Review of “Married at Ellis Island….”

If you missed last Tuesday’s USCIS History Office webinar, “Married at Ellis Island…., 1892-1924,” you missed a good one. I won’t review all the details, but here are a few tidbits: It’s estimated that perhaps 300 women a year “married at Ellis Island” to their intended spouse in lieu of deportation on the grounds of “likely to become a public charge” or risk of falling into prostitution. The “Record of Detained Aliens” (title may vary) that follows the regular passenger lists for a given vessel (on microfilm or online) may have the notation “married” or similar words as a part of the information for the detained woman. The marriage record will be found in the New York City marriage records for that period which are online on Ancestry.com. A marriage on the alien woman’s date of arrival or during the day(s) she was detained is a good clue that the marriage happened “at Ellis Island” and was a requirement for her admission to the United States.

The Digital Future of Prologue

For 48 years, since the Spring of 1969, the National Archives has published a quarterly magazine, Prologue, that has brought readers stories based on the rich holdings and programs of the National Archives across the nation—from Washington, DC, to the regional archives and the Presidential libraries. For many of those years, each issue also included a genealogy-focused article. The Winter 2017–18 issue will be the last printed edition of Prologue.

So, the question is, what next?

The National Archives is currently exploring options for online publishing with the goal of providing audiences with content that is most important to them. To that end, the National Archives is holding a focus group discussion with historians on Friday, February 2, 2018, from 1-2 p.m. in the Innovation Hub at the National Archives in Washington, DC, with an option to call in via conference line and video call via Google Hangouts. Space is limited. If you are interested, email Jessie Kratz at jessie.kratz@nara.gov.

Family historians (genealogists) have for decades been a core constituency of the National Archives and major user of its records (census, military, immigration, naturalization, and more), so I would encourage those who have enjoyed Prologue in the past, or have ideas on what they’d like to see in a NARA digital publication of the future, to attend the focus group in person or remotely. Or provide your thoughts by email. Either way, be sure to email Jessie Kratz at jessie.kratz@nara.gov.

The 1973 Fire: New Hope in Recovering Burned and Brittle Records

Most researchers have heard of the 1973 fire at the National Military Personnel Records Center in Saint Louis, Missouri, that destroyed 80% of certain Army personnel records for persons discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, and 75% of certain Air Force personnel records for persons discharged from September 25, 1947, to January 1,1964 (names alphabetically after Hubbard).

Records that were entirely consumed by fire are gone, but there is new hope for surviving highly burned or damaged records. There is amazing work being done by NARA’s Conservation Staff in Saint Louis to recover and make available records that were previously too fragile to handle. Preservation Specialist Ashley Cox shows and explains what’s being done in the 33 minute video, “A is for Archives, B is for Burn File” from the 2017 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair.

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The Law and Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search

You won’t want to miss the webinar by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, entitled “The Law and the Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search” which was presented this evening (19 December 2017) and is available for free viewing for the next week. As Judy shows with very persuasive examples, you cannot possibly understand the contents of a record unless you understand the law that caused the record to be created.

Many of my own articles on federal records take that approach–with varying degrees of specificity–depending on the nature and purpose of the article.

Often, the reason the record was created is often as interesting–and sometimes just as informative–as the record itself.

Context is everything. History and the law provide that context.

 

Butter Makers and More: The 1929 Census of Manufacturers

The Great Depression began with the stock market crash of 29 October 1929.

The 1929 Census of Manufacturers may help local historians learn about economic activity in the community at the cusp of the Great Depression. Genealogists may learn about a business owned by an ancestor. Alternatively, if an ancestor was known to have been a wage earner employed by a specific firm, the census schedules may provide insight into hours worked and wages earned.

The purpose of the census was to obtain useful statistical information about industry size, production, employment, power equipment, and fuel consumption. The data was collected partly by mail and partly by paid canvassers. Preliminary results of the data were published in press releases, and subsequently with more substantive analysis and detail in nearly three hundred reports issued in 1930 and 1931. The census included only manufacturing establishments that made products worth five thousand dollars or more.

The U.S. National Archives has placed some of these records online as “Schedules of the Census of Manufacturers, 1929-1929.” As of December 2017, images of schedules for Industries 101 (Beverages) through 518 (Printing and Publishing) are available. Separate digital files have been uploaded for each industry code by state. Within each state, the schedules are arranged in alphabetical order by county. Additional schedules will be placed online in the future.

Read “Butter Makers and More: Revelations of the 1929 Census of Manufacturers” to see and read examples of information recorded about two facilities in Ashtabula County, Ohio, and Bourbon County, Kansas, that made milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream.

More information on the 1929 manufacturing census is available on the Census Bureau website. “General Explanations” provides good background information. Detailed reports and results are at “Census of Population and Housing.” On that page, click on “Special Collections and Reports” (near the bottom of the page), then click on “Manufacturers,” and then choose the report of interest.

The photo of the butter vendor, ca. 1917, is from United States Department of Agriculture Bulletin No. 456, February 5, 1917, p. 8.

How to Use This Blog / Website

Since I’ve had a bunch of new subscribers recently (thank you), I thought a quick overview would be useful on how to use this blog / website.

  • Blog Posts are added irregularly to highlight records in the U.S. National Archives. Occasionally, I’ll also highlight other federal facilities that hold records of genealogical value. If you subscribe to the blog, you will get an email every time there’s a new blog post.
  • The Articles page is a bibliography of articles on genealogy-related topics that I’ve written for national, state, and local genealogical societies, and other historical periodicals. Links are provided many of the newer ones. When I add an article, I usually make a blog post to alert you to the records discussed. It’s also a great resource of information on a variety of topics.
  • The Civil War page focuses on articles about Union Civil War personnel.
  • The Research Guides page is a bibliography of research guides that I’ve written on specialized subjects, and links to those guides are provided.
  • The Microfilm Publications page is a bibliography of descriptive pamphlets (DPs) that I’ve written for NARA microfilm publications. Links to the DPs are provided for some of them. As time allows, I’ll add more. The records described in these DPs are often online on Ancestry or FamilySearch, but, please understand, I don’t provide links to where the records are online. You’ll have to research that yourself.
  • The Lectures page provides links to lectures I’ve given for which there is online content.

Words in GREEN are links.

Thanks for reading this!

Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I

The internment of over 110,000 Japanese citizens and Americans of Japanese descent during World War II is well-known. In contrast, U.S. internment of over 6,000 German citizens and other enemy aliens during the First World War has been largely forgotten.

Was your ancestor interned? Read my article, “Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I” for more information. I recommend starting with online newspaper databases which sometimes contain news reports about aliens arrested and detained. Then, you’ll want to locate federal records in the custody of the U.S. National Archives. My article will introduce you to available records and how to request record searches and copies.

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Photo: Enemy aliens interned at Fort Douglas, Utah, pass the time by building model ships. 165-WW-161C-94. NAID 31478939. American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-18; Record Group 165, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; National Archives at College Park, MD. 

Records of Claims Against the Federal Government

The idea of looking for ancestors in records of claims against the U.S. Federal Government (or against foreign governments) would be an afterthought, at best, for most researchers. Yet, they can contain valuable data. Here’s a few examples:

French Spoliation Claims. These were claims presented by U.S. citizens against France, Spain, and Holland for vessels and cargo taken by privateers prior to September 30, 1800, and condemned at ports controlled by those countries. There are records of these claims in the National Archives of the United States. The long and convoluted general history of those claims, along with guidance on the research process, is found in Angie Spicer VanDereedt’s 1991 Prologue article, “Do We Have Any Records Relating to French Spoliation Claims?

Claims Involving Various Foreign Countries, 19th-20th centuries, in a variety of contexts. For brief introductory information, see Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitrations.

Southern Claims Commission approved, barred, and disallowed claims. From March 1871 to March 1873, over 22,000 Southerners filed claims alleging they had been loyal Unionists during the Civil War and had furnished to, or had materials taken by, the Union Army or Navy. These are very useful to family historians because the paper trail created by the claimants and various witnesses included relatives, neighbors, friends, former slaves, and free people of color. Their testimony provides a wealth of information about individuals living in the South during the Civil War. Get started with these records by learning more about them in the guide to “Researching Southern Claims Commission Records” on the Saint Louis County (Missouri) Public Library website.

Civil War Claims against the Office of the Quartermaster General The Quartermaster General (QMG) and his staff were responsible for procuring all the equipment and supplies the Army needed. Generally, claims arise when mistakes happen of one kind or another. In 1901, a clerk in the office of the QMG compiled a list of 19 different claims boards that had been created during the Civil War which gave a brief description of the location, purpose, composition, and authority of each board. You can read through that 9 page list here.

One of those 19 boards was the Cairo Claims Commission. By direction of President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton appointed a commission to examine and report upon all unsettled claims against the War Department at Cairo, Illinois, that originated before April 1, 1862, due to allegations of fraud and corruption in the Quartermaster Department there. Stephen B. Logan, Charles A. Dana, and George S. Boutwell were first appointed, but Shelby M. Cullom soon replaced Mr. Logan, who resigned due to ill health. The commission examined 1,696 claims totaling $599,219.36, and approved and certified for payment $451,105.80. Most of the claims rejected were for losses suffered in active operations of the army, either from misconduct soldiers or from requisitions made by officers who failed to give receipts and certificates to the claimants, who thus had insufficient evidence to support their claims. Some claims were rejected due to proof of disloyalty by the claimant. Claims by owners of vacant lots and by the Cairo city trustees for use of city land were disallowed. A small percentage of the claims were rejected due to fraud. Charles A. Dana discusses the Commission in his biography, Recollections of the Civil War: With the Leaders at Washington and in the Field in the Sixties (New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1913), pp. 11-14.

The Proceedings of the Claims Board Meeting at Cairo, Illinois, are online. Following the meeting minutes, they include a roughly alphabetical list of claimants that gives the voucher number, date, name of claimant, name of officer who had approved the expense, type of article or claim, amount of claim proffered, and the amount allowed by the claims board.

In conclusion…. As always, finding records in the National Archives about an ancestor requires that person to have had some kind of interaction with the Federal Government. Claims against the government are one possibility, but it will take time and effort by the researcher to locate that information.