Sunday, January 31, 2010

Confederate Pensions for African-Americans

This past week has been an exciting one for the genealogical research project I am working on. I am in the process of tracing the roots of an African-American family. This has proven to be challenging and rewarding. One of the difficulties with the research has been locating the family after the Civil War in all census years. This problem has been compounded by the location where the family lived. They lived in several counties along the West Virginia - Virginia border. The counties are in the hills (coal mining country) and considered pretty rural. I think some members of the family may have been missed in the census due to the rural nature of the county and quite possibly their color.

While searching for the family, I came across an obituary for what I believed was a great grandfather. It was not a surprise to me to find that the man had lived to be at least 114. The family has this tradition and firmly believe this to be the case. Many of the older family members recall having met the man. What did surprise me about the obituary was that it mentioned that the man had received a pension as a Confederate war veteran. Now I was concerned. Was this really the obituary for the man I was searching? Did African-Americans, who were also slaves, actually participate in the Civil War for the Confederacy?

To my surprise the answer was yes!

Slaves were often pressed into service as body servants, hostlers, or horse handlers. The latter was the case for the service of the man I was looking for. I came across his pension application at the Library of Virginia website and found a wealth of information about him. The record gave the name of his master, his place of birth, and his age. It was even attested to by people who knew him in his hometown. Among these witnesses was his daughter-in-law. This was such an exciting find for me. I learned a lot from this experience.

Yes! African-Americans could have been pressed into service for the Confederacy during the Civil War and some even received pensions for their service. One source indicated that there were as many as 400 in the state of Virgina.

For more information about this topic see the following links:

Black Confederate Soldiers

Black Confederate Pensioners After The Civil War

Saturday, January 2, 2010

West Virginia Vital Records

Thanks to some other blogs that I follow I discovered that you can now find quite a few vital records online for the state of West Virginia. Their site West Virginia Vital Records has birth records that start as early as 1790 in Monroe County while the majority begin in the mid 1850s. The last searchable year for births in most counties is 1908. Some marriage records start as early as 1780 and run through about 1970. Death records begin as early as 1836 in Greenbrier County with most beginning in the mid 1850s and ending about 1969.

I have bookmarked this site on my computer and hope to make good use of it in any future research in the state of West Virginia. This site will also be added to my list of resources that I will take with me when I take the ICAPGen accreditation exam.

You can learn about the latest in research resources and tips by following genealogy related blogs. This information came from Genealogy Blog by Leland Meitzler

Happy hunting!!