Tales of Discovery

  • I found the cash sale land record for 315 acres purchased by my great-grandmother in 1858. She was 21 years old and single at the time she purchased the land. In the file is a declaration signed by her stating what improvements she made on land that was later deeded to my great-grandfather.
  • I was happy to finally confirm that one of my grandfathers had a land grant due to his 1812 service. His service record and his wife’s pension papers rounded out the picture.
  • Pulling pension packets for a half dozen ancestors was an eye opener. Not only did I learn one of them was an ambulance driver in the Civil War, but…another was captured and imprisoned as a Confederate soldier, despite the rest of his family being pro-Union. The discovery leads to many new paths!
  • I found that an ancestor’s brother-in- law was involved in many lawsuits in D.C., including a fascinating divorce case and a case where he was sued by a tenant for erecting a wall that prevented the tenant from using the building’s outhouse!  My great-grandfather’s D.C. police employment file listed the founder (and most of the senior leadership) of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union as endorsing his application to join the force. The same file included several indictments in police court for drinking on the job. A civil war pension for a  collateral relative named his wife and provided evidence he was a member of the family of interest. The list goes on… it was a very productive week!
  • Thanks to the staff at the Archives I was able to find my g-g- grandfather’s Civil War Pension file, all 200+ pages!
  • While going through over a dozen land entry file records for my ancestors, I was able to come across a couple of letters written in their own hand. How amazing it was to hold a document created over 150 years ago by my 3rd-great- grandfather!
  • I found my 3rd great uncle’s land patent records and a clue to information about his father, my 3rd great grandfather.
  • Reading 27 pages of statements and affidavits in in a special pension inquiry was like hearing family members tell the stories in their own words. And the documents gave critical information that the family had not found before.
  • Looking at the original muster roll uncovered an error in the Soldiers and Sailors database. This helped resolve exactly where a formerly enslaved sailor enlisted.
  • Opening what I expected was a simple “cash sale” land record, I discovered it was a “pre-emption” claim with evidence of occupation, improvements made, of widowhood, and remarriage. Affidavits from neighbors testified to the family’s habits, work ethic, and good character. This really helped fill in details about this family and narrowed the time frame for several family events.
  • For 20 years I have been attempting to verify a family tradition that an ancestor fought in the War of 1812. After spending 8 hours combing through the Miscellaneous 1812 Pension files, I not only found him but wonderful letters proving his identity and linking him and his wife to their travels from Virginia to Ohio to Illinois where he died in 1823.
  • My G-Grandfather’s pension file was missing when I searched for it 20 years ago. But due to extra efforts of NARA staff during Gen-Fed, this time I got the file and also an understanding of why I didn’t get it before now. It documented two marriages that I had struggled to verify.
  • Seeing examples of photographs at Archives II made me think of my uncles and other family members who had served in WWII and other wars. I found images of one uncle’s ship being bombed, and they add so much to the stories he had told of that event.
  • My grandfather’s uncle was killed at Cold Harbor in 1864. I don’t know if he even knew his uncle was in the Civil War–my mother didn’t know it. I held his service record in my hand!
  • Within minutes of discussing a DC probate problem with an archivist, I had the bond in my hands that dated the case and revealed the decedent’s last residence.
  • I found a hand-written letter from my 2nd great-grandmother in her first husband’s pension file. Now I can compare that to a hand-written family group sheet that was passed down in the family.
  • A death record provided by the widow in a homestead file confirmed two different men are combined in most Ancestry family trees.
  • I had always known that my grandfather had quit school in 8th grade to support his family but did not realize the long years of health problems his father had and the struggle his mother had after he died. A sadder story than I realized.