Gustavus Gessner is another relative of the Rudolph Gessner I wrote about in the Seattle Genealogical Society’s recent Bulletin. This is an example of how popular his family was in Ohio and the Civil War years.

Grand Army Blog

Yesterday the New York Times’ Science page featured an article about J. David Hacker’s recent study that has revised upward the long-accepted casualty count of 620,000.  This is well-deserved publicity for Hacker and for Civil War History, the leading scholarly journal in our field.  Hacker’s study reminds us that numbers are politics.  The quest to determine precisely the social impact of the Civil War is nothing new, however — something Hacker readily admits.  Such estimates consumed blue-coated ex-soldiers in the late nineteenth century, and as such Hacker joins distinguished company, including Union veterans Thomas Leonard Livermore, Thomas Brown, and William Fox.

Ex-prisoners of war were particularly determined to right the record books.  Perhaps nobody was more committed to the project than Ohio Union Ex-Prisoner of War Association President Gustavus Gessner, who maintained meticulous records of the dead by corresponding with other rebel prison pen survivors. Gessner became particularly…

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Finding Philippine Insurrection Military Service Records

National Archives and Records Administration

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In March 1899, the United States Congress authorized the Secretary of War to recruit and enlist up to 35,000 volunteers to go to the Philippine Islands to put down an uprising. More than 125,000 soldiers from California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming were involved, and over 4,000 of them died in the conflict. Two battalions of Philippine scouts and a squadron of Philippine cavalry were also involved. Soldiers from the Regular Army also served.

The National Archives and Records Administration has an alphabetical card index to Philippine Insurrection volunteer soldiers’ compiled service records. The index entries give information about the soldier’s name, rank, and unit, or units he served with. The service records referred to by the index are organized by regiment and then by soldier’s name. Details about Regular Army soldiers who served in the Philippine Insurrection will be included in other records.

The records this index refers the user to include a jacket-envelope for each soldier, labeled with his name, containing

  • card abstracts of entries relating to the soldier as found primarily in original muster rolls and returns, but occasionally in other records such as pay vouchers, and
  • the originals of any papers relating solely to the particular soldier.

A separate group of personal papers follows the compiled service records. These may include personal papers referred to in the index. These papers were accumulated by the War Department to be filed with the regular series of compiled service records. The papers were not inter-filed for one reason or another. There are no compiled service records for soldiers whose index cards contain cross-references to the miscellaneous personal papers.

Pension application files may be available from the Veterans Administration.

Finding Names in the Index

The best thing to know about finding a soldier in this record group is to know the unit or units he served with. A volunteer soldier who served during the Philippine Insurrection may not be listed in the index because he

  • may have been in Regular Army unit
  • may have used a different name, alias, a different spelling
  • proper service records may not have been made
  • his service record may have been lost or destroyed
  • there may be only vague references to the soldier in the original records

Knowing any nicknames or other variations of the soldier’s name helps. Knowing the Soundex code variations on the name may also improve search results. Good sources of name variations include personal papers, other military records, newspaper accounts of the conflict, and local histories.

NARA has fact-sheets about these records

  • M872 – Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during the Philippine Insurrection. 24 rolls.
  • T288 – General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. 544 rolls.

A microfilm copy of these indexes is located at NARA’s Pacific Alaska Region Seattle facility.

Handy Publications for Researchers

NARA Logo

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The U. S. National Archives and Records Administration site has a some publications available online that are relevant to genealogy researchers.

The Reference Information Papers listing page has a number of interesting items for genealogists, including items such as:

These are PDF files, so you will need an appropriate reader application.

My local branch, the Seattle office of the Pacific Alaska Region, page also has good information for local or visiting researchers.

Where to Find Washington State’s Passenger Lists

National Archives and Records Administration

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The United States government kept custom house records and passenger lists for alien, immigrant, and citizen arrivals in various locations in Washington Territory and State between 1890 and 1957.

These records constitute direct, original, and primary information about individuals entering the United States. Indirect information, such as age, sex, marital status, and destination may also appear in these records.

Copies of these records are kept at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Pacific Alaska Region facility in Seattle, Washington, where I am a professional genealogy researcher. Contact me to start a discussion about the possibilities of researching your family’s history. Likewise, if you would like more information about my genealogical research services, including information about fees, and range of materials available to research, I’d love to hear from you.

For more detailed information about these records, please see the NARA publications for:

  • M1365 — Head tax certificates of aliens arriving in Seattle, WA, 1917–1924. For passengers arriving from Vancouver and Victoria, BC. 10 rolls.
  • M1383 — Seattle, WA Passenger/Crew Lists, 1890–1957. 357 rolls.
  • M1398 — Seattle, WA Passenger Lists, 1949–1954. 5 rolls.
  • M1399 — Seattle, WA Crew Lists, 1903–1917. 15 rolls.
  • M1484 — Pt. Townsend/Tacoma, WA Passenger lists, 1894–1909. 1 roll.
  • M1485 — Seattle, WA Passenger lists from insular possessions, 1908–1917. 1 roll.

Where to Find Alaska’s Passenger Lists

National Archives and Records Administration

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The United States government kept custom house records and passenger lists for alien, immigrant, and citizen arrivals in various locations of Alaska. Most of the surviving records for the Eagle, Hyder, Ketchikan, Nome, and Skagway offices are from before 1920, but a few include the years between 1920 and 1946.

These records constitute direct, original, and primary information about individuals entering the United States. Indirect information, such as age, sex, marital status, and destination may also appear in these records.

Copies of these records are kept at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Pacific Alaska Region facility in Seattle, Washington, where I am a professional genealogy researcher. Contact me to start a discussion about the possibilities of researching your family’s history. Likewise, if you would like more information about my genealogical research services, including information about fees, and range of materials available to research, I’d love to hear from you.

For more detailed information about these records, please see the NARA publications for:

  • M2016 — Index of alien arrivals at Eagle, Hyder, Ketchikan, Nome, and Skagway, Alaska, Jun 1906–Aug 1946.
  • M2017 — Lists of aliens arriving at Skagway (White Pass), Alaska, Oct 1906–Nov 1934.
  • M2018 — List of aliens arriving at Eagle, Alaska, Dec 1910–Oct 1938.

Elements of Local History for Genealogists

Is there a written local history for your community? No? Well, write one.

Some elements to include are the basic facts about

  1. who created it
  2. when it was created
  3. why the creators started it
  4. how they went about creating it, and
  5. if the community has moved, where it was originally and where it is now

Profiles of the creators, with photographs or other images, are significant. They show how the original pioneers of the place relate to each other and their environment. Summaries of historic events and descriptions of their effect on the pioneers are handy, too. And don’t forget to describe the places these folks lived: their houses, farms, schools, churches, businesses, and so on. A map of the place is always handy at the beginning, to put the place in a larger context.

Researching Your Community

Finding these details can take a bit of work. Talk to the older residents about the place, the business people now, who might know the histories of where they work and the companies they’ve worked with, or against. Is there a librarian or museum curator nearby who knows about the innards of the community? That person is always a go-to source.

In my community, one of my neighbors has lived here for his entire life. He told me why the street where we live is the way it is. There used to be a streetcar line in the middle of it, and when the line was ripped up, the fill wasn’t done properly. There used to be a bridge across the river up at one end of the street, too, but one wouldn’t necessarily know that unless one asks. The other end of the street used to be the business district, but when the streetcar line disappeared, the businesses moved up a few blocks, making my part of the neighborhood more residential.

Newspapers, scrapbooks, and other ephemera are great sources of information. One member of my local genealogical society shared with me some papers that another member had collected and I found some good information about my neighborhood in them. When looking for an obituary in a local newspaper I found out about a pioneer cemetery that had been plowed over for development. There was quite a neighborhood uproar about that.

Organizing Your Research Materials

Collecting your information is easy, but organizing it all takes a bit of work. All the pieces are related somehow, and you need to make each piece fit with the others.

How will you start the history? Will you present it chronologically, with a description of what it looked like in it’s pristine state, or will you start with the first settlers? Was there a significant event at the beginning of the place that might make it famous, or infamous? That last is always an eye-catcher.

While you are writing, in whatever order you choose according to your organization, be sure to verify the facts you are writing about and include citations and attributions if necessary. If you have photographs or illustrations, be sure to credit who took the picture or made the drawing.

When You Finish Writing

Now that you’ve written the ultimate local history, what are you going to do with it? How will it be published? As a website, a print-on-demand book, or as a traditional bound book? One community history, really a regional history, in Oregon has been published as a book and as a website, with download-able sections for each part. A book/web presentation makes it easy for researchers to focus on only the part of the whole they need while still having access to the rest if they want it later.

If you go the book publishing route, you need to consider how it will be formatted, printed, and sold. A number of sites on the Internet offer do-it-yourself publishing services. Some offer professional assistance as well, if you want to pay extra for it.

If you are interested in writing your local history and need help, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to point you to good resources for researching or publishing it. Thanks!

Prosopography and Genealogy

A prosopography is a form of collective biography; the historical view of a group, rather than of an individual. It is not a collection of biographies but an analysis of a well-defined whole. It can, and most often does, provide the groundwork for a particular biography, however. This sort of study is invaluable to genealogists because it lays out some primary source material with which to begin a research project.

A distinction between genealogy and prosopography is:

Genealogy can be useful for prosopographical research. But a lineage or a family may also be chosen as the subject of a prosopographical study. The difference between a genealogical study and a prosopographical study of a family or lineage is that in the case of a genealogy the internal family relations are prevalent, whereas the research focus in a prosopographical study is on the relations of members of the family with the outer world; the contacts (through functions, services, marriages, networks etc.) they have outside their family and the way these affect the history and influence of the family. Attention is not only directed towards family members but also towards in-laws, friends, clients, business contacts and so forth. Even one-time contacts may be important.

(“A Short Manual to the Art of Prosopography,” by Koenraad Verboven, Myriam Carlier, and Jan Dumolyn, p. 40 [p. 6 in the PDF])

This comparison shows how much detail modern genealogists need to consider in their research. The social networking facet of prosopographical research, in particular, is more important these days, as shown by the recent publication of the last volume in Robert Charles Anderson’s The Great Migration series of books.

K. S. B. Keats Rohan also discusses the usefulness of genealogy and prosopography complementing and being distinct from each other in “Biography, Identity and Names.” The author one of the sources cited by Mr. Anderson in his “Joys of Prosopography” article.

Mr. Anderson’s article “The Joys of Prosopography: Collective Biography for Genealogists,” in the American Ancestors magazine, discusses applying the principles of prosopography to genealogical research with his own Great Migration study, Marsha Hoffman Rising’s Ozarks study, and Henry Z. Jones’ Palatine study as examples. (American Ancestors, Winter 2010 (Vol. 11, No. 1), 25) [see the New England Historic Genealogical Society site]

The Unit for Prosopographical Research, at Linacre College, Oxford [this site uses frames] has quite a bit of useful information, besides the two papers cited above. They focus their work mostly on classical and medieval historical studies, but include materials relevant to more modern times, as discussed in part in the two papers. They also have an extensive bibliography at their site.

Prosopography is not for the faint-of-heart, nor for the casual researcher, as discussed by all of the authors above. This sort of research can take years of effort and involves a level of detail not often seen in genealogies. Mr. Anderson’s task, alone, took 23 years to complete. The benefits of a well-done study are immeasurable due to the inclusiveness of the materials covered and new information provided. The Great Migration series will live far longer than Savage’s Genealogical Dictionary has.

NPM

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research