A Horse, of Course!

From colonial times to the early 20th century horses were the primary means of transporting the mail, whether by a single rider on horseback or by wagon or stage coach pulled by a team. Certainly mail was also transported by railroad as as the network of “iron horses” developed, as well as by river- and ocean-going vessels.

The image below is a detail from a poor quality photo postcard from circa 1916. There are two men on horseback. The man on the right is identified as W. H. Bennett of McKee, Kentucky, whose age (in 1959) was 87 years. His horse has two mailbags, one on each side to distribute the burden. The other man is not identified. There are trees and other vegetation behind them but no buildings are visible.

Mail carrier on horseback about 1916. W. H. Bennett, McKee, Kentucky, age 87 in 1959, and an unidentified man from [76] Transportation of Mail – Saddle Bags” (NAID 204376381).

This postcard was privately printed. It is in the U.S. National Archives by an accident of history. On 11 August 1959, Postmaster D. N. Thomas of McKeesville forwarded the postcard along with two leather saddlebags to the Post Office in Cincinnati, Ohio, as “Items for a Postal Museum.” The mailbags were “not desired” and thus were “left in Cincinnati.” The postcard, however, ended up in a collection of “Exhibit Materials Relating to Postal History, 1905-1958” (National Archives Identifier 17027514) assembled by the Post Office Department Library that was subsequently accessioned into the National Archives.

1810 Census for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts

In 1810, Salem, Massachusetts, was the 9th largest city in the United States, with 12,613 people. New York City was first with 96,373, and nearby Boston was fourth with 33,787.

From 1790 to 1870, U.S. Marshals and their assistants conducted the census. Preliminary Inventory 161, Records of the Bureau of the Census, on page 94, states:  “Under the provisions of the decennial census acts, 1790-1820, the population schedules were to be deposited with the district court clerks, ‘who were to receive and carefully preserve the same.’ …  A resolution of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 430), directed the clerks of the district courts to forward the population schedules for the first four censuses to the Secretary of State.  …  It is known that the 1790 schedules for Rhode Island were forwarded to Washington on June 22, 1830, as a result of the May 28 resolution. Presumably other extant population schedules, 1790-1820, were forwarded at about the same time, but no documentation of such action has been found.”

The Bureau of the Census bound the extant 1810 census schedules into volumes sometime between 1902 and 1934, but the volume that included Essex County lacked the town of Salem. Decades later these same records were microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, Third Census of the United States, 1810, which can be found digitally on popular genealogy websites. It’s likely that many people looking through the 1810 census schedules for Essex County have wondered why Salem was omitted. The answer finally came to light this year.

For unknown reasons, the 1810 census schedules for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, became aliened (separated) from Federal custody. Somehow, they eventually came into the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum Library in Salem, Massachusetts. A National Archives staff member noticed a reference to these records on Instagram in February 2021, which set NARA’s Permanent Records Capture team on a mission to return these important records to federal custody. Read more about it here: “Instagram Post Leads to Recovery of 1810 Census Rolls.”

Digital images of the 1810 census for Salem can be viewed in the National Archives Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205601220.

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.

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.

Yet More Unusual Records…. and How to Find Them

If you were intrigued by the horse sales records mentioned in a recent post, there are plenty more records in the U.S. National Archives that are unusual, unexpected, or unknown to most persons, that are just waiting for researchers to examine and make good use of.

I’ve outlined search strategies in an article entitled, “The National Archives Catalog” which I hope you’ll try for yourself. Hint: URLs in “green” colored text in the article are clickable links!

U.S. Government Horse Sales at Frederick, Maryland, and Reading Pennsylvania, February 1864

There are many unusual or unexpected records in the U.S. National Archives that shed light on the life on someone’s ancestor or relative. Among these is a slim volume in which were recorded the buyers and sale price of surplus military horses sold at auction on 12 February 1864 at Frederick, Maryland, and on 19 and 22 February 1864 at Reading, Pennsylvania. The Office of the Quartermaster General sold the horses because they were no longer fit for military duty, but were still serviceable for less demanding civilian needs.

Read about this volume in “No Horsing Around! Unusual Records in the National Archives” and then go to List of Horses Sold, February 1864 to take a look at the volume yourself.

All the names have been “tagged” so that a researcher could stumble upon this volume when doing a simple name search in the National Archives Catalog — but, beware! Names are not always spelled as expected!

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.

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!