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            November, 2002

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

      Newsletter Archives   |  E-mail                    

October Workshop - by Charles Hansen

        Each October Eastern Washington Genealogical Society has a workshop. These alternate with one year a national speaker and the next year speakers from the society. This was the year for the national speaker, and Craig Robert Scott CGRS came from Westminster, Maryland to talk on Finding Aids in the National Archives and Military Records of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War I. He is the author of several books in this area and does much research at the National Archives.

        In the National Archives, the records are all in Record Groups. There is a book on what is located in each record group and the amount of shelf space used by that record group. So a record group may be three inches in size or eleven feet. Once you find the record group how do you find what is in it. Well there are guides or indexes, and inventory lists and they will list what records are in the record group and have a record number. With the record group and record number you can request an archivist to get the records you are interested in.

        How do you find the guides or inventories? Well Craig said there are three types: published, out of print and unpublished. Published guides are available from the publisher and one can check by using the Goggle search engine to find them. (One older lady asked what Google was as the only Google she knew was Barney Google.) Out of print guides are harder to find, but still not as hard as the unpublished guides, which may be in the desk of one of the archivists? Two points he made are that these guides are listed as comprehensive guides, but are really guides to select records not all of them. He said that if you do not find the information you are looking for to keep trying. He will often query three archivists before he finds one who knows what record he is looking for.

        After the break, the next session was on the Revolutionary War, and he started by listing the fires that destroyed a lot of Revolutionary War records. He also listed the various Pension laws, as the pension records are a very good source. The soldier or his dependents had to live a long time to get their pension. There are several lists of soldiers, militia, and even the navy for the Revolutionary War, so finding your ancestor should not be too hard. The hard part is proving it to the D.A.R. or S.A.R. if that is the route you are taking.

        After lunch was the session on the Civil War. For the Civil War you néed to know where your soldier was from. If you don't know, check the 1860 census. Then you néed to know if he was Regular Army, Militia or Drafted as each is filed in separate record groups. The Militia was like our present National Guard. It is a state unit and usually designated as 1st state (name of state) volunteers. A question was asked about the Regular Army of the South, and Craig said that the South did have a Regular Army.

        Next step is to check the General Pension Index microfilm, or for Confederates check the state pension agency as they did not get a Federal Pension.

        Step three is to check the state index to Compiled Military Service Records; there is also an index for Confederates. For the Navy, if you know the ship check the Muster Rolls of Ships (RG 24, entry 132) and the payroll books in RG 217. Next, obtain the military service record. Once you get the records, they will lead you to records of other types.

        Afternoon break was next and then the session on World War I, or the Great War. First step is to gather all the family information you can, discharge papers, letters, diaries, uniforms, medals and regimental publications. If he survived, check for county lists and obituaries. All the soldiers were instructed as a precautionary measure, to record their discharge papers with their county courthouse. So check the courthouse or other archives that may have the discharge papers. Record Group 163 has the Selective Service draft cards. Record Group 92 has lists of outgoing passengers on the ships leaving the USA. There is a list by state where the draftees went and which division they ended up in. State of Washington draftees went to Fort Lewis and then into the 91st Division. It is one of eighteen divisions that had a Divisional History published.

        In summary, Craig Scott is a good speaker and really knows a lot about research in the National Archives and the military records for the wars before 1920. He says he has never looked for WWII records as he is busy enough doing the earlier wars. If you get a chance to see and hear him you should go, even, if like me, you have yet to find a Civil War ancestor.

Recommended reading & viewing:
      Eastern Washington Genealogical Society
      EWGS Webmaster Email

NARA Records - by Carol Sanderson

        While the previous article gives a good description of the military records available at the National Archives, I am going to try to report a lecture that I attended. This is from notes of a lecture given by William Doty at the FGS Conference in Ontario, California. Mr. Doty is an archivist at the National Regional Archives in Laguna Niguel, CA. He has been with NARA since 1991 and has been a genealogist since 1966.

        He starts his lecture by pointing out that if we had ancestors who had served with a militia or another group before the Revolution we will néed to look in other sources for them. Why, we ask. Well before the Revolution we were not a country of our own so we néed to turn to colonial records.

        The American Revolution is used as a model in learning how to use the records at the archives because it is the only one for which they have both indexes and the records at all places. The indexes and the Compiled Service Records for the American Revolution are on microfilm rolls M860/M879/M881. A compiled service record includes the day-to-day kinds of activities, muster rolls, pay vouchers, medical records, and troop movements.

        Using these rolls, M860 is an index to the other two. You would use that to find your ancestor and then with the numbers you found go to the next roll M879 or M881 to find the compiled records of the person you are searching.

        He was asked why there weren't indexes and compiled records for all the wars at the regional sites. The answer was that there isn't room enough at these sites for more than the indexes and these are only through the smaller wars like the War of 1812, Indian Disturbances, Mexican War and the War with Spain. All of the rest of the indexes are at the National Archive. At this point he brought up the fact that some of the request forms have been revised lately and a price increase was involved also. The forms NATF85 and NATF86 are used to request records that are held other than at a regional center. On the NAFT85 he said there are two prices...$14.00 will get you copies of selected items in the personnel jacket or pension jacket whereas the $37.00 gets you a copy of everything that is in the jacket. He says that most average about 121 pages but he knows of some that are several hundred pages. Once we understood the difference in prices, the higher priced one doesn't sound so bad.

        He pointed out something that most of us may know and that is we will probably get more out of a pension jacket than we would a personnel jacket. Congress did not enact the first pensions until about 1833. They didn't think there would be that many applications. They were wrong and received a great many more than they had anticipated. They ran out of money and so they changed the law again making the pension for those in néed. The laws have been changed many times over the years always making more papers for the files.

        Bounty lands were used to pay some of the soldiers in the Revolutionary War. These were in lands that the federal government enticed from the states like the Western Reserve lands, and some of the other lands in what are now the mid-west. There are records of those lands at the National Archives too.

        Some of the records in Washington are online. Mr. Doty gave the URL for the site as a place to explore, to look for free catalogs and to find other things of use either off line or online. I recommend it to you as a great aid.

Recommended reading & viewing:
      Federation of Genealogical Societies
      FGS Feedback
      2003 FGS Conference

      *Webmaster's note: Thanks to Carol and Charles who have also
       chosen a good name (Branching Out) for the Newsletter.

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