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Tag Archives: Civil War Research

Richer Still: 4 (or 5) Reasons You Need Your Ancestor’s Civil War Records

Nathan sign williams sign Duncan signPreviously 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

The Aftermath of Researching the Civil War

Wood Engraving from: Harper's weekly, v. 7, no. 337 (1863 June 13), p. 381. www.loc.gov/pictures

Wood Engraving from: Harper’s weekly, v. 7, no. 337 (1863 June 13), p. 381. http://www.loc.gov/pictures

Gleanings

Is it the way of things that we discover the easier path at the end of a journey rather than the beginning? As in life, also true in research. For the previous six blogs, I searched the net mining the depths of individual records, local written histories, civil war society sites, and records of individual battles. Then, while wrapping things up for this post, I found two sites I wish I had discovered in the beginning.

The first site by the National Archives explains available records and gives an overview of how to proceed with searches, including important disclaimers. I advise you start here. http://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war/resources.html I quote from them here, using it as my own disclaimer for previous Civil War posts and pretty much anything you do in genealogy!

“Do not assume that a particular individual participated in a battle if (1) his unit was at the battle and (2) the person appears likely to have been with that unit. In the War Department’s view, and from a strict adherence to objective information in existing evidence, such an assumption cannot ordinarily be made… military careers are crafted both upon evidence and upon assumptions, with no guarantee that the assumptions are correct.”

Another valuable site from the National Parks Service provides a very user-friendly portal for following regimental movements through the length of the Civil War. You search by your ancestor’s name and up pops information that unfolds detail by detail, and it comes right from the National Archives! The site’s interactive nature saves you the time and energy of reinventing the war. http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers.htm

I say I wish I knew then what I know now (and probably had known and ignored like most humans who begin anything, including life,) but do I? My world is richer for the serendipitous details I discovered on the way. True in research, and infinitely true in life.

Aftermath

As Sherman said, “War is hell.” The aftermath goes to the living. Amazingly, all seven brothers lived, though some not for long. Below find what I know so far from census, find-a-grave, and other documentation. I list the brothers by order of birth and give a brief description of their lives after the war. For a complete family sheet, including the three sisters, check here: Ohio family sheets 1-17-2015

Robert Croy came home to his wife, Emily Gassage Croy, and family in Marietta, Ohio. Within five years of his return Emily died. Less than a year later he married Mary Atkins. Between them they had a son, Arthur. Four years later his oldest son, Stanton died. Robert continued to live in Marietta working as a carpenter and wagon maker like his father. Late in life, he bounced from his daughter Josie’s home in Kansas to the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. He suffered from heart disease and chronic arthritis. He died in 1908 at the age of 76 in the home of his sister, Fannie Croy Schoonover, in Marietta.[i]

William Croy came home to his wife, Rebecca Hasten Croy and son Anderson. He farmed the land in Decatur Township until nearly 80 and, according to newspaper articles, he and Robert attended Civil War reunions regularly.[ii]

Greer Croy returned to Marietta and married Malona Basim in 1867. They had three sons. Greer named his first child Sheridan after the General who led decisively at Cedar Creek where he was last wounded. His youngest son died of consumption in March of 1872. Six months later Greer died. He was only thirty-four.[iii]

David Croy came back to Washington County and worked as a laborer. He married Mary Moore in 1867. They had no children and, in March of 1877 at age 35, he was dead.[iv]

After his short 100-day service, Nathan returned to work the land of his parents. When he was thirty-one he married nineteen-year-old Ida J. Nelson. They had to children and cared for Mother, Margaret, for twelve years after his father died. Nathan outlived his wife by 27 years and died in 1919 at 73. [v]

Duncan Croy tried his hand at farming for a while after returning from the war, but soon found milling and selling lumber more to his liking. He married Elizabeth Mayhew and had ten children. After moved down river to Pomeroy for a time he returned to Marietta where he died in 1914 at 68.[vi]

After the Grand Review in Washington D.C., Calvin Croy, my great grandfather, spent a brief period of time in Louisville, Kentucky with the 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. After his returned he worked as a farm laborer for a while and then headed back to his birthplace in Coshocton County, Ohio. He worked with his uncle, David, who owned a sawmill for a while. He was soon introduced to the coal industry and Sarah Angeline Payne Smith. (I will delve into her family heritage after a little holiday hiatus.)[vii]

Unknowns

The story leaves many questions unanswered, especially how and why Greer and David died so soon. Some indirect information indicates that their father Jacob Croy died of consumption, as did Greer’s four-month-old son. Was tuberculosis passed around in the family? Did the brothers bring it back from the war? Or were they compromised by their war injuries? I hope to find the time and money to get the boys’ pension records from the National Archives. Then, perhaps, the answers to these questions and more may be unlocked.

No matter how complete, these outlines cannot fill in the haunt of memories. We cannot color in who these soldiers became from an outline of incidents. “Strict adherence to objective information” ignores the heart of the matter. But the heart of the matter impacts the fathers, mothers, wives, and descendants down through time.

[i] 1860 census Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; M653_1048; pg: 124 and 1870 census Decatur, Washington, Ohio: M593_1278; pg: 85A and 1880 census: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; roll 1075 pg 79A and 1900 census Franklin, Jackson, Kansas; Roll: 483; pg 6A and find-a-grave for Decatur Prsbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, OH Emily Croy and U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Records of Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives
[ii] 1870; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 97A; and 1880; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Page: 77B; and 1900; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1330; Page: 3B; and 1910; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 3B; and find-a-grave Centennial Cemetery, Washington County Ohio for William P (J) Croy and Rebecca
[iii] 1870 census; Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 96B and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[iv] 1870 census; Place: Barlow, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593-1278; Pg: 34B; and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[v] 1870; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 116A and 1880; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Family History Film: 1255075; Page: 100B and 1900; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1330; Page: 4A and 1910; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 3B and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[vi] 1870; Census Place: Belpre, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 75B and 1880; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Page: 99D and 1900; Census Place: Pomeroy, Meigs, Ohio; Roll: 1303; Page: 6B and 1910; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 6A and National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
[vii]  NARA. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (Ancestry.com) T288_105 and 1870; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 116A and 1880; Census Place: Keene, Coshocton, Ohio; Roll: 1003; Page: 115C and Jordan Dodd, Liahona Research. Ohio, Marriages, 1803-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001.