Monday, March 19, 2012

U.S. Congressional Serial Set for Genealogists, Part I

Perfect Ancestral Records
Many family historians and genealogists have accessed HeritageQuest Online remotely using their local library card. Most go directly to the census files and fail to explore the U.S. Congressional Serial Set collection.  If you haven’t tried HeritageQuest Online yet, check with your local library to see if they have a subscription to this popular Genealogy research tool.

In addition to various Census Records, Heritage Quest Online offers digitized books that are searchable by people, place or publication, PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, digitized Freedman’s Bank records, Revolutionary War collection and the US Serial Set. 

Although each hold great interest to the family researcher, let’s review the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, digitized by LexisNexis and provided to the family researcher online. 
What is the US Serial Set?
The 15th Congress, 1817 – 1819 under James Monroe, began the publication of the United States Congressional Serial Set which contains House and Senate Document and Senate Reports.  The bound books of the Serial Set were assigned a unique serial number, thus the name. The collection includes Private Relief Actions, Memorials and Petitions which have genealogical interests. These topics have been abstracted and digitized on HeritageQuest Online (Proquest)  and Readex of Newsbank databases for online search queries. (Note: You will want to do a name and place search on both of these abstracted collections, as they might offer different finds).

Prior to 1817 the 1st – 14th US Congress (1789-1815) activities, records and documents may be found amongst the 39 published volumes of the American State Papers.  

Genealogy Research
A National Archives overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, penned by Jeffery Hartley in 2009, Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research  tells us that the reports and documents cover topics on “women, African  Americans, Native Americans, students, soldiers, sailors, pensioners, landowners  and inventors.” Luckily for us, both HeritageQuest Online (ProQuest) and Readex of NewsBank have abstracted and digitized text-searchable articles of genealogical interests and provided them to us online.

HeritageQuest Online (ProQuest) collection includes documents from 1789 to 1969. The Readex Collection includes the Congressional Serial Set of 1817-1994 (103rd Congress). As these reports may be private in nature and mention your ancestor by name, or have a ruling or account of your ancestor’s activities, the family researcher will surely want to scour the collection using name, place and keyword searches.  

What Will You Find?
Bounty land and other land claims may assist the genealogists in understanding why an ancestor was granted or denied land. The private land claim records and documents between 1789 to WWII are extensive; over 500,000 were brought before congress during these years. Researchers may also find law suits that name their ancestors. I often see soldier, widows, pensioners, named, especially for the Civil War era, but there is a large collection of Revolutionary War reports also, some detailed by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Private relief petitions and claims offer historical information on our ancestor as well.

An interesting find may be of a divorced woman in search for financial assistance. Details of the divorce are often given.  Another great find may be locating your ancestor as a federal employee between 1883-1863. These records may provide residence, work assignment and pay.  Army and Navy registers from 1848 to the early 1860’s are also available and often include death information.  Other findings may include land surveys, western explorations and expansions and railroad papers and a plethora of maps.   

For More Information

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Passports to Cross Cherokee, Creek and Spanish Land

1815 Cherokee and Creek Nation Map
Not Part of America
Perhaps you had stellar education and was taught this in school, but for most this bit of early American history was left out of the curriculum.In researching a family that settled in Georgia I came across a few spectacular sources validating the need of passports in order to enter (or cross through) Cherokee Nation, Creek Nation and Spanish Territories of the southeast.

Need Passport for Travel Inside USA?
What is now the southeastern states (those east of the Mississippi River to include Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, North and South Carolina) was under Spanish jurisdiction or designated Indian territory. These jurisdictions required travelers to possess Governor issued passports to enter the non-American owned territories. The passport papers included character references and identified the need to enter into Creek Confederacy of Georgia - Creek Nation (Muskogee), Cherokee territory or Spanish territory. Your ancestral migratory path may be verified with the aid of these papers.

Georgia Governor Passports

About 100 of these passports were recorded in Georgia and are held in the Georgia Secretary of State Archives Collection, File II, (Record Group 4-2-46). 
This statement is provided by the website:
From 1785 through 1820, individuals from Georgia or traveling through Georgia from other states who desired to travel to or through Indian Territory were required to obtain a passport from the Governor.
Although original passports were issued to the travelers, you may find the recorded copy in the Executive Department Minutes (Record Group 1-1-3).

Cherokee Treaty Passport Requirements
In 1791, the Cherokee Treaty, Article 9 prevented entry into the Cherokee Nation without a Governor generated passport.  Cherokee Nation required passports began as early as 1785-1820.

South Carolina Passport
State of So. Carolina (at auction) 
Passports to traverse or enter these territories were not limited to your Georgia ancestors.  The following is a three page set from South Carolina Governor declaring Captain John Hughbank worthy to enter the Creek Territory for settlement.  This multi-witnessed 1804 passport sold at auction for $177.75 (

Spanish Territory Passport Needs
All of us have heard of Louis and Clark. But did you know in 1803 the St. Louis Spanish commandant denied the explorers to enter the Louisiana Territory because they did not have a Spanish passport?

For More Information
Transcripts may be found in the following two sources:
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Confederate Tombstones

I thought I should document this story for it impresses upon us the importance of thorough research, and encourages us not to be hasty in our conclusions. I attempted to recall this story today in a seminar, and thought it best to record it accurately.

Will The Real WHC Stand?
As an early researcher I was  led to Camp Butler cemetery by Civil War records. So when the intials WHC appeared on a tombstone at the gravesite I  thought my questions were answered.  Here among all the tombstones, we thought, was the burial place of Wiley Harvey Charles (W.H.C.)  But yet on the tombstone, it also states “unknown”. What was unknown?  

It was this clue that led a further search.  Perhaps W.H.C. was not our Wiley. The best explanation thus far is WHC stood for William Henry Chase Whiting (1824-1865). Whiting was captured at the Battle of Fort Fisher with the rest of the Fort defenders and transferred to the Officers Prisoner of War Camp: Governor’s Island, where he died of dysentery. Much can be found at the United Daughters of the Confederacy website. Like many civil war vets his wife had his body exhumed and reinterred. Whiting’s final resting place was at the Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC.   

Major General WHC Whiting was captured at Fort Fisher and died at Governor’s Island, in New York March, 1865 (his obituary states).  Many of his men were also captured or killed and their tombstones gave tribute to their Confederate service to WHC’s army. The story of Whiting, William Henry Chase  can be found at the Texas State Historical Society.  

The Opposite of Galvanized Yankees
Galvanized Yankees were prisoners of war who in exchange for their freedom traded their gray uniforms for blue.  But WHC Whiting left the Unites States Army (West Point Grad), resigned from the Army Corps of Engineers, and picked up the rebel flag in the Confederate States Army. 

From: Princeton Alumni Weekly
Red Flag
After a closer study of confederate tombstones, a repeat of WHC popped up everywhere: in cemeteries, in civil war books, in birth records, etc. There’s Wiley Harvey Charles, also a confederate soldier who went by WHC, and many who named their sons after WHC followed by the family name.  Just google WHC +confederate or +civil war and be amazed at the number of people named WHC.

Another twist to this story is that the Fort Fisher captured defenders who were not injured were imprisoned at Elmira (POW camp) in New York.  And, the wounded captured Confederate soldiers were taken to Point Lookout Maryland POW camp upon recovery.  So why was this WHC tombstone at Camp Butler in Illinois?

Well, maybe, I don’t have my ancestor’s exact tombstone after all. What I have probably located is an unidentified soldier who served under Whiting or (perhaps?) one of the unidentified soldiers captured with him or killed on the battlefield.

For More Information on Confederate Prisoners of War
For more information reference the National Archives Publication M598: Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861–1865; Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.  This collection has been digitized on

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tracing Ship Movements and Genealogy

WWII - Carrying the Troops
When all else fails, and you don’t have enough information in military records to clearly define with which unit or company your WWII ancestor served overseas, you may be able to follow ship records by dates to narrow possible troops/regiments.

Recently I came across a veteran’s Report of Separation (often referenced as a DD214) that provided three (3) crucial bits of data of European service. Along with other vital records and service data, practically every discharge report provides the following:
1) Date of Departure
2) Date of Arrival
3) Organization at time of discharge

WWII Service
Perhaps our men were busy fighting a war and some of the field notes became a bit cryptic while warding off attacks; records did not always clearly state every man’s move during engagement. Veteran’s service personnel files and separation reports do not yield a list of the various companies served while stationed in during war-time. Even Morning reports were inconclusive with movements, transfers, and temporary assignments For example, I have one report that states “9 total limited asgmt pers asgd &atchd unasgd this orgn this date.”   Translation: 9 soldiers were unassigned from our organization and assigned to another. It’s possible those writing the reports had the same questions I had: “Which 9 men?” And, “to what other organization were they attached to?”  This exact same note was on a Morning Report dated 3 Mar, 5 March and 25 March 1945 for the 394th, Co D. I can assumed these 9 men were classified as “replacements” Or was there so much movement, that names of the detached were less important than those responsible to the 394th  Co. D “that day?” Maybe it was through these cryptic notes that the final number of men reporting to a troop were accounted for and tracked.  (Note: rosters and muster rolls for 1944 to 1946 are not available; however, you may find a few tucked away in the Morning Reports.)

Ship Record Intentionally Destroyed 1951
According to National Archives correspondence, original ship records were intentionally destroyed in 1951.  NARA as quoted on website World War II Ships:
According to our records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all passenger lists, manifests, logs of vessels and troop movement files of the United States Army Transports for World War II.  
Separation papers, however, usually state departure data for “Service Outside Continental US…” With this information you may wish to include ship movements and histories in your research in order to trace your ancestor's troop movements during the war. Be sure to visit the World War II Ships website for a chronological listing of ship departure dates in 1943.  (This is the best source I’ve seen so far for reconstructing the destroyed records.)

Once you have narrowed your troop by date of departure/arrival, then Morning Report searches of those candidates are necessary. No, it will not be easy and fast, but it may be possible to locate your soldier by name (hidden roster, medical attention, transfers, etc.) and even have a glimpse of daily activity in Europe through troop reports.

Using ship/transport records as a tool of tracing a soldiers comes with a few warnings since following “replacements and the many wartime transfers” are not an easy tasks:
  • Your ancestor may have served with various companies, troops, and organizations throughout the war, with no mention by name or service number in Morning Reports. 
  • Once soldiers reached overseas they may have been assigned to a new troop. 
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Speaking Calendar

Check Calendar Frequently!

Kathleen Brandt Speaking Calendar
    10 Saving Alice: Stephens College Alumnae: 12:00pm (Private)
    23 How We Were Free: Midwest Genealogy Center, 7:00pm

    10  War of 1812:  Midwest Genealogy Center March Annual Seminar, 1:00
    11  Civil War POW Research: Midwest Genealogy Center
          March Annual Seminar, 1:00
    15  Essential Database: Midwest Genealogy Center, 7:00pm

   11  Keynote Speaker, Jackson County Genealogical Society, 11-12 Luncheon ($$)
   21  Family Reunion Presentation, 6:00pm (Private)

    6   Military Records Were Destroyed? NARA Fall Fair: KC Regional, 2:15pm
   19  8 Generations in 60 Seconds: International Black Genealogy Summit (IBGS),
         Salt Lake City 9:15am
   19  Military Records Were Destroyed? What to Do?: IBGS, Salt Lake City, 3:15pm

To select from Speaker Series, visit 2012 Offerings for Corporations, Genealogists and Schools.

Note: Private presentations are only added to the calendar at the request of the customer. 

Kathleen Brandt