Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Texas Confederate Pension Files on Ancestry

Posted in Genealogy, Memory, Technology by Andy Hall on February 15, 2012

As anticipated, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Confederate pension records are now available online at the subscription genealogy website Ancestry.com. Hard copies will still be available for order as before but, in keeping with a policy change last fall, researchers will be notified of the cost and must send in their payments before the library staff will make the copies. The actual cost is still appallingly, scandalously low.

The correct section at Ancestry is difficult to find, and is not yet indexed in their military pensions catalog. Use this link to go directly to that section, and be sure to select Texas for the state, as below:

The page reproduced above is a more-or-less random example from the files. It’s an affidavit in support of the 1913 application of Mary Ann McKinney of Mesquite, Texas. Her late husband, Eli Harris McKinney, had served in the 17th Alabama Infantry, and to support her application she submitted this affidavit from two men from Alabama who testified that Eli “was a good soldier and served as such untill [sic.] the close of the war.” (Eli’s CSR, available through Fold3, shows him enlisting in September 1862 and being surrendered with Joe Johnston’s army in North Carolina in April 1865.) Eli had died in 1881, ten years after his marriage to Mary; she began receiving a pension in March 1914 and continued to receive  it until her own death in Ranger, Texas in August 1922. Mary McKinney’s application also provides an important reminder about Confederate pensions: they were issued by the state in which the applicant lived, not the state he was born in, or of the unit in which he served.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission had an efficient and inexpensive system for providing these materials before, but efforts to put these materials online (even on a paid subscription site) are really opening doors for both professional and avocational researchers. Records that used to take weeks or months to obtain by postal mail can now be retrieved in minutes. How damn cool is that?

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8 Responses

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  1. Brett S. - The Siege of Petersburg Online said, on February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Andy,

    It’s incredibly cool. I’ve been using Fold3.com for about a year, and though that site is affiliated with Ancestry it doesn’t contain nearly as many Civil War records. It is absolutely easier and more cost effective than it has ever been to do serious, scholarly research from the comfort of your own home. What’s even better is there are no signs this type of digitization is slowing down. I hope more archives partner with sites like Ancestry and Fold3 in the future to make their holdings available to anyone who wants them without a great deal of work to get them.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Fold3 and Ancestry are essential, for me. I use Ancestry far more for general research on individuals than I do for my own, personal genealogy stuff.

  2. gin bauthority said, on February 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    agreed

  3. Vicki Betts said, on February 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Do you think there will be any added indexing from Ancestry.com, such as unit, other names on the affidavit, or locations other than the current place of residence? I would love to be able to pull all of the Camp Ford guards out of the pension records.

    Vicki Betts

    • Andy Hall said, on February 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Great question. I don’t think those things are searchable. Fold3/Footnote allows users to annotate documents in a way that’s searchable, but I don’t think Ancestry does.

      • Vicki Betts said, on February 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        I’m hoping that they will move, or add the pensions to Fold3 at some point. I’ve already done quite a bit of annotating there, and I would drop the files I’m working on in a heartbeat to start on the Texas Confederate pensions.

        Vicki Betts

  4. Wilbur said, on February 18, 2012 at 4:31 am

    1). Cool story indeed about those 2 pensions still up and running.
    2). I have to ask- if we can see pension records in this much detail, I’m guessing there won’t be too many signs of Confederate pensions being paid to large numbers of returned black combat veterans? If ever there was a case for the “they were real” crowd to prove something, you would think pension records would be it (with the obvious caveat that some sort of pension system may actually have existed for cooks, teamsters, servants, former camp staff, etc… I don’t pretend to know the answer, but that could muddy the research waters if it were so).

    Normally, a military pension is just that- a reward for people who earned recognition as military soldiers.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 18, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Wilbur:

      The fact that elderly African American men in some states did receive pensions is frequently used to argue that those men were soldiers under arms, as with white veterans receiving similar pensions. It sounds logical, but in almost every case, though, a careful reading of the actual application makes clear what their wartime role was. It’s clear to me that most people who will argue, “but he got a pension!” have never closely read the documents in question, which can badly butcher the “history” they end up promoting. That’s true of advocates of black Confederate soldiers generally; most all of the “evidence” they muster is fragmentary, misrepresented, or of very dubious reliability.

      The basic primer to understanding the process for awarding Confederate pensions — and their limitations — remains James G. Hollandsworth, Jr.’s manuscript, “Looking for Bob: Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War,” in the Journal of Mississippi History.

      As for Texas specifically, stay tuned. 😉


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