederate veterans couldn’t be admitted to National Homes.
The criteria for entering a state soldiers home varied from state to state. Most had a residency requirement of some sort. Some would allow the admission of veterans’ wives and widows. (They would be housed in different buildings.)
Records for State Soldiers Homes
Three types of records that are especially useful to genealogists are the admission registers, admission applications, and annual reports.
Admission registers were usually kept in ledger books and give a recap of the veteran’s stay(s) in that facility.
Admission applications are just that: applications for admission to the home. They usually involve a form of some sort, but can also include affidavits and supporting documentation of why he or she meets the criteria for admission.
Annual reports can be quite detailed. It isn’t unusual to find:
- List of residents (or “inmates”) living there during the previous year
- List of deaths during the previous year
- Conditions at the home
The 1902 Annual Report of the Indiana State Soldiers’ Home lists everyone who was living in the home:
It also lists those who died the previous year:
Curious about what they had to eat? They have sample menus:
Frankly, I’m not sure I want to know what “pickle pork” is.
Finding State Soldiers Home Records
There are several places to look for the records of state soldiers homes:
Google Books and Internet Archive are especially good for finding annual reports. You’ll have to play with the search terms, but doing a general search of <state soldiers home> such as indiana soldiers home is a good place to start.
Some states, such as Virginia, have put their soldier home records online. (You can search or browse the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home Applications for Admission here.)
Also look in the Family History Library catalog to see what might be available on microfilm.
Do you have any ancestors who lived in a state veterans home?