Originally posted HERE on Wednesday June 1, 2005
My husband, John, teaches IT classes at a community college here in Durham, NC. During the summer break, he contracts to teach the same classes at businesses all over. Last week he went to Gaithersburg, MD, so I went along because it’s very close to Washington DC. I spent three days there looking at Civil War pension files at the National Archives. Besides being the place where everyone can view originals of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, our government also stores other important original documents in this building! If you have an ancestor who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, those pension files can be a goldmine! There is a lot of great "how-to" information at the NARA website. I would recommend going thru them thoroughly before you visit, although there are lots of friendly employees and volunteers at the Archives to help newcomers!
I have visited the Archives a few times in the past. The first time, I was able to look at the files for my g-g-g-grandfather, Michael McDaid, and three of his sons, George, Samuel, and William McDaid. I was overjoyed to find a letter in Michael McDaid’s file, apparently written in his own handwriting! Something like that can really make a person come to life. Michael was an "interesting" person. I’ll surely write more about him in the future. His son, my g-g-grandfather, Samuel McDaid, didn’t serve long enough to collect a pension, but just the fact that his wife applied after his death provided information that I may not have found anywhere else.
On this trip, I looked at the files for ten other relatives who served in the Civil War. It’s a pretty simple process to find a Civil War ancestor with the resources they provide there. The pension index is on microfilm, arranged in alphabetical order. Also on microfilm are lists of members of specific regiments who applied for pensions. I have lots of relatives who served together, so I browsed thru a couple of those, too. You can view the info I have collected about these relatives:
If you happen to be related to any of these people, or anyone else whose pension files I mention within my genealogy files, feel free to drop me a line. While I don’t usually make copies of every page in a file, I would be happy to copy and send you what I have. Or if you know the info for your ancestors Civil War service, you can order copies online directly from NARA. The index which the Archives keeps on microfilm is also available from Ancestry, although I do not subscribe to that database. Many public libraries and Family History Centers have access, so you should check to see what is available locally to you.