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[ Transcript for: African-American Genealogy: What Happened During the Wars? ]

African-American Genealogy: What Happened During the Wars? Video Transcript

Part Four of a Five-Part Series


MALE SPEAKER: This public affairs presentation is brought to you by the Missouri State Archives Office of the Secretary of State: Where History Begins.

This program is the fourth in a five–part series on researching African American genealogy. Your series host is Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, Family History Research Consultant.

Today's program: What Happened During the Wars?, will help you explore and use the many resources available from the Internet and local, state and national historical repositories.

So, let's join Traci for some good advice and helpful tips on discovering our African American heritage.


:49 Descriptive Recruitment List for Volunteers of the U.S. Colored Troops

MS. TRACI WILSON-KLEEKAMP: It's your job, as a researcher, to really kind of know how your particular area of research was affected by which wars and who the players were. There's no way—I don't think I'm smart enough to know all the details about the wars, but I can tell you there's some excellent resources for researchers if you're trying to investigate about an ancestor that served in the wars.

Ancestry has a pension index and it does have some documents for the U.S. Colored Troops, some files for some of the recruitment companies that went.

I'm just going to do a little overview of some of the resources that are out there that are very helpful and will lead you to other places.

One of the newest resources that's out is the on-line index for—descriptive recruitment list for volunteers of the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri; it's 1863 to 1865. This is a phenomenal resource for the simple reason that it lists the soldier and his owner. So, let's just pick one, for example, we'll just go over here to the D's and see what we get. This allows you to see the name of the recruit, their age, and where they were born, and what county and who their owner was. So, if you happen to have a relative that served in the Civil War in Missouri, chances are they’re on this list. And, what's great about going to the film and looking at the actual pages is that it gives you a physical description of the person.

Sometimes there are some other notes written down on the descriptive lists. And, I couldn't even begin to tell you what it could be, but sometimes interesting notations are written on the actual descriptive list sheet.

So, that's one—that's one interesting thing and you can search by the volunteer or you can search by the slave owner. So, this allows you to kind of circumvent maybe a really long process of trying to figure who owned your ancestor if you know they served in the Civil War, because you use Ancestry and they come up on the Civil War pension index and you can go back to this link that's on—at the St. Louis County Public Library for this descriptive list and look them up and see who their owner was.

You may have a slave owner in mind and not know anything about any slaves and you can actually come look up the owner and see which slaves they did own. It tells you the county they lived in, and how old the slave was. Again, this is a really invaluable resource that's fairly new. This little document right here that says George Steele and his widow is Cunby Bagby, a friend of mine is doing research on this family in Greene County, Missouri. And, in this case, George Steele had applied for a pension and then after he died his wife was applying for his benefits. And, you need all this information to apply for their pension record.

4:06 Missouri State Archives Soldiers Database

Let's go back to a couple of other resources on-line for--if you're investigating what was going on or who was in the wars. The Missouri State Archives has a fantastic link to—it has a soldiers database that you can search by name, and by the conflict, and what—what branch of service. It's very, very useful.

Just for fun, let's see what happens when we put in George Steele; he's on that list that I have out there. But, I know George Steele served in the 68th U.S. Colored Troops, so we can see the details over here. There's the card, and then we'll go view his actual record. So, here's George Steele. He's 30 years old. He was in the 68th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops. He was in Company B. He was 30 years old. He enlisted on January 28th, 1864, in Springfield, Missouri. And, he mustered in at the Benton Barracks, March 8, 1864. And, sometimes at the bottom of these it says whether they died or on what day they mustered out. And, he mustered out in Louisiana in February of 1866. So, you can have a pension index form like the form that we were just looking at a minute ago or you can have a kind of muster in and out sheet that kind of shows you when they got into the military. And just—you can see all of these different people that have the same name and there's going to be a card for each one of them. So, this is really also an invaluable tool, in terms of understanding who was, you know, in which conflict, what company they served in, who they worked under, et cetera.

This database for the Missouri State Archives goes from the War of 1812 through World War I. So, really each one of these cards you'll have to spend some time investigating where your ancestor may fall on some of these records. In early shows, I have talked about this particular database and how it could be useful.

Another thing that's helpful in keeping track of these is sometimes people have the same names, so you can use this muster record to make sure that if you've got two people with the same name, that you can see the differences, their age, where they were located. And, even people that are in the same company sometimes have the same age and can have the same name and all that. So, you want to go back and maybe look at that pension index and add—look at their company number and their spouses and, you know, work from there to kind of—to try and sort it out.

7:01 Pension Files and Other Federal and State Resources

Illinois also has an excellent database for its military personnel, very similar to Missouri's. It's a database for their Illinois veterans. They even have a link for database of Civil War veterans that served in Missouri units. So, there is still a resource for people who have ancestors that served in Missouri, but then went to Illinois.

Another fantastic resource is via the National Archives; this is where you order pension records from. And I'd like to just show you a little bit about what a pension file looks like. I ordered a pension file here for a man named Faith Jacobs. There's a form that you can get on the web—you probably can't see it too well from here, but I'll hold it up and hopefully they can zoom in on it. It's a form. You have to request these forms to fill out, and they send them to you in the mail or you can fill out an on-line application based on the information that we just saw from the pension index. You fill that information in and then you mail it in. Right now the cost is $37.00, but the National Archives is apparently interested in raising the price, so it may be as much as $125.00 for a Civil War pension file.

What makes a Civil War pension file so extraordinary is what comes in it. This whole packet right here that I have in front of me is one person named Faith Jacobs, and I really didn't know anything about Faith Jacobs. I ordered his pension file because I saw that he lived in the community where my ancestors lived. And I noticed in the pension files that various people that lived in the neighborhood were interviewed for the pension applicant. Mostly for the inspectors or—or investigators from the military to find out if the person is who they said they were. If the wife was requesting benefits they wanted to make sure that she was, indeed, married to him. If he had living minors who would be eligible for his benefits they wanted to be assured that those were, indeed, his children and that they were his legal and legitimate children, et cetera.

So, I became interested when various people were interviewed and they would say, "Well, I was owned by such and such." And, each person who was interviewed would be owned by someone different, but they were all neighbors to each other. So, that just gave additional genealogical information that I would not have found necessarily by looking at the census or via oral history. It would be all new information. So, in this case, I actually got a file on Faith Jacobs and a few weeks—several weeks later I got another file. It turns out that they had found additional records. And, these are all folded up and, of course, you can't see them but each one of these represents a statement that someone made to the military about the applicant and their family. In this case, the daughter is interviewed, the mother is interviewed, the brother-in-law—a variety of people are interviewed, but most interesting the widow tells her whole life story. She notes when she was first sold in St. Louis, and then her next preceding three owners. And, she was also married three times, two times before black marriages were recognized in 1865 and 1866 after emancipation.

It has become very strategic, in my mind, to understand how you put these types of military records together to tell a story.

You can also request records for relatives who served in World War I, particularly if they have collected a pension. In my case, my relative served in World War I, in the Army, and apparently quite a number of the Army records burned in a fire. So, I have a laundry list of people who served in World War I whose information I have not been able to get because the records were burned in a fire.

So, we can backtrack a little bit and look at some of the other resources that are offered for World War I veterans and what they look like. So, this we saw previously is a pension index card for George Steele. He applied for pension and his wife Cunby Bagby. You might wonder why she has a different name. Apparently, Cunby remarried after her husband died and requested his pension benefits. I looked briefly at the National Archives website and the reason I brought that up is to show you that they have an entire page devoted just to genealogists and family historians. If you're new to genealogy it gives you a link to the most requested records that you can get. And, if you're ever at a National Archives website, you can use—you have access to Ancestry and Heritage Quest for free at—when you're working at their site.

This is one of those websites where there's always something going on and, if you bookmark it, you should check it regularly, lots of great records that you have access to, particularly, military records. There are now, too, access to World War II Army enlistment records. And, I believe these are also on Ancestry as well right now. There are also things that are non-military related like Native American censuses. Lots of great resources have been added to their website.

So, let's move a little bit forward and look a little bit closely—more closely at these pension index cards. These are just two additional cards. One served in the 68th, the same company that we looked at previously with George Steele. And then this one is for Strother Ward. And, basically, what I did was I went to the website so that I could see—to the descriptive colored troop index to see who their owner was. And, this really helps if you can find out who owned a particular soldier and, you know, quickly begin researching that family. In this case, Strother Ward's card was interesting because there was one for him by himself, and one that had himself and his widow listed. So, I didn't know why there were two different cards. When I looked closely at them they were exactly the same. I just had not seen two cards like that before. But, you know, you never know. You always want to make sure that you understand each record that you're getting.

Same thing for Willis Ransom. In this case, it looks like it's a grandson or son that's applying for his benefits after his father died.

Ancestry has a card on-line too for the World War I draft registration card. This is also an invaluable resource. And it's from 1917 through 1918. It lists the name of the person who applied; it gives the address, where they lived; it gives their birth date and their age. It also tells you their present occupation and the name of their employer and where their employer is and the name of their wife and where they're living. Again—and there's their signature. Again, for those of you that are interested in collecting, you know, keepsake things—just to see the signature of an ancestor who was born in 1874 is pretty nifty, if you ask me.

Another great resource about the Civil War pension application is when the veteran tells their story, and there's genealogical information. Not every single pension packet that you are going to receive is actually going to have this amount of information like you saw in the package that I showed you for Faith Jacobs.

This is another pension file that I received for Robert Grandison or Robert a.k.a. Grandison Cunningham. It is a little bit confusing because his pension index card had one name. And, then on the Secretary of State's website for the soldiers database it was written another way. And, then it was written another way on the census. So, after putting these all together I realized it was just some confusion or just some typos in the spelling of his name. But, his name was Grandison and he also went by Robert. And, he makes a statement in his pension file that says, "In part, I have not been a drinking man, and never drank in my life. I've always worked when able enough to work as a farm tenant and hire. I worked for old Mr. Laundrey for several years and for Mr. Casey and wherever I would I would get work. I have done very little during the last year, nothing but a little work for my—for my own use." And, then he goes into detail about when he was first married. And, he was married for 21 or 22 years. He wasn't divorced. But, he was married to his first wife during slave times and had eight children with her. And, that he lived with her up and till the war of—until 21 years ago. And then he says he married a woman. He says after they separated she—his first wife married a man named Obie Sutherland, and that he died four years ago. And, he says, he has three children under 16 years of age by a woman named Annie Oliver, that she's not married and he says, “I never married her and did not live with her.” And, then he lists the names of his children. And, he actually ends up having four children and not three. But, what's extraordinary about this is he tells you basically in two paragraphs a bunch of information that you would not have been able to necessarily pick up from the census.

And, one reason is because he lived in one county for a period of time and then went to another county. So—and also, the information about who he worked for and when he worked for them allows an investigator—someone doing an investigation to go back and look for considerably more details about his life.

17:35 Finding Military Records on Ancestry.com

This is just an example. I wanted to use Ancestry to show if you put in certain names, what types of military records would come up. Not that this person has any particular significance to me, but just a demonstration on what types of records are available for, you know, during the war periods for research.

For this name, Anderson Johnson, who lived in Missouri, you know, ten files come up for the World War I draft registration card. One file comes up for the U.S. Colored Troops Military service record. This is very interesting. This is a new record that I haven't seen before and it—it's—I think, it's about twenty pages long. And, it talks about his service in the Civil War and then American Civil War soldiers, Revolutionary War Pension Census, and American Soldiers of World War I. Again, this is just a demonstration of the number of resources that are available for the military—related to military service.

Most people doing genealogical research when it comes to war–era research find that this particular period of time is very interesting. The Missouri's Union Provost Marshal paper for 1861 to 1866 is—I've read it and I haven't been able to make a whole lot of use of the records there, although, I have read and picked up on slaves in my research that show up there. It's one of those things that you need to put in your ancestor’s name if you think they're connected to this time and see what comes up and take whatever lead you get from this and see where else—how else you can pursue it.

19:20 Conclusion

Like any of these types of databases that are on-line related to the war you can find—lots of details will show up that will give you leads for—for something else.

In this case, I recollect looking at the Provost papers and finding that I had two or three people that had the same name. And, I was looking for a way to differentiate them. And so, I collected some pieces here from the Provost papers. I collected some pieces of the—via the pension index. And, then when I got the actual pension applications I could differentiate one person from the other. And, also, as you know the Secretary of State's Office has death records. So, the death records helped me identify each one of these people who had the same name, but differentiate them, in terms of determining whether they were related to each other or from the same area or the same owner, et cetera.

So, each one of these pieces of looking at military service records can give you some additional information. Sometimes you can get a pension application file that will have a lot of information. Sometimes you may be able to get a World War I record, like I haven't been able to, that will tell you information about an ancestor that lived in the early 1900s versus living, you know, pre-Civil War and after the pre-Civil War—and after the war-eras, excuse me.

So, it's just a matter of looking strategically at what's available via these military service records and deciding which one of these particular resources will give me the information that I need that was what was going on during the war years.

21:02 Finale

MALE SPEAKER: Thank you for watching What Happened During the Wars?, the fourth program in a five-part series hosted by Family History Research Consultant Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.

This series provides helpful techniques in researching African American genealogy through the Internet, and local, state, and national historical repositories.

This public affairs presentation is brought to you by the Missouri State Archives Office of the Secretary of State: Where History Begins.

Please join us for another program in this series. Thank you for watching.