Saturday, October 1, 2011

Who is Carl? - The First Steps

The other day I posted a "Genealogy Challenge - Who is Carl?" where I challenged genealogists to help identify the photo of an unnamed Civil War soldier based on several existing clues.  I've decided to keep writing about Carl and go through the process of asking questions, developing a research plan and looking for information.  It will be a fun exercise and I'm hoping you all will help me along the way.

Please keep in mind that I specialize in southern New England research. I am going to be completely out of my element researching information about the Civil War or the South.  I'm going to need your help!

Recently, Bill West of West in New England wrote about creating T Charts based on a concept from Val D. Greenwood's book The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd Edition.   In this exercise you draw a T on a piece of paper and then write what you already know on the left hand side and write what this suggests on the right hand side.

I thought this would be a good place to start with our mysterious Carl.

T Chart for Carl

Known Information
What this Suggests
The name of the person in the photo is Carl

Carl is not a completely common name in the mid-1800s in the United States. returned 1,168 ‘Carls’ (exact name search) from the 1850 US Federal Census out of a 23,191,876 total population as identified by Wikipedia using US Census records.  The uniqueness of the name should help in finding him.  Also there may be ethnic associations tied to the name. Because his name in the caption was written by his mother parent we can suggest it was written/spelled the way she it was intended when he was named.

He was 18 years old when he was killed on April 1, 1865

If he was 18 years old on April 1, 1865 he would have been born between April 2, 1846 and March 21, 1847 (Please check my math, I’m not always good with that!)

He was killed in combat during the fighting at Dinwiddie Court House (March 31) and Five Forks (April 1), shortly before Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The Dinwiddie Court House is located in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.  This was a Confederate victory yet there were more Confederate casualties at this battle than union.

The Battle of Five Forks also took place in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. This was a Union victory and there were many more Confederate casualties than Union.

This suggests that Carl was a Civil War soldier who was associated with a unit present at one or both of these battles.  It is unclear whether he was with a Confederate or Union company.
 [information from Wikipedia and not independently verified]
Possible identification: Carlos E. Rogers of Company K, 185th New York, who was killed on either March 29 or 30, 1865, at Quaker Road in Dinwiddie County. (Source: North South Trader's Civil War, vol. 35, 2010, p. 55)

This suggests that someone has done some prior research which may or may not be accurate.
The caption with the photo was written by Carl’s mother parent
This tells us that Carl’s mother parent (at least one) was still alive after April 1, 1865.
Carl’s hair was blonde
A locket of hair was included in the photo frame. Perhaps his blonde hair is a clue to his ethnic background.
“Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." [quote from Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2]
This, and the caption as a whole, suggests that his mother parent was educated enough to be able to write  in cursive and that she his parent was familiar with English literature.

Is there anything else you can add to my T chart for Carl? Can you infer any other suggestions based on what we know?

In the next post I'll start creating a research plan based on what we can infer from this T chart.


  1. Can I ask how you know the text is written by his mother and not by his father?

  2. Taco,

    Very good point! You've caught me making an assumption. No where on the original page does it say who wrote the caption. I think the overly sentimental aspect of the frame with the lock of hair and the photo of a child led me to assume it was written by the mother. But without substantial data to prove that only mothers created this sort of memorial, I really have no basis to suggest that. I will see if I can get some feedback from people who have more expertise in this area. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you for this introduction to the T CHART; I am using it this weekend on a newspaper article! I look forward to learning more about your research plan.

  4. In the Ancestry database "U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles" there are 2,628 entries with first name Carl. Some admittedly might be doubles. This database is helpful because each soldier's record contains live links to the units they served with. Clicking the link brings up the history of the unit which does tell the battles they served in. Very time consuming and tedious, but feasible. If you can locate a Dinwiddie County Historian specializing in Civil War you can likely narrow the field by getting the names of the regiments on both sides that were involved in those two battles. The same Ancestry database contains a list of soldiers for each military unit history, so you may find him that way.

  5. From the 2628 hits in the Ancestry db, if a filter of birth year of +/- 2 years from 1846, that yields 72 hits. None of these hits indicated that he mustered out in March or April of 1865. (Q: for KIA, is the muster out date the date of death, or the date that the paperwork was processed?)

    A surname has to be given to search the NPS site, so that's restricting. A search can be done on the site, but that's not a complete list, and it's only Union.

    fold3 shows 572 hits for "civil war" + carl + 1865. If a pension was applied for, then that excludes pension application dates before April, 1865. Sometimes the death date is shown on the pension record. Again, a tedious process, but doable.

    Are there any clues regarding the photo frame? (Maureen Taylor?)

    I now know a lot of names of who this guy isn't.