Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Don't Let It Happen to Genealogy Societies

Preserving Our Heritage:
Supporting Local Genealogy Societies

I'm from small town Kansas. Well not really, but I spent every summer in small town Kansas with grandparents. Lyons, Rice County, Kansas to be exact. We had the best Ma and Pa shops, generational shops, a 5 and dime store, (3, YES! 3) small grocers...then Walmart entered the picture. I was probably out of college by then, so I got to see the town close doors because, as you may already know, few would call Walmart a team player. They came in, under priced the little Ma and Pa shops, and within a few years had what most thought as a "one stop shop," not noticing that there was no more competition. As I said Walmart is not noted for being a team players.

As soon as the competition was annihilated, Walmart no longer had to be competitive. The were able to put forth limited offerings while defining the "shopping" experience in Lyons, KS. Oh...and they most often got tax breaks to stay in town. Walmart had a system and the money backing them, even through tax payer money, allowed for them to push out the little guy.

I'm hoping the family historian and genealogists actively fight against this from happening to local genealogical societies and local repositories. We need the small town genealogical societies. Heck, we need the Kansas City genealogical societies to survive. Most have dues of $5 - $50 dollars. Societies rely on donations to heat the building, to staff the operation, to bring in speakers. Societies aren't afforded tax breaks, or taxpayer dollars. They aren't big libraries with multiple branches funded by the taxpayer. They rely on charitable donors. But, they can do wonders with a small budget. And, what they do best is preserve the local history and they can put it in perspective for you.

Societies vs Libraries 
In addition to preserving local history and having historical documents and preserved histories, and often unpublished histories, small town America wants you to visit them. Visit their libraries, their cemeteries, their museums, eat at their diners all while taking out the time to walk the ground of your ancestors. They give us an excuse to get away from the databases that you can access from your hometown library. Small town America has what large repositories and libraries don't have - perspective. T

The locals have people who knew your people. The locals have the pics of their grandparents, often with yours identified in their family albums. They have antique stores filled with old bibles that you may identify, but time has lost the old-timers.

Even in Kansas City, where we have the the National Frontier Trails Museum, National Archives - KC, the Truman Presidential Library, Eisenhower and Hoover Presidential Libraries not far out of reach, the Midwest Genealogy Center, and the Kansas City branch of The State Historical Society, there's still a need for those who speak the language of the locals. That's when professional genealogists turn to the Clay County Historical Society & Museum. It is there where I uncovered documents for both 1) Who Do You Think You Are, Tim McGraw episode and 2) the Kearney MO episode of The Dead Files 3) plus a plethora of clients whose ancestors settled or passed through Missouri.

These specialized local repositories, like the Midwest Afro-American Genealogical Interest Coalition M.A.G.I. C: not only hold family records and vertical files in their holdings, like the other specialized local repositories, they all have someone, or can contact someone, who can be interviewed or have expertise in a field. They have community connections.

There is no "one-stop shop" for genealogy - not even the FamilySearch Library, Salt Lake City with their massive collection. Now they play fair! They support the local genealogical communities, lineage and hereditary societies, and they partner with the smaller societies because they recognize the fact that smaller societies-specialty societies and repositories - have something to offer. There's room for all. I like to say it's synergetic.

A few years back, on my last visit to Allen County, IN, there was a small local entity that needed to boost their funding, and donor contribution. Instead of smothering their membership growth, the Allen County Public Library stepped in and partnered with them in their effort. It was a great event, well attended. A great use of taxpayer dollars - keep the community viable.

What Can the Large Genealogy Libraries Do?
First they must understand, once again, diversity. The more the merrier should be the mantra when it comes to topic specialists and experienced genealogists working with the large libraries. My mother, who was a librarian and specialized in archival research, was not a historian. She was limited, as many are, from classic schoolbook sanitization of history. But, boy!, did she know her collections and the databases the library held. Thirty-two years allowed her to span actually 3 generations of high schoolers.

Mother could put her finger on the card catalog of every vertical file and finding aid like Quick Draw McGraw. She was from western Kansas after all! She may have even known local histories, but not necessarily the importance of a cultural or societal incident that may have changed the trajectory of a place, person, or community. Not once did Mother say ""Now hold on there!" and "I'll do the thin'in' around here and don't you forget it!" Instead her philosophy was "when one grows, we all grow."

Secondly, they might wish to embrace "community partnership." For the most part, I think most libraries do just that. Just like we've seen in the Walmart small town takeovers, the quality of genealogical programming can be diminished if the family genealogists has limited exposure. This is probably why the KC metro based Midwest Genealogy Center has traditionally partnered for an annual event with M.A.G.I.C, the Midwest Afro-American Genealogical Interest Coalition. This kind of partnership and specialized programming is needed and appreciated by the community.

Our family stories, though not usually shy of birthdate, marriage date, death date and census records, is not usually uncovered due to lack of research outreach. The information needed is widespread, and the local societies may hold the experts needed to guide us to our genealogical answers. Our ancestors were more than parents, offsprings, and dates; and the records needed are not always on a convenient database or in a "big" genealogical library.

Thirdly, know that limiting access to quality, and pushing specialists out of the market is the work of genealogical society bullies. They are not team players. They are like Walmart, bullies getting rid of what they consider competition vs. choices. Donors, say no to bulling!

Bullying often leads to genealogical societies losing members and membership dues. I personally think the goal is for the bully to inherit records. But, bullying results into destroying what should have been preserved - the genealogical community.

Sure the larger genealogical research libraries house books, databases and even original records, but even your favorite library should not be a "one stop shop." Our ancestors were unique.

We Partner with the Locals

Board of Tracing Ancestors
Kathleen Brandt, President
Collaborative Article: Interns

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Little Dixie - Tracing Pre-Civil War Ancestors


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

The largest slave holding counties in Missouri 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 neighboring 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).

What You May Not Know
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?

Slavery in the Kansas Territory?

Full Census
Finding Records
Descendants of slaves know, too well, that researching their ancestors involve thorough the enslaver's documentation. However, the same applies when researching slaveholders. Many vital records of enslaved people before the Civil War, and many after emancipation can be used to trace 1) formerly enslaved ancestors 2) abolitionists 3) enslavers.

We can often determine slaveholder whereabouts after the Civil War using original documents. Ex-slaveholders were directly tied to newly freed persons and their identities for years following the Civil War. Here are just a few examples: 
Saline County Colored Marriages, 1865 - 1870
  1. The sale of an enslaved family, or person, is noted in the deeds of the enslaver. 
  2. Ship manifests transporting enslaved people often name the enslaver *S1: Ep2 "Ships & Plantations - Kansas Ancestor McKinney"
  3. After the Civil-War, formerly enslaved persons were documented in Civil War pension records *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  4. Legalization of former slave marriages and other freedman bureau record the enslaver and a place of origin. *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  5. Some enslavers insured their valuable "slaves" through Slave Era Insurance Policies. Read The Telling Records of Insured Slaves 1640-1865.
  6. After the Civil War, ancestors left a money trail to follow through the Southern Claims Commission. Read A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files
  7. Border states also had Slave Claims.  (Future blogpost scheduled)
  8. Territorial records may include the baptism and sacraments of enslaved persons also referencing the enslaver. Read 5 Resources to Tracing Missouri Territorial Ancestors.
  9. Runaway persons were noted in newspapers by their first name tied to the enslaver, location and sometimes name of plantation*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  10. Abolitionists may have been associated with a church leading us to church records.*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY  (Future blogpost scheduled).
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files

I would be remiss if I did not share a favorite presentation of a3Genealogy entitled Claim It! which highlights the Southern Claims Commission Case Files. I also wanted to provide a few updates, for example, I learned recently, many did not know there was a Master Index on

That should get you started.  But you will want to really scour the archives.  By the way, just because your ancestor did not make a claim, or mentioned in the index, does not mean he (or she) is not mentioned in the neighbors' claims. I have a tendency of reading quite a few claims in the community to unscramble relationships. 

Why Research Southern Claims Commission Case Files?

This record collection can lead the family researcher / genealogists to uncover more on their ancestors, as it holds a wealth of historical information on the community, kinships, and proof of applicants’ claims.


Plantation conditions

Vital records

Location of residence(s)

War service

Property ownership

Name changes


Slave ownership: often with names

Slave loyalty 

 Making a Claim: Who, What, When, Where & How  

Q: Who could make a claim?  And, Who did it? 

A: Union Loyalists / Supporters. This included property owners during the Civil War, former slaves and free born coloreds.  Basically, if it was your ancestors’ property, and they allowed for the Union Army/Navy to use their property, and can prove it, many filed a claim. There were 22, 298 claims and about 220,000 witnesses.  Witness may have been a slave or ‘free-colored.” 

QWhat could be claimed?
       A: Property. This was a property Reimbursement procedure put in place.

Q: When could the union loyalists/supporters make the claim?
     A: 1871-1873

 Q: Where (or Which) states were eligible?
       A: 12 southern state

     Q. How to make a claim?
     A: With proof and most often witnesses. Researchers will find proof in the form of a petition accompanied by testimonies; depositions of witnesses and reports penned by special agents.

 Slaveholder, Ex-Slave, Free Coloreds

As mentioned, the claims were based on reimbursement for the Union to use property (horse, mule, food from storage, slave, etc. But, the claims were a bit different to prove 1) ownership 2) proof of value.

 Slaveholder had to provide proof of …

  • Being an abolitionist or union supporter
  • Owning a plantation and having a loss
  • Claimant information to prove kinships
  • Places of residences
  • Wills and probates if pertinent to the claim (ownership)

 Free- Coloreds had to provide proof of …

  • Legally manumitted: manumission papers proof
  • War Service
  • Proof of kinship, inheritance

Slave: Ex slaves could also claim but had to prove...

  • Slaveholder information
  • War Service (contraband)
  • Name Changes
  • Property Ownership

Where are the Records
These records have been digitized on and The originals and microfilmed versions are held in NARA Record Group 217 for the approved / settled claims.  For more information read NARA Southern Commission Case Files and Approved Case Files, 1871 - 1880 

Disallowed (failed to prove), and barred claims (often because they did not meet the deadline of 3 Mar 1873), can be found in RG233, House of Representatives or at Fold3 partially digitized. (We've had 100% success of uncovering the counties for our clients on Fold3.  But some county records may notbe included here and only located at NARA. 

Slave Compensation Claims

Although this will require a separate blog, let’s not confuse the Southern Claims Commission Case Files with the Slave Compensation Claims which was compensation for loss of slave’s free labor.

Slave Compensation Claims allowed loyal slaveholders in the Boarder States, think Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland (and some neighboring states), to be compensated for permitting their slaves to enlist in the Union efforts ($300); or were drafted ($100).

More to come on Slave Compensation Claims.

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