Previously I examined the wonders found in Civil War Pension Records. Well, I just received the next and, for now, the last batch of records for the seven brothers I am documenting. My application to honor them through the Ohio Genealogical Society is in the mail. So with that monumental task complete, I want to review the reasons for anyone interested in family history to get those records right away!
Again, they proved to be a genealogy detective’s Mecca. Oh, you’ll fine the dates and some essential records like marriage and death certificates. In fact, I recommend getting pension records first. It might save a lot of unnecessary time and research. But the glory comes from the details, bringing these people to life: their appearance, their health, their service, and their struggles and temperaments. All good reasons to obtain your ancestor’s Civil War Pension Records; let’s look at these four aspects from the perspective of my own family.
- Appearance: Not only does a detail regarding the appearance of an ancestor allow you to picture him, (in this case, all ‘hims’) it also gives a little genetic insight. I know that William, Duncan, Robert, Calvin, and David all were at least six foot tall (well above average height for the time) with light hair and blue eyes. Greer was shortest at 5’8” with brown hair and blue eyes, while Nathan had grey eyes, light hair, and stood 5’10”. I witness these same traits popping up in my own family.
- Health: Medical information can also provide individual and genetic insights. William, Nathan, Robert, and Calvin all suffered from heart disease. And while it is difficult to separate out their service related ailments from those of old age, rheumatism (and lumbago, what a lovely old word) was a malady common to all the brothers. Service illnesses were also documented in the files. William had typhoid in April of 1863. Duncan suffered from Malaria for most of 1863. Contracted “near the Cumberland River in Tenn.”, the symptoms would plagued him his whole life, debilitating him by 56.
- Service: Details of their service experience, when they were sick or detached from their regiment, can help determine in which battles they participated. I provided some sense of four of the brothers’ service in my last blog. Now I know that William’s illnesses did not impact any battle dates but he was “absent detached with Div. train since May 20, 1864”. What does that mean, ‘with division training’ or ‘with division train’? I am not sure, so if you know please respond! I do know it means he likely did not participate in Sherman’s March to the Sea.
- Struggles and Temperaments: The government wanted to know whether any habits contributed to claimants’ conditions so documentation was required and sometimes family squabbles erupted in the claims. I know that Nathan had “no evidence of vicious habits,” that William was “a duly sober man of very temperate habits,” and that Duncan “never drank, used tobacco, and had only the best habits”. Then there is the huge argument that played out on the claims pages between Robert Croy and his second wife, Mary E. Atkins Nelson Croy. Robert left Mary twice claiming that she allowed her daughter (his step-daughter) to entertain men in an inappropriate fashion in their home. Both his brother William and sister Francis testified on his behalf, claiming she was unusually cruel to him because he couldn’t work, being deaf and lame. Mary claimed he tried to farm and failed, that they then packed up and moved so he could work as a wagon maker and failed at that, stole things from her when he left so he could sell them, and was one of the “most contrary and disagreeable Persons I know of.” Without resources, because Mary claimed half of his pension, he had his attorney write her begging her to let him “come back to live with you.” She never responded, and Robert died at the home of his sister Francis. A regular soap opera!
I haven’t even mentioned how following post office boxes for each claim found in the records (they were required to reapply often through the years) gives you a very good idea of where that ancestor lived over time. So I have given you FIVE reasons to get those pension records. Can anyone share some more?
All information from Soldier’s Certificates # 928135 (Calvin Croy), #695593 (William P. Croy), #679496 (Robert Croy), #200993 (David Croy), #825314 (Nathan Croy)#779773 (Duncan Croy), and #237291 (Greer Croy)Case files of Approved Pension applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs. National Archives, Washington, DC