National Archives releasing Civil War records online

Wednesday - 4/6/2011, 4:58pm EDT

Records are 'first line of real connection,' Burns says

Filmmaker Ken Burns says the Archives' records can help make the Civil War more personal. WTOP's Nathan Hager has the story.

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Filmmaker Ken Burns looks at a book of Civil War draft records during a news conference at the National Archives in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The Archives, in conjunction with Ancestry.com, is making newly digitized Civil War records available online. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Nathan Hager, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - With the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War now just days away, the National Archives is trying to make it easier for amateur historians to learn more about the War Between the States -- and to make it more personal.

The Archives has teamed with Ancestry.com to release millions of documents from the era online, including Civil War draft registration records from 1863-65 and the censuses of 1860 and 1870.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns relied heavily on records housed in the Archives during research for his epic PBS series, "The Civil War." He evoked the words of President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inaugural address as the Archives announced the digital release of its Civil War trove.

"In the last line of his speech he talked about the mystic cords of memory that he hoped might evoke the better angels of our nature," Burns said. "These mystic cords of memory can be found right here" in the Archives.

Ancestry.com is making the Archives' Civil War records, as well as its own collection of documents from the era, available for free from April 7-14. After that, monthly fees range from $12.95 for a year's subscription to $19.95 on a month-to-month plan.

Ancestry's Civil War collection is available here.

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