Feed aggregator

How to Use War of 1812 Pension Files

FamilySearch - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 13:41

Do you have an ancestor who participated in the War of 1812? If so, the War of 1812 pension files may hold a treasure trove of genealogical information for you. These records have previously been difficult to access until, led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the genealogical community began digitizing them in 2015 to make them available for the bicentennial of this important war.

Finding family information in war files may seem counterintuitive, but records of these files are filled with important details about soldiers, their families, and even extended families. Learn more about what information these records contain and how you can access them to find your ancestors.

What are pension files?

Citizens who joined the militia and served in the army or navy during the War of 1812 were eligible for pensions. Throughout the 1800s, nearly 100,000 applications were submitted. Some were approved, some not, but files for both were preserved.

To qualify for these pensions, applicants were required to provide the government with stringent proofs of eligibility, so the files may include original records sent in by the applicants. They may include pages torn from family Bibles, marriage certificates, photographs, military records, and more. Such records may provide proof of such facts as a wife’s maiden name, marriage places and dates, names of children, bounty land awarded, military service details, names of parents, death dates and places, and physical descriptions of the veteran.

Who could apply for a pension?

Before 1871, veterans had to prove that war injuries prevented them from earning a living in order to receive a pension. If the veteran was deceased, his widow could apply provided she had married the veteran before 1815, the year the war ended. Through the years, stipulations for pension eligibility were relaxed, and more families applied. After 1871, all veterans who served at least 60 days, or their widows, could apply. In 1878, benefits were extended to veterans, widows, and their children, provided the soldier served at least 14 days. Pension applications could also include men who served in the war effort in capacities other than as soldiers.

Some soldiers who were not eligible for pensions still qualified for bounty lands. What is found in the Fold3 1812 folders may differ from that available on the online Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bounty Land patents. The procedure to get a land patent included an application for bounty land, a warrant for the land, and a land patent. The patents are digitized on the BLM site, but the warrants are not.

Whether or not your ancestor served in the war, the information may still be in these records. Check the records on Fold3.com. Your ancestor may be listed on affidavits as witnesses to marriages and other events of friends and family who were involved in the war.

Where are pension records available?

Start by searching for an ancestor in the FamilySearch War of 1812 index, but don’t stop there. Indexes provide only limited information, could include transcription errors, and aren’t necessarily complete.

Digitized records in the pension files are actual copies of proof documents and may contain much more information than is on the indexes. Thus far, files for surnames A through M have been digitized and are available free online at Fold3.com. The undigitized original files are also available to search at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

Keep an eye on your FamilySearch record hints as well. If FamilySearch finds one of your ancestors in the War of 1812 Pension File records, they’ll give you a record hint on your Family Tree. You can review these hints to view the record and make sure it applies to your ancestor.

The flowchart in this handout from RootsTech 2018 provides a trail sequence to find these records for various scenarios.


New Records on FamilySearch: Week of June 4, 2018

FamilySearch - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 15:14

FamilySearch added over 700,000 New York naturalization records and one million more historical records and images from Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, and New Jersey. The BillionGraves Index has added over 600,000 indexed records and images to their database. Find your Italian ancestors from Naples with nearly 85,000 new records, and Jewish Records from Hungary. Other countries represented are Australia, Denmark, Honduras, India, Liberia, Peru, Portugal, and Sweden.

See the official announcement to learn more or to search these new free records:

New Historical Records on FamilySearch: Week of June 4, 2018

Over 6 billion searchable historic records are available from around the world on FamilySearch.org. Records are published with the help of thousands of volunteer indexers who transcribe digital copies of handwritten records to make them easily searchable online. To help make more historical records from the world’s archives available online, volunteer with FamilySearch Indexing.

The Greatest Reward of Relative Race Season Three Wasn’t the Prize Money (Spoiler Alert)

FamilySearch - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 14:39

by Jan Mayer

Heart-touching scenes and shocking surprises were the norm for Relative Race Season Three, which began filming in Washington, DC. Producers BYUtv and Lenzworks had promised to change things up this season, and indeed they did.

Then: Shock and Aw-w-w

Instead of the usual 4 married couples, this season included only 2 married couples: Team Red, Troy and Nicole Hitt, and Team Black, Johnathan and Rebecca Hoyt (winners of the Relative Race Season Three $50,000). Michael and Dylan Anderson, a father and son duo on Team Blue, and sisters Jamie Grace Harper and Morgan Nichols on Team Green completed the lineup.

Within minutes of the show’s start, producer and host Dan Debenham revealed that competitors Troy and Johnathan are cousins. Next, instead of being given a car, each team was whisked away to the airport to take an unexpected flight. By the end of the first day, each team had met cousins they would spend the night with—though the race didn’t officially start until the following day.

Once the teams were on the road, they were only allowed to navigate using paper road maps, a loaner car, and a flip phone with a camera. Before finding their relatives, they were required to complete two challenges. Players were given a strike if they went over their allotted time; 3 strikes sent them home.

The prize money of $50,000 was a good incentive to win the race, but each team also had a personal reason for wanting to be on the show.

Team Red

“Before I was 5, my mom and dad split up, and I hadn’t seen my dad since. I wanted to know if he was still alive and if he tried to connect with me—if he even tried,” Troy said. During the race, Troy bonded with new family members but was heartbroken when he learned that his father had died in 2002. He was fortunate that his father’s brother could fill in many details. Troy’s uncle had kept some personal belongings of his father, including his wallet, photos, and the urn with his remains.

“I have gained so much,” Troy said. “It’s bittersweet for me—it’s definitely the closure I was looking for. I feel like I have finally found my dad.”

Team Black

Rebecca longed to find her mother’s family. She had a picture of her mother, but without a name, she didn’t know where to go.

“When I was 2 years old my mother passed away in a tragic way. My sister, Ashley, and I were adopted by my father’s sister, and the other side of the family disappeared. It was a touchy subject, and we didn’t know anything about that side of our family. I wanted to find someone who knew my mother and could tell me about her,” she said.

During the show, Rebecca met cousins, her mother’s sister, brother, great-uncles, and her younger half-sister. Each one filled in details of her early years, and expressed their love and longing to find her since she was taken from them.

“I found exactly what I was searching for. To have a conversation about my mom was refreshing, deep, and real. We are more alike than I would ever imagine. Before this, it was like she was a mythical creature. Now she’s real,” Rebecca said.

Team Blue

Michael and Dylan explained that they wanted to be on the show to find Michael’s biological family. “Don’t get me wrong, the money’s great. But more important to me was that I wanted to know who I was looking at in the mirror every day of my life. I was adopted at birth, and my [adoptive] mother told no one where I came from. She burned all the papers,” Michael said. “When I was a 12-year-old boy and my [adoptive] parents had both passed away, I had no one—I was so alone. Why was I given up? I just needed answers.”

During Relative Race Season Three, Michael not only met cousins who were the first blood relatives he’d ever met, but he also met a sister and his birth mother, who has always lived only 25 miles from him but didn’t know what happened to him. He was taken from her at birth; she never got to hold him. “Meeting my family changed my life,” he said.

One of the most touching moments of the season actually occurred 2 weeks before the race began. A Relative Race producer asked Michael and Dylan to drive to a bed and breakfast. As they walked up the sidewalk an elderly couple greeted them. Michael extended his hand and heard the words he’d been longing to hear his whole life.

“Hello, son. I’m Wayne. I’m your daddy.”

Michael burst into tears. Sobbing, he rushed into the embrace of his father. “This is my son Dylan,” Michael said as they pulled Dylan into their hug.

“I found my dad . . . my father . . . my blood,” Michael exclaimed. “Happy doesn’t describe it. This is one of the best days of my life.”

The segment was filmed early because Wayne was dying of kidney failure and feared he wouldn’t survive long enough to meet his son.

“I didn’t know that you were born. If I had, you would have been with me, buddy,” Wayne expressed.

“A part of me just got filled in. A piece of the puzzle was just placed,” Michael said with emotion in his voice.

Team Green

Jamie and Morgan, who are professional singers with several awards under their belts, hoped to connect with family with similar interests. As it turned out, several cousins were also professional musicians. But they also discovered that their heritage was not all African-American.

When their very fair, redheaded airport driver told them he was their cousin, they were blown away. "I was completely caught off guard that he was white. My mind couldn’t process it,” Morgan said. During the race, they discovered they had Irish DNA and also that one of their ancestors was a freed slave. When they struck out on day 8, they graciously expressed their feelings.

“The privilege to meet our family has been astonishing. If we have to be the first ones to go home so that Troy, Michael, and Rebecca continue to have experiences with their parents that they deserve, it’s worth it to us. We are honored to be part of their story and can’t wait to see how they continue to do the rest of this race,” Jamie said.

Now: Life-long Heart Changes

What happens once the crazy racing is over and teams go home? Has the experience of Relative Race had a long-term impact on the contestants?

One of the photographers for Relative Race, Joe Greer, and his wife Maddie were Team Black last year on Season Two. He never knew his father, and his mother died in a car accident when he was 4. He was raised by an aunt and uncle.

“Lots has happened in the last year. . . . Relative Race has radically changed my life for the better. It has given me the opportunity to explore relationships I had no idea existed. It has helped me repair and rebuild my idea of family and what I want for the future with myself and Maddie. It’s been tough, but it’s been very rewarding,” Joe said.

During the show he was introduced to his sisters and his birth father, who died 10 months after they met.

“I’m thankful that I met my dad when I did. Being able to meet him was one of the best gifts I’ve had in a long time. Ultimately, it led me to more family on that side that I had no idea existed. Getting to know my sisters has been such a treat! There was a deeper connection that has carried on. We’re just enjoying every minute that we have with each other and making up for lost time,” Joe expressed.

For Team Black, winners of the $50,000 prize for Relative Race Season Three, the adventure of the race became an important life lesson. “I want to be able to pass down to my daughter that of all the adventures mom had, she wasn’t afraid to step out into the darkness and chase something that was unknown. For me, that was really enjoyable—just the adventure, no matter how it turned out. It was something I was brave enough to do,” Rebecca explained.

The prize money Johnathan and Rebecca won is ear-marked to help Rebecca complete a degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Service. But before spending anything on themselves, the couple donated some of their winnings to the Red Team.

“They’re such beautiful people, and when they got back [to Humble, Texas] their daughter was getting married and their home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. I honestly do care about all the people we met—including the other teams. They were amazing,” Rebecca said.

She explained that the haunting questions from the past have been traded for new relationships and a new perspective on the importance of family history.

“When you go through your whole life just wondering who your family was—did they love you, where did they go, why didn’t they ever come for you—and then close that chapter and have answers, there’s peace beyond description. It feels like nothing could ever destroy that peace because now you have that love that you searched for,” she explained. “It’s completed a space in my heart for these people I knew, but I didn’t know. It’s filled me with joy and completeness.”

Rebecca said that another long-term benefit of being on Relative Race Season Three was that the couple was given the research they used to track families.

“Since doing the show and learning about the people in my family, it makes them real. They’re real people, not just names on a piece of paper from a long, long time ago. That has changed my outlook completely. Now I want to do my family history—not just because I want to know where I came from. I want to know about them as individuals. The more you dig, the more you want to know them as people.

“I can’t stress enough how important family history is. It’s not just about what we’re looking to find. We might be the answer to someone else’s prayer. It’s not always about what we want. That’s really powerful. I hope people keep that in mind when they’re feeling stuck—they should keep on digging,” Rebecca emphasized.


Remembering World War I

FamilySearch - Sun, 05/27/2018 - 16:23

From 1914–1918, millions of brave men and women around the world left their homes to fight for their countries in the Great War. It’s likely that someone in your family tree was among them. Do you know their story? Draft and service records from World War I can be a rich source of information about your ancestors, including physical descriptions, vital information, and details about their involvement in the war. Discover the part your ancestor played in the war to end all wars, preserve their legacy, and find out how it lives on in you.

Search World War I Records

Discover your relative’s WWI draft card.

Find Your Ancestors in WWI Records

Find out how to uncover and share your WWI ancestors’ stories with records on FamilySearch.

Access US Soldiers’ Records from WWI

Learn about some of the most valuable WWI records with this presentation from RootsTech 2018.

WWI: Indexed Records Connect Families

Military records can provide insights into your ancestors’ lives and the lives of those around them.

WWI Records and Genealogy

There are plenty of records available to help you learn about your ancestors who fought in World War I, including draft and service records, local newspapers, burial registers, and more. If you know where your ancestor was from or what unit they served in, you can look for them in United States World War I State and Local Histories or United States World War I Unit Histories. Dive into FamilySearch’s collections to see what you can discover. Or, help others find their ancestors by helping to index WWI records.

Find more information about United States World War I military records.

WWI Timeline: A Brief History

World War I began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Russia and Germany soon joined the conflict, followed by Britain, France, and Italy. On April 6, 1917, the US declared war on Germany, and 2.8 million men were drafted to fight. Over the course of the next eighteen months, more sixty million troops worldwide and 4 million US troops were involved. By the end of the Great War on November 11, 1918, the violence across Europe resulted in an estimated thirty-seven million casualties and more than sixteen million deaths (including both civilians and military personnel).

  • 28 July 1914: World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
    • Allies: Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and the United States
    • Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary
  • 1914: The Western Front was created. 700 miles of warfare trenches extended from the North Sea through Belgium and France.
  • 1917: The US entered the war because Berlin started bombing neutral ships, including five American merchant ships, and sank the RMS Lusitania, a passenger ship.
  • 3 February 1917: Diplomatic relations with Germany were severed by the US.
  • 6 April 1917: The US Congress declared war on Germany.
  • 18 May 1917: The Selective Service Act (or draft) was authorized to raise an army in the US, giving women new opportunities for jobs.
  • 31 Oct 1918: The two-millionth US soldier reached France.
  • 11 November 1918: The Armistice was signed. World War I hostilities ended with the surrender of Germany.
  • 18 June 1919: The Treaty of Versailles was signed.
The Harlem Hell Fighters

One group of men who served on the front lines was the 369th infantry of the 93rd division, a group of African American soldiers better known as the Harlem Hellfighters and Men of Bronze, nicknames given to them by the French. These men were known for their fierce combat, fighting longer and harder than any other infantry. The tenacity and toughness of the Harlem Hellfighters continue with us today as we remember and honor their lives and the lives of all who valiantly served in the military.

Continue reading . . .

Military Dogs in the War

More than 50,000 military dogs served in World War I, including the famous Sergeant Stubby. World War I was the first war in which military dogs were mobilized on a massive, organized scale.

Continue reading . . .

WWI Files to Download and Print

You can download and print this poster and rack card to spread the word and invite others to honor and remember those impacted by WWI.

Download here
Download here


FamilySearch’s 2 Billion Digitized Records

FamilySearch - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 10:56

FamilySearch recently published its 2 billionth digital image of historical records. Yes, that’s billion with a “B.”

These digital images of records are an invaluable source for discovering new details about your family’s story. Access to the 2 billion images is organized in three main places on the site—the FamilySearch historical records collection, catalog, and online books. We’ve prepared a free guide that explains how to perform searches in these areas.

Give Me a Hint

The indexed portion of this massive record collection is also used by the site to automatically search for your ancestors. These searches result in “hints” that appear in the pedigree and person page views of Family Tree. They also appear in the Family Tree mobile app. Hints help you add ancestors to the tree and make connections that would have taken much longer if you were doing the searches manually. Learn more about Record Hints.

All Digital, All the Time

For more than 80 years, FamilySearch microfilmed historical records for use in family history research. These microfilmed records require an extra step—scanning—to make them accessible online. Starting in 2017, FamilySearch discontinued microfilm in favor of digitizing records using cameras.

This all-digital workflow has increased efficiency at a crucial time. Preserving physical copies of genealogy records in archives is, in many cases, a race against the clock. Poor storage conditions, world conflict, scheduled destruction, and natural disasters are just some of the threats that physical records face. Digital preservation ensures that more records can be saved as quickly, and as accurately, as possible (see FamilySearch’s Strategy to Help Preserve the World’s Archives).

The Role of Indexing

It’s important to note the difference between digital record images and indexed records. A large portion of the digital images on FamilySearch are unindexed. They can be viewed using an image viewer, but can’t be searched by name and other search variables like a fully indexed collection would be.

Anyone can help in the process of indexing record images like these after they are digitized. Learn more about how indexing works, and give it it a try.


New Records on FamilySearch: Week of May 21, 2018

FamilySearch - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 16:09

Find your German ancestors on FamilySearch with 2 million new Baden, Germany Catholic Church records. You can also find ancestors from around the world by searching the new genealogical records added this week from Argentina, Benin, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, England, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Ukraine, United States (Iowa, Louisiana, and Rhode Island) and Venezuela.

See the official announcement to learn more or to search these new free records:

New Historical Records on FamilySearch: Week of May 21, 2018

Over 6 billion searchable historic records are available from around the world on FamilySearch.org. Records are published with the help of thousands of volunteer indexers who transcribe digital copies of handwritten records to make them easily searchable online. To help make more historical records from the world’s archives available online, volunteer with FamilySearch Indexing.