Recent NARA Staff Blog Posts

NARA has several regular blogs which are listed here: https://www.archives.gov/social-media/blogs, of which The Text Message, The Unwritten Record, Pieces of History, and Rediscovering Black History, will be of the most interest to genealogical researchers.

In addition, NARA’s designated subject matter experts (SMEs) also write blog posts several times a year that can be found on the History Hub. Recent examples include WWI Enemy Alien Registrations, Permits, and Enforcement by Elizabeth Burnes; Researching World War II Bombing Aerial Photography by Corbin Apkin; and NARA Records Pertaining to Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period (1763-1861) by Damani Davis. Check them out!

A Room for the Night

Are you researching someone who owned a hotel, motel, or inn? Did you find someone enumerated in the census at one of those locations? Did your ancestor frequent a tavern at a local inn? If so, you might learn more about the structure and its history in the records of the National Register of Historic Places!

Archives Specialist John LeGloahec takes us on a brief trip through some of those records in “A Room for the Night – Hotels, Motels, and Inns Found in the Records of the National Register of Historic Places” (NRHP) at https://text-message.blogs.archives.gov/2022/07/21/a-room-for-the-night-hotels-motels-and-inns-found-in-the-records-of-the-national-register-of-historic-places/.

John’s post helps you dig into the descriptions of over 23,000 properties with the term hotel, motel, or inn in their title in the National Archives Catalog. We promise there’s no check-out time: You can stay in the NARA Catalog as long as you like!

Premiering Today, June 15, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern: Merchant Marine Records at the National Archives at St. Louis

Premiering June 15, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern YouTube: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently accessioned the core collection of Merchant Marine Licensing Files, which are now open to the public for the first time at the National Archives at St. Louis. Theresa Fitzgerald, Director of the National Archives at St. Louis, will discuss these holdings as well as auxiliary collections of Merchant Marine records that are complex and closely connected. Presentation slides/handout here.

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.

Extension Service Motion Pictures Digitized

It’s not considered one of the “traditional” genealogy record groups, but Record Group 33, Records of the Extension Service, is a treasure trove of information about farm life across the United States from about 1910 to 1950 or so. Even if one’s own ancestors are not mentioned in the records, they provide excellent county-level context on rural life. I lectured on these records on the 2011 NARA genealogy fair and have written about them a couple times, as well. My research guide, Agricultural Extension Service Annual Reports, 1909-1968, and Related Records will help you get started.

NARA is working on digitizing the the Service’s microfilmed annual reports (ca. 1908-1944) so they are not yet available online. I am delighted to report, however, that nearly 350 motion picture films from RG 33 have been digitized and are available for viewing or download from the National Archives Catalog. (Some may be restricted by copyright or other intellectual property right restrictions.) Happy viewing!

Federal Records that Help Identify Former Slaves and Slave Owners

I gave a presentation with this title during the 2018 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair which is online. I’ve now added the “June 2019” version of the handout for that presentation to my “Research Guides” page on this website. This handout highlights of federal agencies or major records series that are useful; it is certainly not exhaustive.

In addition, it is good to remember that most documentation of enslavement will be found in property, estate, tax, and other records created primarily at the county level, not in federal records.

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.

Census Fun Fact #2 – Fictional Names: Just Call Me Another Time

Census Fun Fact #2 – Fictional Names: Just Call Me Another Time is the second installment of my “Census Fun Facts” series on the “History Hub” website. It features some folks with interesting names who are “hiding in plain sight” in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the 1910 census.

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.”