43 Million More Images Uploaded to the National Archives Catalog Since June 2021

NARA’s “Record Group Explorer” page at https://www.archives.gov/findingaid/record-group-explorer is a good place to get information on the number of digital images available in NARA’s online Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/ as well as the immense quantities of textual records that exist. As of July 2022, there are 179,271,436 images in the National Archives Catalog – or approximately 1.541% of 11.6 Billion textual records. (And that’s only textual records: that count does not include motion pictures, audio recordings, or data files).

Just over a year ago, in June 2021, there were 135,404,569 images in the National Archives Catalog, or about 1.175% of an estimated 11,524,683,948 textual records. That’s an increase of over 43 million digital images in a little over a year! Progress! (Back in June 2020, those numbers stood at 109,384,656 images or .95% out of an estimated 11,509,956,576 textual records).

Want to follow along and see what’s added? The “What’s New in the National Archives Catalog” page at https://www.archives.gov/research/catalog/whats-new links to record series to which digital images have been added – and may also highlight a few interesting items.

Digitization is a slow process. Records are typically one-of-a-kind items that may be fragile, bound into volumes, or otherwise unsuitable for “high speed” automatic sheet-feeding imaging systems. Records may require unfolding; removal of staples, pins, clips, and other fasteners; repair by trained records conservators; and other preparation for imaging, such as arrangement and new or improved description. Just consider the handling care required for the bundle of records shown below, which was just a small part of a small series, Records of Clerks, Wagonmasters, and Printers Employed at Various Posts, 1865-66 (National Archives Identifier 4707062), from Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General.

Bundle of records from “Records of Clerks, Wagonmasters, and Printers Employed at Various Posts, 1865-66 (National Archives Identifier 4707062), prior to digitization.

This small series is fully digitized. Each individual file unit is now is described in the National Archives Catalog by the name of the commanding officer and his geographic location, which vastly improves discoverability by researchers: see the screen shot below, which shows a few of the 389 file titles.

What records will you discover online in the National Archives Catalog?

Memorial Day Remembrance: Beneath His Shirt Sleeves

On this Memorial Day, as we remember the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives to defend our freedoms and preserve one United States of America, I respectfully direct your attention to an excellent two-part article by archives specialist Jackie Budell entitled “Beneath His Shirt Sleeves: Evidence of Injury” with Part I here and Part II here. This article highlights the sacrifice and stories of eight Union Civil War veterans who lost most – or part – of an arm during their war service.

Recent Discussions on U.S. Civil War Records

Civil War Talk Radio with Gerald Prokopowicz recently had two informative episodes that featured guests with connections to the National Archives.

On 23 February 2022, archives specialist Jackie Budell discussed Civil War widows’ pension files, photographic materials in pension files, research at the National Archives, and related subjects.

On 2 February 2022, retired senior military archivist DeAnne Blanton discussed the origins of the Society for Women and the Civil War, of which she served as first president, and her book, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, on the 20th anniversary of its publication.

These and all other Civil War Talk Radio shows remain available for listening at Impediments of War.

Tintypes and Photos in Civil War Pension Files

If you’ve ever wondered why some U.S. Civil War pension files have tintypes and photos – wonder no more! NARA archives specialist Jackie Budell details the reasons in three excellent recent blog posts at The Text Message:

(1) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Your Questions Answered

(2) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Why Private William Carman Sent a Tintype to His Wife

(3) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Why William Carman’s Tintype Was in His Widow’s Pension File

Premiering Today, June 8, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern: “Civil War Union Noncombatant Personnel: Teamsters, Laundresses, Nurses, Sutlers, and More”

Premiering today, June 8, 2021, at 1 p.m.! The National Archives Building in Washington, DC contains many records about noncombatant civilians connected with the Union Army during the American Civil War. However, the records are underutilized because there is no comprehensive index, no “one” place to look, and require time-consuming research into obscure records. Digitization is slowly changing that, however! This lecture by Claire Kluskens will provide suggestions for research with emphasis on online materials that can help you get started.

This is the 5th of six presentations in the 2021 NARA Genealogy Series.

NARA 2021 Genealogy Series

National Archives Hosts Genealogy Series in May & June 
Participate in our genealogy series – free and online!
 

WHAT:  WASHINGTON, April 19, 2021–In lieu of the autumn 2020 Virtual Genealogy Fair that could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to offer a new Genealogy Series! Instead of a single-day event, the program sessions will be broadcast individually during May and June. You are invited to watch and participate in real time with the presenters and family historians from around the world on YouTube

Over the two months, the sessions will offer family history research tools on federal records for all skill levels. The May sessions are broad and will appeal to the beginner and beyond. The June sessions are focused on specific topics and may be better suited for the experienced researcher. All are welcome! Session descriptions, videos, handouts, and participation instructions are available at the Genealogy Series web page.  

WHEN: May & June—all sessions begin at 1 p.m. ET

May 4 Preserving and Digitizing Personal Photo Albums and Scrapbooks

May 12 Finding Genealogy Resources and Tools on Archives.gov

May 19 Tips and Tools for Engaging Family with Your Research Finds

June 1  From Here to There: Researching Office of Indian Affairs Employees

June 8  Civil War Union Noncombatant Personnel: Teamsters, Laundresses, Nurses, Sutlers, and More

June 15  Merchant Marine Records at the National Archives at St. Louis 


WHO: Staff experts in government records from National Archives facilities nationwide.

WHERE: Anywhere! The series will be broadcast on the U.S. National Archives YouTube channel
 

HOW: Visit the Genealogy Series web page to watch the broadcasts on YouTube. Participants can watch individual sessions, download materials, ask questions, and interact with presenters and other family historians. No need to register—just click the links on the schedule to view the sessions!  Videos and handouts will remain available after the event.  

Captioning:  Live captioning will be available online with StreamText. If you require an alternative or additional accommodation for the event, please email KYR@nara.gov.

Background: The National Archives holds the permanently valuable records of the federal government. These include records of interest to genealogists, such as pension files, ship passenger lists, census, and Freedmen’s Bureau materials. See “Resources for Genealogists” online.

Follow the National Archives on Twitter @USNatArchives and join the Genealogy Series conversation using #GenieSeries2021.

Letters and Financial Reports, June-December 1870, and Letters and Endorsements Pertaining to Trusses, November 1875-July 1884, by Assistant Surgeon John S. Billings

There are now 26.7 million descriptions and 136 million digital objects (images) in the National Archives Catalog. Those figures will continue to grow.

One recently digitized series – that consists of just one item (one volume) – is the “Letters and Financial Reports, June-December 1870, and Letters and Endorsements Pertaining to Trusses, November 1875-July 1884, by Assistant Surgeon John S. Billings” (National Archives Identifier 15501038).

A truss is a prosthetic appliance used by a person with a hernia. The Act of Congress of May 28, 1872 (17 Statutes at Large 164), “An Act to provide for furnishing Trusses to disabled Soldiers,” entitled “every soldier of the Union army who was ruptured while in the line of duty” during the Civil War “to receive a single or double truss of such style as may be designated by the Surgeon-General of the United States Army as the best suited for such disability.” Section 2 of the act directed the soldier to make his request to “an examining surgeon for pensions” who would “prepare and forward the application” without charge. Section 3 of the act directed the Surgeon General to purchase trusses “at a price not greater than the same are sold to the trade at wholesale.”

This volume contains two different sets of fair copies of correspondence sent by Assistant Surgeon General and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John S. Billings.

Pages 1-32 contain fair copies of correspondence sent by Dr. Billings from June 1, 1870, to December 31, 1870, and related records. These are letters to various payees who received government checks for services or supplies; suppliers of artificial limbs concerning limbs for specific veterans; and others. There are copies of receipts issued for money received from the sale of surplus U.S. Government property as well as weekly financial statements submitted to the Surgeon General concerning the financial condition of the Medical and Hospital Department, Army Medical Museum, Surgeon General’s Office Library, and the funds for the “Comfort of Sick and Discharged Soldiers.” Pages 23-32 (August 6 – December 31, 1870) consist solely of financial statements.

Pages 35-49 contain a name index arranged roughly alphabetical by the initial letter of the surname. Each entry includes the person’s name and the page number in this volume upon which correspondence was recorded.

Page 51-201 and 204-237 contain fair copies of letters sent and endorsements made by Dr. Billings concerning trusses from November 1875 to May 1884. Letters were recorded on the upper section of pages 51-71 while an endorsement on an unrelated matter was recorded sideways on the lower section of pages 51-58, 62-65, 70-71, 85, 100, 109, and 151, and sideways on the upper section of page 165. Letters addressed to manufacturers are primarily purchase orders or, in a few cases, complaints about specific truss models. Many letters to U.S. Pension Examining Surgeons and other physicians are notifications that individual soldiers were ineligible to receive a free replacement truss, while others address concerns about a truss issued to a particular pensioner. There is also correspondence with pensioners and the Pension Office. The endorsements copied into this volume were made on truss applications returned to examining surgeons with directions to obtain measurements necessary to provide the applicants with the correct size truss. A sample of the form of notice that the Act of May 28, 1872, permitted only one truss per soldier was inserted loosely at pages 358-359. Page 358 also contains a brief note in shorthand. For unknown reasons, an anatomical diagram of the “venus sinusesal base of brain” was inserted loosely at pages 360-361.

Pages 33-34, 202-203, 238-357, and 359 are blank.

Neighborly Deception and All Things Human

Stories about local personalities, estate sales, local events, long-forgotten conflicts and more…. You just never know what you will find by digging in unusual records. Find out more in “Mrs. Hartshorne’s Estate Sale and the Joking Neighbor of Patrick McGroury of Manalapan, New Jersey.”

Confederate Slave Payrolls

Today’s Washington Post has an informative article by Michael E. Ruane, “During the Civil War, the enslaved were given an especially odious job. The pay went to their owners.”  This article discusses the Confederate Slave Payrolls in the National Archives, which have all been digitized and are available online. These records show:

  • Names (first names) of slaves.
  • Name of the person from whom the enslaved person was hired (not necessarily their own slave owner).
  • Location at which employed.
  • Name of Confederate officer under whom the slave was employed.
  • When employed (month and year, and number of days).
  • Rate of pay and total pay.
  • Signature (or mark) of the owner or the owner’s agent (designated “Atty” due to their power of attorney) to acknowledge receipt of pay.
  • Some payrolls include the power of attorney given by a slave owner to authorize another person to collect payment on their behalf. The owner would execute a power of attorney if he or she was unable to go personally to the Confederate officer.
  • There are also records of free blacks who were impressed (forced to serve) and a few payroll records for white Quartermaster Department employees.

More information about these important records is given in my 2019 article, “Civil War Confederate Slave Payroll Records” as well as in the Confederate Slave Payrolls Scope and Content Note.

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Image: Side 2 of Slave Payroll 519 that shows six slaves and one free black man hired out of Greene County, Virginia, during January-March 1863, to work on the intermediate line of the defenses of Richmond, Virginia, under the command of 1st Lieutenant John B. Stanard.

That Pesky Issue of Spelling

As citizens of the 21st century, we often expect “precision” in names, dates, places, geographic locations, and many other things. For our ancestors, however, precision in such details was not as important as things like, “How many eggs did the chicken lay today?”

Although we ‘live by the clock’ our ancestors did not, or not so much, and a Norwegian island wants to try to go back to that during their longest days. (See New York Times article here).

But back to the name thing. Today’s blog post by Damian Shiels, “Leaving Off the ‘O'”: Insights into Irish Emigrant Name Changes in 1860s America” gives good food for thought regardless of your ancestors’ nationality.

As always, superior genealogical research requires an understanding of our ancestor’s perspective and worldview. It makes understanding the records a tad easier.