Accompanying Papers File – US House of Representatives

Introductory Speaker: Hello everyone, welcome to the National Archives Know Your Records lecture series. The customer service division conducts these lectures weekly throughout the year with the goal of familiarizing researchers and our staff with the great variety of resources available in our holdings. Each lecture is delivered twice, by the way. Once at the building in Washington, D.C. and again here at College Park. In addition, most of the talks are videotaped and made available to our regional facilities and to libraries through interlibrary loans. For a listing of upcoming events, please pick up one of our calendars of events available at the various kiosks and literature racks in both buildings and online at And lastly, please sign in at the back of the room and please take the time to fill out a copy of our evaluation form. It’s one of the best ways we have of finding out what our audience wants so that we can focus our lectures and other programs on the areas of greatest interest to you. Today we’re happy to have two speakers who will discuss the Accompanying Papers File, U.S. House of Representatives, which encompasses a specific series of bill files retained in claims, pensions, and other forms of private relief, submitted directly to the U.S. House of Representatives, in this case from 1865-1903, and their supporting documentation. Our two speakers are Rebecca Sharp and John Deeben; both of whom are archives specialists with our research support branch in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Sharp specializes in federal records of genealogical interest. She graduated with departmental honors in history from McDaniel College. John Deeben holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Gettysburg College and Penn State University. After the presentation we will have time for questions, so if you could hold them to the end. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome John Deeben and Rebecca Sharp. John Deeben: Thank you very much. As Tom mentioned, we’re going to be talking about a very specific series of private claims records from Congress called the Accompanying Papers File. Now just to give you a little bit of background to start out with, most people are relatively unaware that the records of Congress represent a largely underutilized source for family and local history information. Even though the public today generally equates the business of Congress with public policy matters, budgets, taxes, and international treaties, there was a time when Congress interacted more directly and more intimately with the private needs and concerns of ordinary citizens. Consequently, the records generated by these private claims often contain detailed descriptions of the lives, families, activities, living conditions, possessions, and even the thoughts of literally hundreds of thousands of private individuals. So for this reason, private claims should be considered an essential source for genealogy research. From the beginning of the government in 1789 to at least the middle of the 20th century, Congress served as a heavily used outlet for private citizens to seek legislative redress for personal grievances. The right to petition Congress was guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution, which reads in part, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The right to petition thus allowed citizens to present opinions or requests to the government on any public or private issue. Private legislation therefore related to the relief of individuals, specific groups of people, businesses, or institutions. Public laws, by contrast, applied usually to all of society or to general classes of people. Grievances typically arose when the personal interests of individuals clashed with the policies or actions of government, especially when harm or injury of a physical or financial nature resulted. In these instances Congress served as the court of last resort where the individuals who were adversely affected by these actions could obtain justice and redress after all other administrative and judicial channels had been exhausted. Congress typically considered several kinds of private claims including refunds, waivers, and payment of damages resulting from negligent or wrongful acts. Refunds usually relieved an individual of obligations to repay money to the government, while waivers relieved an individual from some type of statutory provision, restriction, or other type of limitation. All manner and type of documents you may be able to find in these private claims, including such things as petitions, memorials, affidavits, letters, printed copies of the House resolutions relating to the claims, and other documentation to either support or oppose claims or relief for which a private bill was introduced in Congress. Depending on the specific subject matter, sometimes you’ll be able to find something like maps, mechanical drawings, published reports, and sometimes photographs and newspaper clippings may appear as well. Rebecca Sharp: I’m going to talk to you a little bit about the organization of private claims records. From 1789-1946, private claims records comprised approximately 16% of the records from the U.S. House of Representatives alone. That’s 1,460 cubic feet out of 9,100 cubic feet. Private bill files comprise an additional 1,600 cubic feet of records from both chambers of Congress. From 1789-1909, over 500,000 private claims were submitted to Congress. Records of Congress relating to private claims were filed in various manners throughout the years in both the House and Senate committee papers, including series on petitions memorials also arranged by committee, containing the principal documentation relating to legislative bills for private relief. From 1816-1946, the Senate maintained three distinct committees relating to claims. There was a committee on claims, a committee on private land claims, and a committee on revolutionary claims. At various times from 1794-1946, the House had no less than ten different committees that dealt with private claims issues. As you can see from this list, the house typically dealt much more frequently with private legislation. As the workload increased, additional committees were created to share the burden. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 eliminated all private claims committees and relegated private claims legislation to the House and Senate Judiciary committees. During a specific period of time in the House of Representatives, from the 39th to the 57th Congress (1865-1903), paperwork relating to private claims including pensions and other types of relief was also collected into a separate series of records called the Accompanying Papers File. This series was an artificial construction bringing together the private bill files and related records of the various claims committees and arranging them for each Congress in a single alphabetical sequence. The Senate followed a similar arrangement for their private bills and related papers from 1887-1901, and this series is known as the Supporting Papers. The House Accompanying Papers File was discontinued after the 57th Congress in 1901-1903. All individual committees started using a more systematic filing system for their bill files. The papers for each Congress were grouped by committee, but were arranged numerically by bill or resolution number. Except for those committees holding private claims bills, in which case the bills and related papers continued to be arranged alphabetically by claimant or subject. These bill-related paper series are now designated under each Congress’s papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions. They remain arranged separately from other committee papers as well as petitions memorials that were referred directly to committees. John Deeben: Okay, we’re going to look at specific types of private claims, beginning with pension claims. Now for the propose of this study, we’re looking at claims from the first six Congresses of the Accompanying Papers File covering 1865-1877, which was the period of Reconstruction. We’re examining in-depth to determine what types of specific private claims were being submitted to the House in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. And in the process, some interesting aspects of both family and local history begin to emerge. To begin with, for this time period there were a total of 10,136 claims for the 39th through the 44th Congresses. Not surprisingly, almost half of those – 42% – related to claims for military pensions; over 4,200 files. Of these, again, the vast majority – about 70% – not surprisingly relate to Civil War pensions; almost 3,000 files. The next largest group of pensioners came from surviving veterans of the War of 1812 at 13%, followed by the Mexican War at 3%, the Revolutionary War at 2%, and the old Indian Wars from the early to mid-19th century. And these included veterans from the Northwest Indian wars of the 1790’s, the First, Second, and Third Seminole Wars, the Blackhawk War, the Creek War of 1836, the Cherokee Disturbances, the Cayuse and Rogue River Wars in Oregon. And also represented was one veteran from the Barbary War of 1805 and one veteran from the Mormon War of 1857. And in addition to that, 10% of the claims also related to miscellaneous peacetime service in the regular army or other types of service that we couldn’t determine just from the existing documentation. Now typically, most people submitted pension claims to Congress because they failed to obtain pensions through the regular application process. In most cases they either failed to prove a disability that stemmed directly from military service or they missed a statute of limitations for filing their claims. Widows in particular proved to be unfamiliar with the rights under the existing pension laws. Sometimes they failed to prove their legal relationship to the deceased solider or else they filed for a pension after remarrying, which often negated their claim. So in these situations they therefore needed and sought intervention from Congress to receive redress and justice. And a good case in point of this is the Civil War pension claim of Margaret Boucher. Boucher’s husband Michael had served in the 26th Regiment of the District of Columbia Militia during the war, and he died. And as this report from the Committee on Invalid Pension indicates, Margaret failed to receive a full widow’s pension through the regular channels because she was ignorant of the provisions of the law and did not make application for benefits within the three year time limit for filing following the date of her husband’s death. So instead she only received a pension that started from the date of her application for the benefits. And after reviewing her case, the committee determined that she was in fact entitled to compensation dating from the death of her husband, so she ended up receiving three additional years of pension payments. Similarly, the Civil War pension of John D. Toy was granted by special act of Congress after his regular application had been rejected. The particular bone of contention in this instance involved the state of his health. Toy apparently contracted lung disease during the war from exposure, which he described on his pension application as incident to army life in the line of his duty. His discharge paper, however, erroneously stated that Toy had been treated for the disease prior to his enlistment. So on the basis of that single statement the pension office rejected his claim, believing the disease had been a preexisting condition. After his death, Toy’s widow succeeded in marshalling enough evidence to refute the statement and prove that her husband had been in sound health before the war. So the House Committee on Invalid Pensions accepted that evidence and granted the widow her pension. Rebecca Sharp: The next largest portion of claims relates to indemnity claims stemming from the Civil War. That’s 13%, or 1,268 claims. War claims dealt not only with real estate and personal property losses resulting from the conduct of the war, caused by either Union or Confederate troops, but also financial losses related to supplies provided to Union forces often times under official government contract. These usually took the form of quartermaster goods or commissary stores, but sometimes included manufactured goods such as saber blades and haversacks. Haversacks were bags that carried rations. Commissary goods generally consisted of food stuff, while quartermaster goods included military equipment such as weapons, but most importantly bridles and saddles. And I’ll get to the importance of that a little later in the presentation. Other claims involved personal or professional services rendered under the U.S. government or military forces during the war. Such claims included services as an army scout or spy, civilian nurse, military chaplain, contract surgeon, recruiting agents, and sometimes personal aid and comfort given to Union refugees or prisoners of war. Some claimants sought compensation for participation in noteworthy events relating to the war such as the capture of Jefferson Davis, the capture and prosecution of several Lincoln murder conspirators, and famous military events such as the sinking of the C.S.S. Alabama. To a much lesser extent, other wars are represented as well. A few left over property claims appear for damages perpetrated by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. My first example is that of William Jewell College, and it’s an example of property damage and occupation. Federal troops occupied the college campus, which is located in Missouri, twice during the Civil War. On September 17th, 1861 and approximately a month thereafter, the college edifice was used as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. For several weeks during the month of August 1862, Federal troops dug trenches around the college edifice and made other fortifications. Damage to college property amounted to $12,000. And what you’re looking at right here is a statement from the board of trustees for the college describing these damages. They included broken windows and furniture, the loss of valuable books, the loss of a mineral collection, maps, manuscripts, and a philosophical apparatus. The file folder for Mrs. E. A. Ratcliff is an example of a claim for services rendered to military forces during wartime. Mrs. Ratcliff ran a depot eating house, which was located at the depot of the Central Ohio Railroad. The following is an excerpt from her petition for compensation for the expenses associated with feeding troops during the Civil War. “Sympathizing actively with the government and its efforts to suppress the rebellion, and feeling grateful to the soldiers and desirous to alleviate their labors and sufferings, so far as might be, she fed all sick, wounded, disabled, destitute, and other soldiers who passed so far as they called without charge and without compensation. In the transfer of troops, she fed very many passing through Zanesville, for a great part of which she received nothing, and for others only a nominal sum. She believes that by these means, including tableware destroyed, she expended about $5,000. She is by said means reduced to comparative destitution, is growing old and very infirm. She appends here on two affidavits verifying her said claim and showing the extent of her contributions.” Also included with this petition is a list of employees that were working for Mrs. Ratcliff. And what’s interesting is you see their occupations as well, such as Hannah Sullivan. This is her mark, and she worked as a cook. Before I go on to my next example, I have a little confession to make to all of you. I have a little bit of a life outside of the National Archives which revolves around horses. I’m a proud owner of a horse, and I also do horseback riding. So this is a really good opportunity for me to combine my passion for horses and history, because there are very numerous examples within the Accompanying Papers that revolve around horses. The first example that I have is that of John Spicer, and it’s an example of a financial loss to a government contract. During the Civil War John Spicer made a contractual agreement whereby he would provide 2,900 horses to the U.S. government. Shortly before delivery the War Department changed the terms of the contracting, causing Mr. Spicer to be unable to complete the contract. He did not receive the complete payment, and he was also imprisoned for a little while. John Spicer’s petition reveals that he wanted a bill of relief for the amount of $58,000 to compensate him for his losses. This is an example of a case where the end result may not be found within the accompanying papers. Sometimes it’s unclear as to whether or not the individual received compensation, so it may be necessary to consult other congressional sources. The file folder of John F. Lewis is an example of a claim for a horse confiscated by the military. John Bought was the owner of Commodore, a valuable thoroughbred breeding stallion with rich racing bloodlines. In the summer of 1863, the horse was stabled at a farm in Tennessee under the care of Mr. Lucius J Polk. Federal troops seized Commodore and he was later publically auctioned off by an official of the United States Treasury for $305. Since Mr. Bought was behind Confederate lines, he was totally unaware of the fact that his horse had been sold, and after the war was sold. After the war the new owner contact him and informed him of what had taken place. The accompanying papers ought to contain examples of claimants who tried to settle an estate after the death of an individual. In this case John F. Lewis was the administrator of John Bought’s estate, and he petitioned Congress in 1864 for compensation for the loss of Commodore. In his petition he emphasized the insignificant price for which he was sold when it has been shown that he was worth thousands. The papers relating to Joseph D. Moyer’s claim are an example of a petition for compensation for a horse killed during the Civil War. Mr. Moyer’s testimony reveals that he stabled his horse while visiting Jacob Rudy on March 14, 1864. The stable just happened to be located near the railroad, and around the same time members of the 93rd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry boarded a train. And this is a direct quote out of the petition: “As the train moved off from the depot, the soldiers in the cars belonging to the said regiment fired their guns out the windows of the cars recklessly, carelessly, and wantonly. A ball from one of the said guns passed through the stable in which this deponent’s horse was being taken care of, and hit and killed the said horse belonging to said deponent.” In his testimony Joseph Moyer seeks reimbursement for the horse, which was valued at $250. Richard H. Garrett wrote a letter to the Committee of Claims for the House of Representatives to request compensation for the damage done to his property during the capture of John Wilkes Booth in April 1865. And this is an excerpt out of that letter, in which he emphasizes the use of excessive force in the following statement: “It is not such a claim as ought to be looked upon as a war claim. The harming of my property was done in the endeavoring to capture a fugitive from justice, and was done, as I humbly conceive, unnecessarily, as there were about thirty soldiers surrounding the house and only one man, Booth, in it when it was burned.” Mary Allen petitioned to request a share of the reward due her late husband George B. Allen for participating in the capture of Jefferson Davis. A letter from the War Department, which you see up here, is attached to the petition. In the letter Henry Goodfellow, the judge advocate of the U.S. Army, advises Mrs. Allen to petition for a special act of Congress since her husband’s name was not listed on the act of Congress authorizing the distribution of the reward for the capture of Davis. Now I’m going to move on and talk to you a little bit about the Civil War court martial claims. There’s very numerous petitions seeking relief from military court martial convictions during the war within the Accompanying Papers. These claims cover a variety of military infractions. Most relate to private soldiers who were convicted of desertion or being absent without leave. In most cases, these soldiers petitioned Congress to overturn their sentences and grant them honorable discharges so that they would then be eligible to receive back pay and allowances, and also to apply for a pension. Other court martial claims relate to charges against officers that reflect the usual gamut of offenses; such as showing disrespect to superior officers, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and submitting false reports and accounts to the government. Now can anybody guess what kind of example I’m going to be using? This is one of the most humorous ones that John and I came across when we were doing the description process. It’s the court martial claim and papers relating to Lt. William Spriggs, who was convicted by court martial of what amounts to an early D.U.I.; he was publically intoxicated while riding a horse. In his written testimony, Lt. William S. Spriggs reveals the nature of the charges brought against him: “It is not true that I ever used any language disrespectful towards the president, as I was charged. I was charged with being intoxicated and riding on horseback just after the Gettysburg fights. That I have sometimes tasted liquor as every other officer did during the jollification after our victory at Gettysburg I do not deny. But that I rendered myself unfit for duty thereby I deny. Every officer and soldier who testified at the court martial that tried me swore that I always did my duty.” John Deeben: Also within the Accompanying Papers are quite a surprising number of patent claims, which make up about 3% of the sample that we looked at. Patent claims typically involve requests to Congress to renew or extend existing patents, although a few petitioned Congress to grant patents for applications after the U.S. Patent Office had rejected them. Some patent claims also sought compensation for patent violations. This situation occurred often during the Civil War when the U.S. military sometimes utilized patented devices or procedures of a military nature apparently without permission, which probably should not be surprising. Some of these patented devices included such things as cartridge chokers, cap cartridges, an improved magazine gun, a device to trim and gauge bullets for small arms, a mechanism used in the Springfield breach-loading rifled musket, certain armor for vessels, a torpedo apparatus, and an improved method for casting spherical projectiles. A few patent claims also sought government support and funding for new invention trials and experiments such as the one submitted by Alonzo Livermore of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania who petitioned the 39th Congress to test the invention that he called Livermore’s Improved Chute to facilitate and improve river navigation. His patent claim application included a diagram of his invention. And this is a copy of the diagram. And if you can make more sense out of it than I can you’re probably ahead of the game, because I’ve studied it up and down and sideways and I’m still not sure what he was trying to accomplish. But anyway, probably the best known invention that we found among the patent claims was the one submitted for an extension by Joshua C. Stoddard for a petition to renew his apparatus for producing music by steam or compressed air, or what we know as the calliope. Now also within the Accompanying Papers were numerous claims relating to depredations committed against western settlers by various tribes of Native Americans. Settlers often petitioned Congress for relief in these cases because the Federal government held jurisdiction in all matters relating to Indian Affairs. For the most part these types of claims involved destruction of property and stealing of livestock and other types of supplies. However, occasionally they also involved injuries and death to individuals. A particularly poignant example that we found was the claim of John S. Friend, whose family was attacked by Comanche Indians in February of 1868. The House resolution concerning his claim approved a payment of $6,500 to cover not only general losses from the attack, but also reimbursement for money that Friend expended in recovering his child from captivity – the Indians had actually taken him – as well as medical expenses for his wife, who was scalped, stabbed, and shot with arrows and apparently survived. Some claims also offer detailed glimpses of life into the plains as well. In the spring of 1866, William L. Robinson outfitted a wagon train of 10 wagons, 43 mules, and a horse at Atchison, Kansas to transport freight to Virginia City in the territory of Montana. Along the route the train was attacked by Indians. Robinson’s subsequent petition to recoup the losses from the attack contained a detailed narrative of the wagon train’s trip across the plains including a description of the route that they took, various points of interest, and the forts that they visited, as well as a day-by-day account of the Indian attack. Rebecca Sharp: The remaining portion of private claims deal with a wide and miscellaneous variety of topics. Some that stand out include claims seeking compensation or payment of government contracts. Many of these have to do with the carrying of U.S. mail along remote routes and to the western territories. There’s also indemnity claims relating to stolen property. And many of these have to do with stolen postal stamps. They seemed to be pretty popular for theft at that time. There’s also ship owners seeking American registers or a change of name for their vessels, and there’s general services rendered to the U.S. government. An interesting handful of claims relate to specific historical events. These include the French Spoliation claims, claims for commercial property damaged or destroyed by French warships during the undeclared naval war with France in the 1790’s. Also represented are several claims for property destroyed as the result of the Chicago fire of 1871. The 43rd Congress from 1873-1875 included several claims about the upcoming 1876 Centennial Exhibition suggesting legislative guidelines for the organization of the national event. It is also important to note that some miscellaneous claims were filed among the company papers under subject files. These claims differ from the others in that they were generally submitted by organizations or groups of citizens rather than groups of individuals. Their claims are identified and filed by the subject matter of their petitions. For example, from the 40th Congress there are subject folders for bridges, ships, citizenship, harbors, Indian affairs, and rivers. Most common, however, are subject folders relating to states which contain petitions memorials submitted to congress by legislators or communities. Typical is the file form Pennsylvania from the 43rd Congress which contains petitions from citizens and communities relating to improvements to the harbor at Eerie, indemnification to the Colombia National Bank of Pennsylvania for the destruction of the Columbia Bridge during the Civil War, and the removal of the naval asylum from Philadelphia to Annapolis. Now on occasion, petitions of very unusual nature come to light when you’re looking through these file folders. And this is one of the most unusual ones I came across when I was going through the description process. What I came across were pieces of tissue paper with these fragments glued up on there. And I became very curious and started trying to find other documentation to explain what was going on. And what I found was a Senate report that reads as follows: “On the 25th day of December 1870, the petitioner gave as a Christmas present to his nephew, then four years of age, a coupon bond of the value of $50 #92711.” You can see that number right here. “Known as a 5-20 20 year bond, with all the coupons from January 1, 1871 attached. The bond was sent to the child by his mother, but she had no knowledge of what it was nor of the course of its value. Seeing it in his hands, she supposed it was a piece of fancy paper sent to the child for his amusement. The child while thus playing with it tore it into many pieces and the mother picked up many, perfectly unconscious of their value, and threw them into the fire. The value of the paper being discovered, sufficient of the fragments were found to show the denomination of the bond, its number, and the corresponding numbers on four of the coupons. The date of the bond also appears in the act of Congress under which it is issued. The petitioner applied to the Secretary of the Treasury for the issue of a new bond in place of the old one, so mutilated, and was advised that there was no authority to grant a request of this kind unless every portion of the paper could, upon examination, be identified. He was also advised that his only available relief was by act of Congress. “In the opinion of your committee, this is a case where the relief can be granted, especially under the provisions of this bill, without danger to the government. They recommend the passage of the bill.” Now although the file does not reveal the end result, it looks as though the Senate was in favor of granting relief to Mr. Baker. Also in that file there are affidavits to reveal the names of the mother and child. The young boy was George B. Mulholland, and his mother was Cynthia A. Mulholland. Some of the other interesting examples we found while going through the description process was a petition seeking funding from Congress to conduct experiments involving the artificial production of rain. There’s a petition seeking to amend the U.S. constitution to include language acknowledging God as the architect of America’s Christian government. There is a petition seeking a land grant in the Rocky Mountains to introduce Peruvian sheep into the United States. According to this petition, the Rockies best replicate the sheep’s native environment of the Andes Mountains. There’s also a file folder for a Moses H. Sydenham from the 42nd Congress who was the late assistant marshal for the census. He sought compensation for injuries received while taking the 1870 census in Nebraska. Can anyone guess how he hurt himself? His horse ended up stumbling and hurting his leg, and he was not able to complete his census route. John Deeben: Now also as we were working our way through these claims, we noticed some well-known historical figures that sometimes appeared alongside the many other individual claimants who were seeking assistance from Congress, and we thought it would be interesting to give you a sampling of some of the people that we found. Some of the examples include Clara Barton, who petitioned Congress to establish a national infrastructure to gather and track information about missing soldiers following the Civil War. There’s also a file for Edwin L. Drake, who built the first successful oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859. That petition was from citizens of Titusville asking Congress to provide financial compensation to Drake in recognition of his contributions to the petroleum industry. There’s also a file for Dorothea L. Dix, a well-known 19th century social reformer, who petitioned Congress to grant her franking privileges. Does anybody happen to know what that is? Right. It was a perk often granted to elected officials allowing them to send mail through the postal system for free. There’s also a file for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton asking Congress, not surprisingly, to extend equal protection to women in the exercise of their right to vote. And this was one of numerous petitions that they actually submitted throughout the Accompanying Papers. There’s also a file for John A. Sutter of Sutter’s Mill gold rush fame in California. His petition asked Congress for a grant of land in California in lieu of lands he had formerly held under Mexican grant and were subsequently taken over by American settlers following the Mexican War. The document that’s featured here is Sutter’s own statement recounting how he originally came into possession of the Mexican deeds. There’s also a file for Jay Cooke, the famous 19th century banker and financer of the Civil War. His petition asked Congress to appoint a new member to the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, of which he was a member. The document featured here is his letter of resignation from the board. There’s also a file for Admiral David Porter asking Congress to grant funds to test an invention of his for a submarine gun, which is described in his affidavit. And also there’s a file for George E. Pickett, who petitioned Congress for political amnesty, to seek the removal of his political debilities that were imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment following the Civil War. And as a matter of fact there are other famous amnesty petitions that also show up in the Accompanying Papers, including those of John H. Reagan, who was the Confederate Postmaster General, and also for Confederate generals Henry H. Sibley, Cadmus Wilcox, and Joseph Wheeler. Now as we mentioned at the beginning, because private claims deal with the lives and activities of ordinary individuals they can actually provide a pretty fertile source for family information. The supporting records included in the petitions memorials to Congress often contain a surprisingly wide range of pertinent and sometimes vital genealogy-related documents. While these records can show up in almost any type of private claims, they most typically appear among the pension-related files. For obvious reasons the pension claimants, particularly the widows and the parents of deceased soldiers, usually had to prove some type of family relationship to the soldier in order to receive survivor’s benefits. So if we examine some different types of genealogy-related documents that we found, some claims provide general family information including lists of names and birthdates of children. A good example is from the pension claim of Sarah P. Cully, who was the widow of Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Cully. Her petition included such useful information as her birth date, which was September 13th, 1787, her maiden name, which was George, and the date and place of her marriage, which was February 15th, 1826 in Hardin County, Kentucky. Also illustrated is the pension claim of Sarah Maynard, the widow of Thomas Maynard, who was killed by Confederates in 1864 when serving as a recruiting agent for the Union army in Kentucky. As part of her claim she listed all of her surviving children as well as their birthdates. The Civil War pension claim of Nancy True identifies three generations of the claimants family including her grandfather, Major John Blunt who was a Revolutionary War veteran, and her parents, William Atkinson and Mary Blunt. And she also identified the residence of her parents, which was Somerset County, Maine. The Nathaniel S. Greer pension claim provides a wealth of family data, including the names of all six sons who fought in the Civil War, their unit information, and the dates of death for three of the sons who died. On an additional piece of paper that was also submitted in the claim, which he titled, “This is a record of my family,” Nathaniel also recorded the names and birthdates of all twelve of his children. Now his claim is also significant because it contains some excellent examples of family correspondence. The two letters that we have featured here include a letter written in the field on army letterhead by Andrew J. Greer to one of his brothers who was still at home. Andrew was serving at the time on the Union gunboat Mound City, and he died when that vessel was hit by a direct shot in the boilers on June 17th, 1862 during the White River Expedition. The second letter on the right is from Abe Woodman of Company H, 8th Maine Infantry, written to Nathaniel and his wife notifying them of the death of their son Almon, who died near Bermuda Hundred, Virginia in May 1864 during the Overland Campaign. A surprising number of vital records also show up in many of the private claims. Records that you would typically expect to find in a county courthouse. The Sarah Cully claim that we just looked at also included an official copy of her marriage license from Hardin County, Kentucky, which is featured on the left. And also the Civil War pension claim of Mary E. Wainwright, who was widow of Britton Wainwright, included an official copy of her marriage record copied and certified from the records of the probate court of Hamilton County, Ohio. Also the Civil War pension claim of Annie M. Wright, widow of William T. of Company H, 1st Massachusetts Volunteers, not only included an official copy of their marriage record, but also an official death certificate for William copied from the Chelsea registry of deaths by the city registrar. That certificate provided not only Wright’s cause of death, but also identified his parents and his occupation. Occasionally you might even find estate records in the supporting papers as well. The claim of William H. Farquhar for the renewal of a patent that he had inherited from his uncle John Elgar, who had invented a self-regulating wind wheel, included a copy of Elgar’s last will and testament. Farquhar had inherited the patent in 1858, but the outbreak of the Civil War had prevented any efforts to produce the invention on a commercial level. However, renewed business interest after the war caused Farquhar to seek a patent extension for that device in 1869. But he missed the required 90 day renewal notice required for the patent expired. So he petitioned Congress for a renewal, and he submitted his uncle’s will as evidence that he owned the patent. Sometimes you can also find citizenship papers in these claims as well. In 1871, Christian Burging, who was a German-born citizen of Richmond, Virginia, submitted a claim for property seized by Union forces during the Civil War. His claim was rejected because, among other things, he failed to prove that he was a naturalized citizen. So he re-petitioned in 1876, and this time submitted his 1860 naturalization certificate issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia as evidence of his American citizenship. Land claims sporadically contain original deeds or titles among their documentation as well. In 1873, John and James Scott and John Belsha petitioned Congress to settle a land claim dating back to 1799 for a tract of land in the former Northwest Territory. Now this file doesn’t make clear how these interested parties came into possession of the claim, but their petition appears to have been made in response to legislation that had been introduced in Congress just the year before for the relief of persons to whom the governors of the former Northwest Territory and Indiana Territories confirmed lands, in which lands were after which sold to others by the United States government. Filed among the paperwork of this claim was the original title to the 1778 tract of land in St. Clair County, Illinois that was originally deeded on February 12, 1799. The deed contains the signatures of both Arthur St. Clair, who was the governor of the Northwest Territory, and future president of the United States William Henry Harrison, who was secretary of the territory at the time. A few claims also contain a particularly rare but much sought-after genealogy document, which are original photographs. Two excellent examples that we found included the pension claim of Helen O’Hara Harrell, who was the widow of navy captain Abram Davis Harrell, which included a very nice photograph of the captain; and also the Mexican War pension claim of Thomas N McAfrey included a photograph of that veteran. And that photograph is rather significant as well, because down in the bottom there’s handwritten notation relating to the unit that he served in during the Mexican War. Perhaps the most sought-after documents of genealogical value relate to military records. Quite a number of pension claims throughout the accompanying papers contain not only detailed descriptions of a claimant’s military service, but also original documents such as officer’s commissions, enlistment papers, and discharge certificates. These are documents that you would typically expect to find among the regular pension files. Some excellent examples of descriptive military service information can be found in the pension claim of Mary A. Morris, whose husband General William W. Morris served continuously in the U.S. army from 1820 to his death in 1865. And as you can see from the list of his accomplishments and promotions Morris led a distinguished career, including service in the Second and Third Seminole Wars, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. Also illustrative is the pension claim of T.C. Watson, whose husband James served in the U.S. navy from 1823 to 1869. The list of his service, which included the places of his shore duty as well as the ships that he served on, also included a tour on the U.S.S. Constitution in 1835. Now the claim of Margaretta Van Rensselaer, who petitioned Congress for a War of 1812 survivor’s pension based on the service of her father General Solomon Van Rensselaer, included several handwritten copies of officer commissions that her father had received during his career. When I was looking at these files, I was really disappointed that the original commissions were not there because they really are very significant. The one that’s featured here is the 1793 commission as Lieutenant of light dragoons that was signed by George Washington. Other commissions that Solomon received included a 1795 commission as captain of light dragoons, also signed by Washington, an 1800 commission as major of cavalry issued by John Adams, an 1801 commission as Adjutant General of the state of New York issued by Governor John Jay, and an 1819 commission as Major General of New York state militia issued by Governor DeWitt Clinton. Interestingly, also found in this file was an original colonial commission from 1775 issued to Henry J Van Rensselaer, who presumably was a relative of Solomon. The claim of Jacob S. Baker for Mexican War pension included his original discharge certificate from the 4th Indiana Volunteers dated June 26th, 1847. He was discharged due to illness, and his claim also included his original certificate of disability which was signed by Baker’s company and regimental commanders which explained the specific nature of his condition. Finally, the claim of Frederick Berlin, who petitioned Congress to validate a War of 1812 bounty land warrant that he received from the heirs of the original owner, included the original bounty certificate for forty acres. So this is kind of a sampling of what we found in the Accompanying Papers File. And at this time we’ll take any questions that you might have. Rebecca Sharp: And at the same time I’m going to be passing around copies of the source documents so you can get a better look at them. John Deeben: Yes? Audience Member: Having presented all this, as a user or searcher, how do we access this? John Deeben: There are several published indexes, if you will. And these were part of the published government publications. For the early claims you can go to the American State Papers. And by the way, these are all explained in the pink handouts that accompany the lecture. The American State Paper has indexes for private land claims and general claims, so you can look for early ones that might show up from 1789 to 1838. As we were working on this specific project, we also compiled a file title list for the six Congresses that we worked on, so there are word documents available for those particular Congresses as well. Any other questions? Okay, thank you very much for coming.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *