Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Passports of Southeastern Pioneers

There was a time when you needed a passport to travel without ever going overseas. Prior to 1824 parts of North America were considered foreign lands because ownership was with foreign powers or the land was part of Indian Territory. Thus to travel into this land you needed a passport. Mostley these were issued by the Secretary of War until 1824, at which point the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established. Sometimes Governors or other officials issued passports on their own authority. Of course, there were always illegal passports available for sale too. The source in our collection, Passports of Southeastern Pioneers 1770-1823: Indian, Spanish and other land passports for Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, North and South Carolina by Dorothy Williams Potter (Gateway Press, Inc. 1992) includes lists of passport information or mentions of passage of individuals into the territories outside the United States jurisdiction. "Official records and correspondence, both published and in manuscript form, were researched extensively." The book includes some interesting bits of information. Often the person who swore an affidavit of good character for the traveler are also included in this book. The book is divided by logical chapter headings and includes an extensive list of sources and a 46-page every-name index. It can be found in our library at R GEN 929.375 POT.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Claims Commission

Last week's topic was the Southern Claims Commission which was set up for those who lived in the south, opposed the confederacy, and lost property for official use by the Union Army as they marched into the south. Likewise, a similar commission was established following the American Revolution for those who could prove loyalty to the crown and who lost property as a result. As you can imagine, since they had been colonists, but ended up on the losing side of the war, they weren't exactly welcomed back home by their patriot neighbors. The British Government didn't treat them very well right away either. Most fled to Florida or Nova Scotia but didn't have any real means of establishing a homestead. In 1783 the British Government set up the American Claims Commission. Loyalty to the crown had to be established beyond a reasonable doubt, ownership of real and personal proerty had to be proved down to the last half acre and last shilling. In many cases the claimant had to swear under oath to abide by a list of conditions sometimes arbitrarily imposed on the him by the Commission. As with the Southern Claims Commission, little relief was ultimately provided. Either way, you as the descendant can benefit from the book American Loyalist Claims by Peter Wilson Coldham, F.A.S.G. For each claimant listed in the book a "highly summarized version of the papers submitted in support of his claim" is presented, "with particular attention to relationship and property holdings." You can find this source at R Gen 929.3733 COL.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A few items

Make a note that the library will be open Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. We'll only be closed on the Monday holiday itself. (PS: I'm off all weekend)
October 30 is our next program with guest speaker Tresa Tatyrek returning for a program on church records research. 10:30-11:30am on that Saturday. As always, it's a free program.
You may remember The Magna Carta from your studies in high school? It was signed in 1215 by King John and his Barons requiring John to cede a certain amount of rule to the barons in exchange for their loyalty. It is considered the basis for all English rule from that time forward since it was the earliest agreement between sovereign and subject on the rights of both parties. So, ever wonder if you are descended from some of the first people involved in the great English document? The source in our collection to find out is entitled The Magna Charta Sureties, 1215 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Th.D fourth edition with additions and corrections by Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., M.S. with David Faris (1991). The sureties were the barons who signed on behalf of the remaining barons. There were twenty-five. Only 17 have identified descendants. The book lists the names of all 25, the clerics who signed as advisors to the kings, and the nobles represented. The American colonists whose ancestry is discussed are listed up front and the states in which they resided. (Hmm, there's a Robertt Throckmorton) and a full index in the back of the book. You can find this source at R Gen 929.72 WEI.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Southern Claims Commission

As with all wars there are those who are not in support of the war. Thus was true of the American Civil War. As I grew up in the south saw the war as the north (everyone) attacking the south and everyone in the rushing to sign up and defend their land and way of life. Not so. There were many in the north and south who had to be drafted into the war. As the battles began to take place largely in the south there was no time to determine whether the landowner was pro-union or pro-confederate. Property was officially and unofficially confiscated for use by troups and much was simply destroyed. Many times receipts were given by the union troops for animals or supplies commandeered from civilians. Six years after the fighting ended Congress created The Southern Claims Commission. Southerners could apply for reimbursement of some losses. Those who could file claims had to hold American citizenship, reside in a state that seceded, be able to document loyalty to the federal government throughout the conflict, and have suffered official confiscation of goods. 22,298 cases were filed by various entities with a total amount of alleged damages of $60,258,150. Ultimately only 1/3 of the claims passed inspection and virtually all claims were settled at a drastically reduced amount. $4,636,929 was actually paid out.
The records from these proceedings are stored at the NARA by case file. While not all case files still exist, you might find that your ancestor's file is there. One of the sources you can consider in our collection before contacting the NARA about a file is the book Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: the Southern Claims Commission by Gray B. Mills (copyright 1994 Clearfield Press). The claimants are listed alphabetically for ease of research. The additional columns show County and State, commission number, office number, report number, year, and claim status. You can find this source at R Gen929.373 MIL

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"No land...only slaves"

As we all know there was a time when African Americans were bought and sold just like other possessions. Therefore there were legal documents connected with this transfer of ownership. These documents can be useful for looking into family history of any race as your ancestor could have been the buyer, seller, person bought or sold, witness to the event, or goverment employee who recorded the information.  A series of books entitled "No Land...Only Slaves" began being researched and published in the last 10 years by Edith Smith and Vivian Lehman in Balch Springs, TX. They began to asbtract the slave conveyances from the county deed records. Their abstracts include deed book number, page number, record number, event date, filing date, name of conveyor, name of conveyee, type of record, name of slave, gender, age, any descriptions given, value, type of payment where given, special notes, witnesses, notaries, recorders, clerks and other persons mentioned. Here's the text of one entry from the Bossier Parish, LA book.
1 Oct 1857/6 Nov 1861 Landrum, John M and Cooper, James N. of Caddo Parish to Landrum, John N. Bill of Sale. George, male, 18 black, 1/2 interest, $700. Witnesses: Leonard, F.A. and Attaway, E. Deputy Recorder: Leonard, F.A. Parish Recorder: Miller, Austin
We have these books for 5 Louisiana parishes, 13 Texas counties, and 1 Arkansas county. We will add more to the collection soon.