The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America – Thursday, March 16, 2017, 7 p.m.

On the eve of the Civil War, 1.6 million Irish-born people were living in the United States, most in the major industrialized cities of the North. For The Forgotten Irish, Damian Shiels researched Civil War pension records to craft the stories of 35 Irish families whose lives portray the nature of the Irish emigrant experience. This will be the book’s U.S. launch.

Michael Hussey, a National Archives archivist and historian, and David T. Gleeson, Professor of American History at Northumbria University and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, will co-moderate the discussion and audience Q&A. A book signing will follow the program.

You can view it live from the comfort of your home on YouTube or see it in person by reserving a seat in the William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC.

These authors’ research shows the truly international value and importance of records in the U.S. National Archives. You can subscribe to the National Archives Event Newsletter to receive timely information about future programs.

Damian Shiels blogs at Irish in the American Civil War and David T. Gleeson blogs at The Atlantic Irish.

Women in the Civil War

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When we think of the Civil War, the image that likely immediately springs to mind is that of thousands of men in uniform clashing in epic battles, such as at Gettysburg.

Forgotten are the thousands of women who performed tedious, dirty, inglorious tasks–hospital matrons, hospital nurses, laundresses, cooks, and others. They were there, too, on both sides of the conflict.

Documenting their presence, identity, and contributions, is infuriatingly difficult, however, due to the paucity of records that were kept–or retained. A new article,
“Union Army Laundresses,” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 3 (July-Sept. 2016): 33-37, breaks new ground by outlining research strategies for documenting the service of hospital laundresses, fort and post laundresses, and camp laundresses.

Most of these women likely came from the poorer end of the economic spectrum. They included African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Their efforts deserved to be better remembered, and I hope this article will encourage research.

Temporary footnote: The article mentions that digital images of the “List of Female Nurses, Cooks, and Laundresses Employed in Army Hospitals During the Civil War,” have been placed online in the National Archives Catalog. Unfortunately, they are not online yet, but should be within a few weeks.

Civil War Chaplains

My colleague, John P. Deeben, recently published an excellent article on records in the National Archives about Union and Confederate Civil War chaplains. It is “Faith on the Firing Line: Army Chaplains in the Civil War,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2016).  Researchers will find it informative and useful.chaplains-cooke-l

Civil War Telegrams

Like the Civil War? Like codes and cyphers? Looking for an interesting do-it-at home volunteer project? This one might be for you.

Smithsonian Magazine‘s article, “You Can Help Decode Thousands of Top Secret Civil War Telegrams,” describes an interesting project recently launched by the Huntington Library (San Marino, California), which holds the telegrams.

The project is partially funded by a two-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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.