Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Adventures in Researching Military Records

Gideon Smith

Lately I've been looking into the life and times of Gideon Smith, grandfather of my Civil War great grandfather.   Later in his life he became the Reverend Gideon Smith but I'm not there yet and don't know how he got to be a reverend.  The time I'm looking into is when he was a private during the Revolutionary War.

Available through the miracles of the internet are the US War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, where I was able to find pages and pages of documents relating to my ancestor's application for a war pension.  Many of  the pages were devoted to an extensive interview of Gideon by some military official in which many questions—both military and non-military—were  asked about his background. What a goldmine! I'll have to get back to those, but right now I'm on to see what else is in here. 

Next are some pages showing official letters of response to his application and....uh-oh, there's a problem here.  In spite of all the info my ancestor diligently provided, they're saying that there are some “obvious discrepancies”.  What are they talking about??  Do they mean his lack of an official record of birth?  He explained that he didn't have one, but he had seen in his father's bible, written in his father's own hand, the date of his birth.  And good grief, it was 1752!  Lots of people didn't have official birth records back then.  My own father, born in 1904, didn't have a birth certificate.  What do they want?  Well, until they get whatever it is they want, they're calling his claim "invalid".  Hrrumph! 

Okay, so I'll come back to that.  Let's move on and see what else we've got.  Hmm, here's a letter of inquiry from some woman  I've never heard of.  Her request was sent  in 1932.   What does she want? What business does she have going after the records of my great great grandfather?  Oh, I see—she's someone like me, someone doing family research, another descendent of Gideon's.  And actually, I'm glad she asked because here's a nice concise typewritten letter in response, outlining old Gideon's military history in one page—easy to save to my records.  I'll come back later and find out what exactly he did while he was serving in the military.  But right now, I need to keep on track. I need to find out:  Were those discrepancies resolved?  Did he ever get that pension? 

Watch this space.

No comments: