Friday, February 8, 2013

What To Get A Genealogist For Their Birthday - Civil War Pension Files

Genealogy is a passion of mine, and has been since I was a little girl.  It is a passion that has been passed down in my family for over 70 years from my great-great Aunt Hazel to my father and to me.  Since my Aunt passed almost ten years ago, my father and I make it a regular habit to email back and forth about online finds, new cousins found, and discussions about our ancestors.  In fact,  you could probably say that we have this secret language.  We will have conversations that drive my mother crazy sometimes because she can't always figure out who we are talking about.  Many times we may only mention the person we are discussing by their first name, as we know them personally. 

Recently, we have become more interested in some of our ancestors that served in the Civil War.  We have spent time learning about these men and finding what we could about their lives.  All the men that fought and survived received pensions in my family, which is just wicked awesome.  Many of the men, particularly my ancestors from the Sullivan County, New York and Wayne County, Pennsylvania area, we know very little about.  Yes, there are a few trees with information online completed by others, but no sources.  I don't trust those trees when there are no sources cited.  We do have one distant cousin we talk with who has done an incredible job with the family tree, and has incredible sources!  I can't wait to meet her one day in person! 

My father's birthday was coming up, and I had no idea what to ever get him.  The love of my life, Jason, and I could not figure out what to get him.  We went back and forth for the longest time.  In bed one night, I had a thought that what if I got a pension file from the NARA for one of our civil war ancestors for my father's birthday gift.  I shared this with Jason, and we thought it was a great idea.  This is like a dream come true gift for a genealogist!  So, I ordered the file the next day from the NARA using the online form.

Well, two days later I get an email from NARA stating that the file could not be found.  WHAT!  NOT FOUND!  I didn't give up!  Well, I can't go to the NARA because I live in New England and it is located in Washington DC.  So, I contacted another professional genealogist I know that might have someone she uses to get files from the NARA.  Sure enough, she did and I contacted that person.  This was the best gift ever, and I was not going to take a "file not found" answer.  I was going to have to wait a few weeks until the lovely lady was going to visit the NARA, and not only was I going to get the one file I originally wanted, but I could get ALL the pension files for just a little more than what NARA charges for one.  YES ALL OF THEM!  I was in genealogy heaven!!

I woke up this morning (knowing she went yesterday) to an email from her, and a photograph of every piece of paper in each file!  No better way to start the day off!!  I am so excited to be able to give my father this birthday gift!!  If you ever can't think what to get a genealogist for their birthday, how about a set of documents from NARA or another repository.

Side Note:  The file NARA couldn't find.  They told her it was checked out, and they are looking into where it went.  I hope they find it, since this is the file on Samuel H. Slater that I have begun writing about in this blog.

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