Friday, June 21, 2024

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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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Military Records Lost in Fire? Let's Reconstruct Them!

 All Is Not Lost. What Are the Next Steps

The July 12, 1973 fire at the St. Louis National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed approximately 80% of Army personnel records from 1 Nov 1912 to 1 Jan 1960; and, 75% of the Air Force records from 25 Sep 1947 to 1 Jan 1964. In all, between 16 to 18 million military service files, including those for WWI and WWII, were destroyed. However, this loss should not discourage researchers from uncovering an ancestor's military experience.

With a bit of perseverance and legwork family researchers can rebuild an ancestor's military service history using alternative sources. The result may be confirmation of military service dates, troop activities, discharge data, a list of awards and decorations, and perhaps even a peek at your veteran's medical information.

Getting Started
To begin the process of reconstructing your veteran's military experience, first gather vital information, such as birth date and place of birth, as well as death date and social security number (if applicable). Your veteran's unique service number may also be needed. Through the use of ledgers from enlistment stations and service number indexes, the NPRC can usually determine your ancestor's service number.

This information will be used to complete the Request Pertaining to Military Records, Standard Form 180 (SF-180) Military Record Requests Using Standard Form 180 (SF-180) .

With the help of state and federal agencies, the NPRC has been diligently reconstructing veteran personnel files. Fire damaged records are stored in a climate-controlled area and treated for mold by NPRC preservationists' technicians. It is possible that your veteran's entire service file was salvaged, or has been partially restored or reconstructed. When received, the NPRC will use the SF-180 form to retrieve available documents or may inform the researcher that the veteran's file is in the process of being reconstructed.

Useful Resources
Upon discharge, each veteran is presented with papers that outline their military service including unit information, rank, dates of service and discharge. These discharge papers, now referred to as Report of Separation (DD214), may list date and place of entry into active duty and home address at time of entry. It provides any battles and campaigns that the veteran participated in, as well as decorations, medals, citations and campaign awards. It also lists service outside Continental US specifying the destination, date of departure and arrival. The reason for separation and the home address after separation is also included. For more information on DD214 reference About Military Service Records and Official Military Personnel Files .

Copies of discharge papers were stored in the veteran's personnel file and few were saved after the 1973 fire. Although it is possible to locate copies of the originals held by employers, funeral homes, or within the Adjutant General records, most likely the researcher will have to use Last Pay Vouchers, Veteran Affairs (VA records), Passport Applications, and naturalization records as alternate sources to finding vital information held on the DD214. Reconstructing this information is the key to rebuilding your ancestor's military service file.

Last Pay Voucher


A collection of 19 million final pay vouchers is available and may be used as a primary source for reconstructing military service records lost in the 1973 fire. Often the SF-180 response to a researcher's inquiry will verify the existence of a veteran's Last Pay Voucher. If available, the NPRC will provide ordering instructions (usually a fee of $20.00) for the researcher to obtain a pay voucher. Even this lone record can reveal a military footprint of your ancestor's service history.

Although this last pay voucher may appear to be a sheet of scribbles and numbers, a keen eye may uncover some interesting hints. If the service number was not known prior, it can usually be found on the voucher. Place and date of enlistment, along with rank, company and regiment may be named. The discharged date and any information where the veteran was stationed will be specified. Itemized payments allocated for overseas service will also be itemized on the final pay voucher.

If the veteran received any decorations - medals or ribbons - this too will be listed and replacement medals and ribbons may be ordered. For ordering information visit Military Awards and Decorations.

Be sure to note if travel pay was granted. Where the veteran chose to reside upon discharge is normally noted with the travel pay allocation. This information may assist the researcher in locating a copy of the DD214 held at the state's Adjutant General's office.Adjutant General Records

The Adjutant General, appointed by the state Governor (except for Vermont, Washington, D.C., and South Carolina), is the state's senior military officer and "de facto" commander. The Adjutant General's office has historically held military records for the state. Upon discharge, veterans were instructed to register their military service with the local VA offices. This information was filed with the state Adjutant General's office. If the military discharge was registered, the Adjutant General's Office may hold copies of the original separation or DD214 papers.

To solicit a copy of your veteran's DD214 from the Adjutant General's Office you may need to submit the SF-180 form. Due to archival space, Adjutant General's archived records, up to WWII, may be held at the State Historical Society or within the State Archives.Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Records)

Many of the veteran service records were on loan to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire, leaving them intact. If the veteran or beneficiary filed a claim before July 1973, the VA may have information. If the VA claim was made after 1973, the veteran had to prove military service, so the VA office may already have a partially reconstructed personnel file and may be able to aide the researcher in locating claim files.


While searching for a veteran's file, the VA was able to determine which Veteran's Record Center was holding the record I needed. In this case it was the VA Records Center in Dayton, OH. The file revealed an unknown medical condition to the family, plus, a medical discharge letter explaining the "Certificate of Disability for Discharge."

Local VA offices may also be of assistance. To verify VA information call toll free number at 1-800-827-1000.Medical-Related Alternate Records

In 1988, a collection of computer tapes containing ten million hospital/treatment facility admission records was transferred to the NPRC. To initiate a search of Medical-Related Alternate Records complete Form 13055, Request for Information Needed to Reconstruct Medical Data, PDF here . This is the most comprehensive collection to reconstruct military medical records.Death Certificate/Funeral Records

Funeral records and death certificates should be checked for additional veteran's information. These records may hold copies of separation papers or the DD214. Death certificates may specifically list injuries or illnesses caused during military service. For burial benefits, additional veteran information may even be scribbled in the margin.Morning Report

When reconstructing a veteran's service record, information on troop activities, actions, and daily routines can be helpful. This can be found in daily Morning Reports. Army Morning Reports are available at the NPRC for 1 November 1912 to 1974. Air Force Morning reports are available from September 1947 to June 30, 1966. For detailed information on availability see Morning Reports and Unit Rosters.

Morning Reports are available on microfilm and are not indexed by individuals. They list activities such as promotions or demotions, those killed, wounded or missing in action. Service personnel being assigned to a unit, or leaving a unit; and those going to a hospital for treatment are also specified by name.

In order to access a Morning Report, the veteran's exact unit of assignment must be known including division/regiment and company name that can be obtained from the Final Pay Voucher, Separation Papers or VA information.

Other Helpful Sources
Local newspapers clippings may be used to fill in the missing pieces. Area newspapers often reported on those wounded during military service. They also may give additional genealogical information (i.e. a parent's name). Be sure to also check with hometown military museums as they often chronicled local veteran's military service.

Regiment associations or alumni group records, books, and diaries may provide additional troop activities. These records often list veterans by name.

Two resources often forgotten when rebuilding ancestral military service are naturalization and passport applications. Naturalization papers may have military service data, especially if your immigrant ancestor was naturalized while serving in WWI or WWII.

While researching a veteran recently, I found extensive military information on a passport application, specifying the veteran's WWI service in France, complete with dates of overseas service and where the veteran was stationed!

Recreating the Complete Picture Piece by Piece
By compiling the information recorded on Last Pay Vouchers and Adjutant General Records, the researcher will begin to rebuild an ancestor's DD214 data. A thorough analysis of information provided by VA records and death and funeral records, and a bit of midnight oil, will be able to recreate a detailed look into your veterans' service experience.

More Information
Be sure to listen to Lori, of Redbird Research, on the Researching Military Records: Meet Expert Lori episode of Hittin' the Bricks with Kathleen Podcast. She offers more ideas.

Kathleen Brandt 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

June 2024 Newsletter

 Privy Examination 

A Privy Examination: 16 - 20th centuries
A separate "private" examination to confirm that the sell of "her" property was not due to coercion or pressure from her husband. The law required the Judge or Justice of Peace to obtain, and note, the married woman's consent as a step in signing the legal document.

Her Pride

What is the Meaning of "Lesbian"
Pride Month led me to ask "What does "lesbian mean?" Which led me to wonder how long has the word lesbian been used to describe relationships. Well, the word "lesbian" has its roots in ancient Greek culture and literature, specifically linked to the life and works of Sappho and the island of Lesbos from c. 630-570 BCE. Evolved from the association with Sappho and her works, the term "lesbian" began to be used in the late 19th century to refer to female homosexuality. 

History and historical documents and writings tell us alternative lifestyles have always existed. And, as genealogists, it's hard to be blind to the records that reveal our ancestors' secrets.  I've written about some of my non-traditional unions already. The relationship of Elena DeSayn and Alice Eversman was revealed through IRS tax records awaiting me at the Library of Congress. Read Library of Congress Holdings. 

6 Tips to Start Your Research
  1. Read: Was Grandma a Feminist? shhh... Her Secret Life? Many women were feminists. But, it is here that we often uncover names and associates. But more research is required to understand your female ancestors. There have always been advocates, and those who wanted freedom  to speak, financial anonymity, sexual choices, and to buck against the cultural construct. 
  2. Divorce Records: I was able to uncover spousal accusations, with names in divorce records.
  3. Asylum records: Yes, "unnatural" relationships could have caused an ancestor to be institutionalized
  4. University Special Collections. I've had great success here but stay tuned. Will be posting a full blog and will add the link here once completed. 
  5. Newspapers and Journals: The Feminist movement was well covered across America. It is here where many uncover their ancestors names. However, one must not assume an ancestor was a lesbian due to their involvment. Some were fighting for rights and many had support of her husbands. But, further research may provide more information on the organization, there parites (sometimes rumored), or their boldness.
  6. "Boston Marriage" keyword. This keyword is a big hint that your ancestor had a non-traditional marriage. The relationship may have been platonic, or a "sympathetic union.Or, it may have been their preferred life-time mate in which many would say they were lesbians
St. Louis Globe - Democrat, 1894, pg 27

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We heard you.  You wanted proof. It's easy. Let us show you how to use FamilySearch Experimental AI.

Step 1: Log in using your free accout.

Step 2. Go to the home page by clicking on the Family Search logo on the upper left-hand coner. 


Step 3.  Scroll down to the far right bottom of the page and find VIEW EXPERIMENTS. Keep in mind it is in beta, so the image placements may change, but the wording has so far been the same. 

Step 4.  In the middle of the top row, you will see this image with Expand your search with Full Text. And Go to Experiment. 
Feel free to try all the buttons, but this is the one you were asking about after the last podcast. 

Step 5. Start Your Search using Keywords. Trying to find relationships?

This gave 5545 returns. With both names in quotes it translates just find ever occurence of Thomas Baird and/or Polly Baird. This would allow me to gather places, timeframes, names, etc.  But it's AI, I can narrow that if I need to.

Now the Search Tips give you little to work with, but here are a few suggestions. 

Are you needing to narrow your search? In my wide search, I learned there are several Thomas Bairds and several Polly Bairds in Ohio. I need the correct 1) Polly Baird 2) I need to confirm her relationship with Thomas, 2) I need her to be married or widowed to a Samuel Thompson.  Of, course there are times when we have to widen our search. For example, Wonder how many Thomas and Polly Bairds there are in Ohio?But I want only documents that have both names in it and the bonus if S. Thompson is also named in the same document.  You can put all three in your search, but for our purpose (and my need to narrow down one step at a time), I'm showing yu how I do it. 

So, I add the "+" sign before each person of interest with the "quotes.. This translates to I want all the occurences of these names in the "same" document. 

Wow!That gave only two documents with them together and both documents are in Hamilton Ohio. That was a big lead for me. I wasn't sure where they had moved to/from. 

Big Bonus
These documents answered all my questions. It not only named Polly, it confirmed Thomas was her father and Samuel was her husband. 
Oh...and I learned the cause of my confusion

Polly Baird was the daugther of Thomas Baird by his first wife, Jane Kilgore, the daughter of Charles Kilgore of County Knox, Indiana Territory. Here's a link to the document:
Now do you see why I love this AI program?

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