Saturday, December 28, 2013

Good news for pre-1850 US "Dark Age" ancestors

My great-great-great grandfather Eliphas Thrall (1767-1834) did not serve in the American Revolution. But when I searched for his name in quotation marks in the "Revolutionary War Pensions" section of Fold3, I got two hits. His name and signature appear in the handwritten pension files of Daniel Baker and Jesse Thrall as a corroborating witness or neighbor in the place from which they applied for their pensions. Fold3 has the files indexed that deeply. (Exactly how thoroughly overall I don't know, but some of you may.)

For anyone suffering with Dark Age ancestors in the US, this kind of searching can be a godsend. It basically uses the pension files to garner information on people who are present in incidental or supporting roles -- and of course it connects them to friends, family, associates, and neighbors, all of whom may yield additional records. It will be more helpful if you can either (a) arrange to have research targets with unusual names or (b) manage to narrow down the search for a common-name geographically or otherwise.

I have a bunch of names to run through this mill in my "spare" time. I'm looking forward to having Civil War pension files and local probate files indexed on line in this fantastically productive way in the future.

BTW, this kind of all-purpose indexing is not a new idea. Some folks had it back before 1980 and created 23 volumes of books indexing these pension files in this way until 2006 (up into the "H" surnames, and using the abridged set of pension files, NARA M805), under the cumbersome title Revolutionary War period : Bible, family & marriage records gleaned from pension applications

Harold Henderson, "Good news for those pre-1850 US 'Dark Age' ancestors," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 December 2013 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Geolover said...

Nice find of grandpa Eliphas. The every-name indexing works equally well with neighbor/kin clusters of Civil War pension file applications. Although not usually so helpful with pre-1850 relationships, there still can be helpful affidavits from midwives and from persons who attended weddings or funerals of prior spouses, adding to or supporting the family/associates network.