Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Research US - Mexican War Records

Many researchers totally forget there was a US-Mexican War, 1846-1848. But often we can findl veterans of the Civil War that also served in the Mexican War. Most know that by the end of the US-Mexican War, the United States gained the current southwest states between Texas and California.

Researching Your Mexican War Soldier
To begin this research, be sure to learn More About US-Mexican War.
For a list of battles and more information on the US-Mexican War visit:PBS- US- Mexican War
Approximately 100,000 soldiers served in the US – Mexican War. Seventy-five percent (75,000) enlisted in the volunteer army. The soldiers also served in the Army, Marines, and Navy. Like the Civil War, most deaths were due to disease. Only about 2000 soldiers who died while serving in the Mexican War, died of enemy fire, or battle wounds. The remaining 11,000 died of disease and many were hospitalized. For this reason a good place to begin your search is using medical records.

Where to Research for Mexican War and Civil War Medical Records
National Archives (NARA) is the repository of a couple important Medical Documents and Records
  • Carded Medical Records of Volunteer Soldiers in the Mexican and Civil Wars, compiled 1846 – 1865. The Mexican War records for each organization follow those of the Civil War. These records are arranged alphabetically by surname. Here is the NARA reference: ARC Identifier 655646 / MLR Number PI-17 534 Series from Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office (AGO), 1762 - 1984 
  • Indexes to Field Records of Hospitals, compiled 1821 - 1912ARC Identifier 655733 / MLR Number PI-17 544BSeries from Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 This series also contains references to the series "Reports and Correspondence, 1861 - 1888" (ARC Identifier 655752), "Surgeons' Reports on Medical Operations in Various Commands, 1861-1865" (ARC Identifier 655739), "Reports on Surgical and Medical Cases, 1860-1879" (ARC Identifier 655743), and "Lists of Casualties in Various Engagements, 1860-1889" (ARC Identifier 655746).
Need More?
As many of the soldiers were volunteers, be sure to check your state repositories. A key to your ancestors’ service is becoming familiar with your states’ activity in the war. Don’t forget to look at county and state biographies and obituaries.  In Tennessee, here is a great website to initiate your search: The Volunteer State Goes to War: A Salute to Tennessee Veterans. This website, like many official state websites, will provide us with the battles, officers, and a bit on the causalities.

The Military Resource: Mexican War, 1846-1848 on the NARA website reminds us to check for letters of officers and the National Cemeteries.

For “regular military service (vs. volunteer) officer records and correspondence may be found in the NARA Adjutant General records. Here is a great finding aid for the NARA Military Service during the Mexican War,1846-1848. This finding aid includes locations of the Compiled Military Service Records, Pension Applications, Volunteer Solider Files, and Remarried Widows based on the Service in War of 1812. 

As this war was fought on Mexico soil, 750 soldiers of this war were interred at the US National Cemetery in Mexico City. However, less than 10 of these burials have been identified. Visit the Burial Listing at the American Battle Monuments Commission website. 

Pension Files and Bounty Land: For a quick search at the United States, Index to Mexican War Pension Files, visit the Family Search free website. Veterans who were discharged from the Mexican War were eligible for 160 acres of federal bounty land. Land records are always a great source for genealogical research. For the Mexican War, the bounty-land warrants are filed with pension files at the National Archives can be located in the Textural Records: T317 Index to Mexican War Pension Files, 1887-1926. (Filed by surname for Mexican War, 1846-1848).

African Americans Also Served
Visit: Invisible Men: Blacks in the US Army in the Mexican War. African Americans also served on Naval Ships. 

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Steps to Tracking Slave Masters

Did Your Slave Master Ancestor Go to Missouri?
I was recently asked "where did the slave masters come from in order to settle in Missouri?" The answer is many of the Missouri slave owners came from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The largest slave holding counties were around Saline County: Boone, Manitou, Howard, Chariton, Cooper,  Clay, Ray, and Lafayette counties. These counties are within 90 miles of one another and nicknamed Little Dixie. Researchers will quickly learn that if you find an ancestor in one, it will behoove you to expand your research to include the other counties.

Why did Plantation Owners Move to Missouri?
The Missouri land was ready for cultivation of familiar crops - hemp and tobacco. Even the transplant planters familiar with cotton growing knew that growing hemp and tobacco was similar and required an easy transition with the work of slaves. Eighteen percent (18%) of Missouri’s hemp crop was cultivated in Saline County (before 1861).

Even if you have a Mississippi ancestor, finding ties to Saline County Missouri may be found in agricultural records. Did you know that Missouri shipments, mostly from Claiborne Fox Jackson’s company in Saline County, shipped commodities -  hemp, corn, oats, salt, pork, beef – to Natchez Mississippi to feed the cotton field slaves?

Finding Slave Master Records
Did you know your slave master ancestor is named in every court record and many vital records of his slaves before the Civil War, and many after emancipation? 

Descendants of slaves know, too well, that researching their ancestors involve thorough slave master research. However, the same applies when researching slave masters.  The sale of a slave of his family is noted in the deeds of the slave masters. Ship manifests transporting slaves often name the slave-master. After the civil-war, ex-slave documents, including ex-slave Civil War pension records, legalization of slave marriages and other freedman bureau records, usually names the ex-slave master and his place of origin. We can often determine slave master whereabouts after the Civil War using these records. Ex-slave masters were directly tied to ex-slaves and their identities for years following the Civil War.

For More Information

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers
Website: a3Genealogy.com

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tips on Researching Institutionalized Ancestors

Where are Asylum Records?
As you've probably already figured out, when it comes to researching institutionalized ancestor's it’s not locating them that is the issue; the problem is how to access the records. Is it even possible? In the post Mental Health Facilities and State Hospital Records, 4 Jan 2010, the case of 3rd Great-Uncle Willis Cox and his daughter Freddie Reba (Cox) Looney from Coffeyville, Kansas and Washington County, Oklahoma, respectively, was shared. As I mentioned there, “not everyone can boast that at any given time one, or more, ancestor was being treated in a State Hospital, but I usually exclaim that my family actually had a wing at the Kansas - Osawatomie State Hospital, also known as the State Insane Asylum." But locating other ancestors scattered across the USA, have been a bit more challenging. (Read Stalking Irish Madness and Me, 11 Jan 2010). 

Where to Start
The first step is to confirm your ancestor’s whereabouts. Using the following records/documents will assist you in determining where your ancestor may have been institutionalized: 
  • census records
  • cemetery records/tombstones
  • death certificates
  • probate records
  • court records
  • obituaries 
Finding Records
Every state has has in place statues specifying the distribution, and release of records of the mentally ill.  Many of the earlier records were discarded, leaving perhaps just an index to past patients holding minimum information. The Kansas Statute 65-5603, specifies the information that can be released for family history research.  "Examples include: dates of birth and death, dates of stay, names and addresses of family members.  Medical information, including the DIAGNOSIS, is not open." To obtain copies from these records, researchers must  submit a request form with payment.

This is the case for the Topeka Kansas State Hospital Records. Although microfilmed records are held at the Kansas Historical Society for patient case files from 1872 until the 1960 "only familial relations of deceased patients and living former patients can request information from these records." 

Other states, like Minnesota have year restrictions for retrieving hospital records. In Minnesota there is a 50 year hold on all records from the date of admittance. Accessing these restricted records from the Minnesota Historical Society requires a signed "Application and Use Agreement." For more information  on privacy and genealogy research read:  Privacy Restrictions Keeping You From Research?

Why So Challenging?
Prior to State Statutes, often state hospitals like Osawatomie, Kansas discarded the patients’ original files. However, often indices of past patients are still on record. But to successfully obtain a copy of the medical file, the researcher must broaden the search.

For many states, like Illinois, state mental hospital records are "closed". Researchers will have to piece information using death certificates, military pension records (sometimes widow pension requests), probate records (sometimes closed if assigned to custodian), cemetery records, and local newspapers to obtain sufficient information. We have also seen copy of medical records submitted and filed with court cases. 

A complete 100+ page medical record of Willis Cox’s including his examination records, and doctor's observations at the State Hospital were held with his Civil War Pension records. In the "Survey for family medical history" a bit of information from the attending physicians also mentioned his daughter, Freddie Reba’s convalescent time at the State Hospital.

In addition to the sources mentioned above, and exhausting your State Archives and Historical repositories be sure to do a keyword search at the familysearch.org website.  Here you will find a variety of state hospital records. For example, the Family Search microfilmed New Orleans (Louisiana). Insane Asylum, Records of the Insane Asylum, 1858-1884 contains records on entries and releases of patients. 
Kathleen Brandt
Website: a3genealogy.com
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tips to Saving Old Photos

Photo taken 1911, Anthony, Harper County, Kansas. 

Morris Porter (baby) with grandmother Nola (Morris) Wells Jackson. 

It doesn’t take much for a family historian to scream. We get excited with every find of a new ancestor, with every little hint to locating the needed historical document, and meeting faraway cousins - all screams of joy, usually followed by our “happy dance.” But we scream the loudest, and of horror, when we pull out that favorite old photo of the sod house, or of a pivotal ancestor and we realize it is fading, and what is left are clear marks of years of abuse. Time to search for solutions to save our family history, and preserve the places and faces for future generations.   So what to expect?

I turned to Joseph Witkowski, better known as PhotoFixer Joe, located in the Kansas City area.  Photofixer Joe came highly recommended by Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames. Thanks Jenna!

Goals for Restoration:
  • Goal 1 was to bring life back into the photo
  • Goal 2 was to display my ancestors on the walls of my 1904 home. (Thought they’d feel comfortable there.)
  • Goal 3 was to preserve the original photo. I was welcoming the thought of less hand touching and exposure to the elements, while still sharing with cousins who clearly have the propensity to touch every detail of the original photo in between licking their fingers dripping of Kansas City Barbeque sauce.
Meet Photofixer Joe
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe. I did not include below the question: “What is the basic process?” But the answer included hints on scanning, use of Photoshop, and proper printing. Visit the PhotoFixerjoe.com website for more information. .
Q1. Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
The mission statement of the business is “helping restore your memories”. I restore and repair damaged and faded photographs that are either historically or emotionally important to someone. 
Q2. When did you start the business?
Photofixerjoe legally started as a business in 2011.  However, my education in the darkroom and printing process began 40 years ago when I built my first in home darkroom.  I am a huge fan of Ansel Adams and read somewhere that he tweaked his photograph “Moonrise over Hernandez” for about 10 years before he was fully satisfied with his print.  I was really curious about what he would have tweaked for 10 years and that began the journey of “manipulating” images.
Q3. What is your target market?
My target markets are individuals and organizations that are serious about restoring their memories and understand the level of effort involved in this process. It requires an in depth knowledge of whatever software you are using and a lot of patience. The photograph of your family living in the home built from mud took about 20 to 25 hours to restore. 
Q4. How did you come up with your business idea?
 I purchased my first digital camera about 12 years ago.  It was 3.2 megapixel and I paid close to $1,000.  I think you can get one of those as a gift with a gas fill up nowadays.  I needed to process my own prints and purchased the Photoshop 5.0 software.  We are now on Photoshop 13 (CS 6).  The software was designed with the darkroom process in mind but with greater flexibility.  I had fun with changing people’s hair color, adding hair to my friends that didn’t have it and adding other elements into the picture that were not present in the original image. It evolved from doing silly things to making minor repairs.
Q5. How do you choose which projects to accept?
 The projects that most interest me are old and damaged family photos from the 19th and 20th century.  I really enjoy studying the images and learning a bit about the people in the picture.  I even make up my own stories. I had coin collection when I was young boy and I would think about the people who had the coins and the places the coins may have traveled. I had a fairly active imagination which has helped in the art part of restoration.  I also enjoy working on WWII images as well as color faded pictures from the 50’s. 
Q6. What has been the hardest project and what made it so hard?
My hardest project has been the restoration of a damaged picture of a woman, when she was a young girl, with Elvis Presley. Besides the damage, the colors were faded and it was a small snapshot.  I knew what a great memory this was for the woman and trying to get the image closer to her memory of the moment was a challenge but I made it happen.  I really felt great about her reaction.

Q7. What was your favorite a3Genealogy photo that you restored? Why did you like restoring it?  So far, it’s been the image of the family near the mud home.  I thought this was just a great picture that really needed to be restored.  It looks like a very proud family.  They wanted to show the world they were doing OK by including their two horses and standing outside their home. Everyone but the husband is looking at the camera.  In those days the film was very slow which meant the exposure took a few seconds and you had to be very still. This means he was looking away on purpose.  That is very cool and it makes me wish I could spend some time with him.  The lady having her glasses on adds a level of sophistication because of the use of technology to help improve quality of life.  It also shows they were very connected to the outside world.  She did not need to wear the glasses for the portrait but did.  Just the fact that they had someone take the portrait also shows a level of affluence. I can go on (that darn imagination) but will stop here.
Q8. How do you price a project?
 Pricing depends on the level of effort.  It does not take a lot of time to restore a color faded photo from the fifties (how about that for alliteration).  If that is all that is involved I would charge $25 and included is a small digital file for social media use and a large digital file for printing purposes.  Simple restorations would be anywhere from $50 to $100.  For example, your photo with the woman and infant would be right at $100 or maybe just slightly higher.  Extensively damaged photos would need to be quoted.  All quotes would be provided after I scan the image. Damage that is not visible on smaller prints shows up on the enlarged scan. You can request a custom printed file on high quality paper all the way up to 17 X 22 for an additional charge.  Actually, I can print a wall sized mural that would be made up of 17 X 22 segments.  Prices are posted at www.photfixerjoe.com.
Q9. What do you do for fun?
All aspects of photography are fun for me and I love to travel to get exciting images. My wife and I went to Africa in Sept of 2012 on a photo safari.  We loved the experience so much that we are going back March 2013.  We are both Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do and I am also a Scuba Dive Master.

I will share additional restorations April 2013.
Kathleen Brandt
Website: a3Genealogy.com

Friday, March 1, 2013

Understanding Ancestor’s Dissolution of Marriage

Separation,  Maintenance or Divorce Records 

Our ancestors did not always live in marital bliss. Legal separations and divorces, although not common, were available. Since legal separations and divorces were Court ordered they give us extensive genealogical data.

Genealogy Data from Records
Besides the names of the couple and date of marriage and divorce, you may also find the couple’s birth dates as well as names and births of children. These records may also provide detailed reasons for divorce and property owned, revealing the life-style of your ancestors. 

Where to Find Early Divorce Records
In Colonial America these records may be found in the early books of Judgments and Decrees. Know, however, due to the legal difficulties and restrictions of obtaining a divorce, it is possible that your ancestors remained married, yet legally lived separately by posting newspaper advertisements. Newspaper announcements to dissolve a marriage were also accepted as a form of legal separation in Colonial America.

Divorces from Medieval Europe to Colonial America
If we consider the social norms for women during Medieval Europe we first understand that, in general, married woman did not have a separate legal existence from her husband. And although a bit more liberal, this basic accepted social norm was carried to Colonial America.

Divorces were not easily obtained through the Court systems due to the many restrictions; and, Church declarations of your eternal demise discouraged the practice. Filing for divorce wasn’t even available in all of the Colonial states prior to the Revolutionary War.

Prior to 1747, adultery was the only official reason for a separation or divorce, in those states that allowed it.  And, it was really only available for the privileged. Even then, the couple was often still legally married and could not remarry, since they were granted a “divorce a mensa et thoro.” 

What is “Divorce a Mensa et Thoro?”
“Divorce a mensa et thoro” actually means “divorce from bed and board.” Today we would call it a legal separation, but we have lost the historical advantages of it. The “divorce a mensa et thoro” legally allowed the couple to live separately but their marriage was still in tack in the eyes of the church. Surely community rumors said otherwise, but by law they were still legally married.

The “divorce a mensa et thoro” allowed the couple to meet all the church requirements and therefore they could be blessed and buried with the “Saints.” The divorce ( a sinner) was not allowed to be interred in the Church cemetery, since they “ couldn't inherit the kingdom of God” anyway.

There was also a stigma for children if their parents were divorced, so this too was avoided if you just lived separately under a separate maintenance agreement. If a child was born after the separation, a Church baptism was still possible, since the child was “legitimate.” Avoiding the wife’s embarrassment of being destitute, the husband was still responsible for the life style of his wife and children, albeit across town.

“Divorce a mensa et thoro” or marital separation, existed in Rhode Island as early as the mid-seventeenth century. 

After the Revolutionary War
If adultery cruelty, abuse, or abandonment could be proven a couple could dissolve their marriage more readily after the American Revolution, even though grounds for divorce remained limited until 1798.

By the early nineteenth century, divorces were granted in almost every state. However, legal divorces still carried restrictions. Generally, in the case of adultery or cruelty, only the innocent party was legally freed to remarry. This is equal to the divorces we have today.

These early divorces ("divorce a vinculo") did not necessarily allow the guilty party to remarry, except upon the death of the innocent party. To avoid this, many of the guilty (mostly men) left the community and left their past behind them, remarrying freely

Kathleen Brandt
Website: a3Genealogy.com
Accurate, Accessible Answers

(Originally published 17 Sept 2010; Separate Maintenance or Divorce Records )