Friday, August 19, 2011

Goodies at the National Archives

I had a great day at the National Archives, though the research on my great-great-grandfather became a comedy of errors.  I had neglected to bring my copy of his compiled service record, so I did not have the names of the hospitals he had been treated at.  Before I went to the Archives I tried to find the information by looking on Footnote (now officially Fold3), but discovered that the Civil War service records for New Jersey are not available there.  I had learned, however, that the carded medical records for soldiers were arranged by unit and then soldier's name, and I had that information.  But when I had those records pulled, my great-great-grandfather had no cards.  So I figured I would look at his compiled service record on microfilm (which is faster than hard-copy records) and get the information that way, then request the hospital records.  Unfortunately, New Jersey is not microfilmed, which is why it isn't on Footnote, because Footnote digitized the microfilmed records.  So I had to request the hard copy of the service record, and by the time I got that, I didn't have enough time to request the hospital records.

What I did find was still enlightening and interesting.  Apparently some of the medical cards have now been added to service record files, because two medical cards which I did not receive copies of previously were included in the packet I looked at today.  My great-great-grandfather had been claiming that he had epilepsy and had had fainting spells, etc.  While he was in the hospital, however, he didn't exhibit any of the symptoms he had been claiming, which led to the "shamming" assessment, and he was returned to duty.  The really exciting item in the file, though, was a document signed by my third-great-grandfather, who had to give permission for his underage son to enlist.  I was holding a piece of paper signed by my great-great-great-grandfather.  It was an incredible feeling.

I had better success with finding documents for another person I was researching.  He enlisted in the regular U.S. Army infantry in 1890 and deserted in 1891.  I now have copies of his original enlistment paperwork (signed by him), his medical exam results, morning reports for his units for the entire time he stayed in the Army, and reports from a cavalry unit he was assigned to for a month (including everywhere they patrolled).  I learned that he was already in trouble before he deserted because he owed the Army money, and after he deserted there are notes suggesting that the Army tried to track him down to collect.  I was not able to get a copy of his official separation papers from the Army, because those records are currently being digitized.  I have so much new material to analyze and more records to request later.  I wanted to do the genealogy happy dance in the room, but there were too many grumpy people around, and I didn't think they would appreciate it.

Ah, well, time to pack my bags and get ready to leave tomorrow morning to head back to California.  I am scheduled to be back in the DC area in November, and I'm already making plans for more research.


  1. Congratulations on the "happy dance" event.

    Do you have any idea when the National Archive records will be available for online work? Or am I dreaming?

  2. Carol, a lot of U.S. National Archives records are already available online at (formerly called, now part of the monopolistic empire). Footnote was (and I believe Fold3 still is) the official digitization partner of the Archives. Currently even more records are being digitized. You can use Fold3 for free at any Family History Center.


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