Burial Flags for U.S. Military Veterans

Today, when a U.S. military veteran dies, we take it for granted that the federal government will provide the next of kin with a U.S. flag to drape over the casket during funeral services. Obtaining this flag is one of the many routine tasks performed by funeral homes for grieving families.

But, did you know this? — The tradition of federally-funded flags for most veterans dates back only to the 1920s! You can read more about it in Records of Burial Flags for Veterans, NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Oct.-Dec. 2016): 39-42.

flagdrapedcasket

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Call Number 13

The near-infinite variety of records in military pension files is the very essence of a truism: a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting. And yet, of course, you do not know what will be in any particular pension file until you look. It is in looking that interesting things are found. Egads, another truism.

A Civil War (or later) veteran’s answer to “Call Number 13” is one of those interesting things that will only be found in certain Union Civil War pension files. You can read about Call 13 and the circumstances under which it is found in “Did Your Civil War Ancestor Respond to Call Number 13?” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr.-May 2016): 35-39.

Those “Boring” Administrative Files….

Most novice genealogists understandably focus on finding vital records of birth, marriage, and death. More experienced researchers know that understanding an ancestor’s full life – as well as finding ways around “brick wall” problems – comes from delving into a wide range of records created by government record keepers at all levels of our federalist structure.

The “wide range of records” includes those “boring” administrative files, which, it often turns out, are not so boring after all. My recent article – “Special Examiners: Records of the Bureau of Pensions’ Efforts to Combat Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, 1862–1933” – in Volume 8 of the Federal History Journal seeks to bring greater appreciation to less-well known records in Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933

Any time money is involved, a record must be created. Successful pension applicants expected payment. Records were created to ensure that payment was timely, correct, and made to the right persons. Records also helped guard against theft and fraud. Read more about the 1907-1933 pension payment cards for Caroline S. Moulton, widow of George H. Moulton, 38th Massachusetts Infantry (Civil War). More information is in a longer article from this summer’s NGS Magazine. Updated 8 October 2015.