Civil War pension records: a treasure trove

Civil War Pension Records are a treasure trove of informationAfter hearing an excellent talk at the NGS conference on what can be found in Civil War pension records stored at the National Archives, I placed an order for the records of three of my four Civil War veteran ancestors. (The fourth fought for the Confederacy, so his pension records would be with his state.) The fee was $80 per ancestor for the complete file and the application process was fairly straightforward. At the end, I was warned to expect it to take 45 to 120 days before I received any information.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to receive a thick envelope from the National Archives in Washington D.C. today! It contained the pension records for my great great great grandfather, Richard Anderson Jeffries (1823-1914) who served in the Missouri infantry, Company D, 18th Regiment from 1861 to 1864.

I haven’t had a chance to go through the packet yet, but a glance shows me  that there are multiple applications for pensions as well as physicians’ affidavits.

I’m anxious to pore over it and unravel the story these documents tell. Luckily for me, Certified Genealogist Julie Miller, in her excellent talk, Anatomy of a Military Pension, gave step-by-step instructions on how to properly process the information found in these files. So I have my work cut out for me and I can’t wait!

If you have Civil War ancestors who fought for the Union and you have at least $80 to spend, I encourage you to hop over to the National Archives website (that link takes you directly to the application form starting point). If you have information on your ancestor’s military service (I found mine through Ancestry and Fold3), it’s easy to apply to receive a copy of the pension file. Those files have not been digitized, so the only way to look at them is to go to the National Archives or send away for them like I did.

Going beyond online resources

Going beyond online resources

The National Personnel Records Center

Like many beginning genealogy researchers, my first inclination is to go online to look for a fact or find a resource. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, more often than not I move on to the next thing to research online. But as I’m listening to veteran genealogists share their knowledge and expertise at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, I’m learning that online resources are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

The first break-out session I attended was “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. It was a tremendous session and a great way for me to kick off the conference. She went over an amazing array of resources where you might find the information you’re looking for. And guess what? Many of those resources aren’t easily available online.

After two days (so far) of the conference, I’ve come to realize that I need (and want) to get out of the house and explore the amazing repositories of information available in my own community. I’m fortunate to live where there are not one, but two, large public library headquarters (St. Louis City and County), both of which have genealogy departments. There is also the Missouri History Museum Library as well as the National Personnel Records Center of the  National Archives at St. Louis (the largest federal archive outside of Washington, D.C.). Also, the Missouri State Archives is just a couple of hours away in Jefferson City. They provide a great deal of information online through Missouri Digital Heritage, but I learned at the conference that there is much more information available that is not digitized. There is much for me to discover by researching in person.

One thing I’ve learned when I have gone out of town to research at various libraries is that it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and not take full advantage of what the repository has to offer. That’s because, I think, I’ve gone in thinking that I wanted to cast a wide net and learn as much as possible. Now I’m thinking I’m better off with a single focus, particularly if I’m using these local libraries where I can return again and again without effort.

In her talk, Barbara Vines Little said something that keeps echoing in my brain:

“You have to know what the question is before you can look for the answer.”

 –Barbara Vines Little

I need to go into to these libraries and archives with a very specific question in mind. That will help me stay focused and help me use my time well. I’m excited to figure out those specific questions and get started!

Getting ready for a conference

ngslogo200Tomorrow, the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference begins. It’s being held in St. Charles, Missouri, about 30 minutes from my home, so I am not staying at the conference hotel. Since no travel is required, I’ve barely given the conference much advance thought.

But today’s the day for me to focus on it and I’m getting really excited! I love attending conferences (I go to both genealogy and organizing conferences regularly) and I know that some pre-planning can be really beneficial. So today, I’m going to do the following:

  • Pick up the conference registration materials
  • Go through the syllabus and select the classes I’ll plan to attend
  • Familiarize myself with the conference app, which I downloaded a month or two ago
  • Mark the classes I select in the conference app
  • Go through the list of exhibitors and note the ones I want to make sure I see
  • Write down my goals for the conference
  • Think about the people I want to try to meet
  • Reach out to the blog readers who have told me they’ll be at the conference

Taking a few moments to think about and write down my goals for the conference is time well spent. Keeping my goals top of mind will inform my decisions about how to spend my conference time. In my case, I have goals for both my genealogy research and for this blog.

This is my first NGS conference and I’m really excited it’s finally here. I look forward to digging in to the conference materials this afternoon. I know I have four days of great learning and great interactions ahead of me.

If you’re attending the conference, please make sure you say hi!

How do you use Facebook for genealogy?

FB-f-Logo__blue_100Facebook has become part of my daily life and, I bet, yours. It’s almost hard to imagine how we navigated the online world without it. I use it for lots of things, but I don’t use it a whole lot to further my genealogy research. I’d like that to change.

I know that Facebook offers a lot to genealogists and I’m wondering how you all use it. I belong to a few genealogy-related Facebook groups that I find really helpful when I take the time to read them. They are:

I’m also a part of one family group, which was helpful when a reunion was being organized last year. And, of course, I have the Organize Your Family History Facebook page.

Are there other genealogy-related groups or communities that you recommend? Do you use Facebook to find cousins or otherwise further your research? I’d love to hear about it!

Unfortunately, I’ve just realized that the Submit button for comments  disappeared! I apologize to anyone who wanted to comment and couldn’t. I have created a workaround, so you can post now, but am hoping to get back to my usual comments form soon.