Recreating family history one piece at a time.

Posts tagged ‘National Archives’

Just Because the Answer Was No Yesterday Doesn’t Mean It is Today

My Granny’s brother has always been a big of a mystery.   He has been tied up in family legend that the facts have neither been able to support or refute. The legend about Jimmy Duncan is that he died in Pearl Harbor.    That is the whole story, no more details to be told.

Granny never supplied any additional information no matter how often or how I worded my questions.   I had found him on the 1930 census and from that managed to determine his birth year and gotten a copy of his birth certificate.    Jimmy was one year younger than my Granny, but in all the pictures I saw of Granny as a young girl there was only her mother and her younger sister.    Never the father or the her brother.    When my Granny passed away I got a photo of my Granny when she was been somewhere between age five and ten. In this picture there was also her brother and father!  It is the only images I have of them.  Photos always make people so much more real.

I have been working with this limited information for years.    Jimmy was never showing in the high school year book with his sister, even though they were one year apart.  He was just gone.    Finally I met up with a man who was the son of my Nanny (Granny’s mother) foster brother.    He remembered once when Nanny visited them in that the adults were talking in hushed tones about her visiting someone in prison.   I was again off and running contacting Oklahoma corrections looking for either of the missing men in my family.    That never got any response.  One of the many frustrations of research.   No response to a SASE, not even to say we don’t do this kind of thing.

I had combed all the Pearl Harbor records looking for Jimmy.   I had contacted Veteran’s Affairs, National Personnel Records and the National Archives looking for for a hit with the information I had.   It always came back as not found. When the 1940 census records were made available 2012, I hit a jackpot.   Jimmy was indeed in the military in 1940 and was stationed as a private in Hawaii.   So as in all legends, there was that element of truth in the story I had been told.   I had some more information on James M Duncan, Jr.  and was off and running again.  Once again it was not found. I spent time researching his military group and looking for details online, and confirmed what I already knew, so much of what I want is not online.   You can not get everything via Google contrary to popular belief.

I always watch and read about additional historic records being index or made available to the public.   It is a slow and expensive process.  Not really a priority item, until some news report about archived records being stolen because they are basically just piled up because we don’t have resources to property index and store them.     I had recently read an article about how some of the records damaged in the 1973 fire were being reevaluated for preservation with newer technology to save and access these records.   So I figured what the heck try again and submitted my request again.   I got home from work to discover I had a letter from the National Personnel Records Center and it was asking for money.    The fee was for $70 so there are at least six pages available on Jimmy.

I have written my check and done my mighty expensive happy dance.  Now I wait.   The lesson from this is time does change what is available.   Don’t be afraid to ask again.    It also reminds me of what an expensive hobby this can be.


CCC Records Update

I just received a reply and the CCC records have been transferred from their longstanding location to another archives location.   They are no longer free.  At $20 they are still a bargain, since the likelihood of a trip to get them myself are slim to none.   So I will write my check and watch to see what recorded history will tell me about my Great Uncle Sherm.

National Archives

The United States National Archives are an amazing collection of stuff most of us never even scratch the surface when we seek family history.   It is in some ways cumbersome as you need to know what they have in order to know to ask for it. There is no single magical index of the National Archives, and some of the indexes are far from logical.

One of the things that folks hear about when people talk about  when doing genealogy and the National Archives is often Civil War records.   The Civil War era  collections are just plain amazing. I  have ordered several of the pension records, both Confederate and Union along with other pensions prior to the Civil War, including the Revolutionary War .   If you have a family member who served and either they or their survivors collected pension, I encourage you to get your pension file.

The first item that you will find in every pension file is a page of apology for the quality of the photo copies.   I think this is quite a hoot as the files are likely nearly 150 years old so even older!

Pension files can be as few as 20 or so pages or into the 100s.   This all depends on how early they applied for pension, and how long they were on the pension.   It is full of information as they  needed Davidson about their service, their marriage, their children, doctor’s exams and more.   If it is like most you will learn lots of information about your family member.   My next posts will be about the pension files I have and what I have learned about family members.

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