Monday, December 7, 2009

Madness Monday

Fires, Fires, and More Fires

What’s with all the fires destroying records that were generated during crucial periods of my ancestors’ lives? First there is the well known fire of 10 January 1921, which destroyed the 1890 census, although from what I’ve read most of the damage was created by water and not the actual fire. During that 20 year period between the 1880 census and the 1900 census, a lot occurred - relocations, deaths, births, marriages, etc. Overall, the loss of the 1890 census has not hampered my research, at least for the lines that tended to stay put. It’s the lines that I seem to know the least about where that 20 year gap is the most frustrating. I keep thinking if I just had the 1890 census, I could perhaps put the pieces together. However, I refuse to use the loss of these critical documents as an excuse, so I continue to push myself to think of other methods to determine and follow the movements of my ancestors.

More recently, as I’ve concentrated on Uncle Felton and trying to determine what happened to him after World War I, I have learned about another fire that occurred on July 12 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO. This fire destroyed 80% of Army records generated between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of Air Force records generated between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964. To put it another way, 16-18 million records were destroyed.

Picture obtained from National Archives webiste

Even though this presents another disappointment and possible set back, I’ve not been deterred, yet.

The National Personnel Office did notify me that the National Archives had the final pay voucher for Uncle Felton on file. So, last week, I submitted, via snail mail, $20 to obtain a copy of this document that offers a possible glimpse into Uncle Felton’s life. I also submitted a request to Georgia Archives to obtain a copy of his WWI summary card.

Since submitting these two requests, I’ve also done a bit more research on other possible locations for WWI personnel documents. I’ve learned that the military made recommendation to WWI and WWII veterans that they file a copy of their discharge papers at the courthouse. For Walton County, GA these records are filed with the Superior Court. While I’m excited to know that his discharge papers might exist in a courthouse somewhere, based on my previous dealing with the Walton County Superior Court, I’m not looking forward to having to contact them, again. Yes I got the information I was seeking, but I also received a letter telling me that they were not equipped to do this kind of work and that I needed to hire someone to do this. So, you can see the dilemma I have. Even though I still plan to do a research trip to Walton County, GA, I’m not sure when that will occur as every attempt this year to get there has fallen through.

For now, I will just wait, anticipating the arrival of the documents already requested, and praying that they will contain enough information to help me determine what happened to a long lost Uncle.

Until Next Time!


  1. Mavis,
    I share your frustrations about the record losses...I just mentioned it in a post I did tonight. I also have a ggrandfather who served in WW1 & wish I could know more. I do have his record of service (brief) and I also got the pay vouches, which didnt provide much. I have decided to research his unit & find out more about what they did, especially in France where he was. I may luck up & find pictures of his unit at Archives II in MD--that's another avenue. Just a thought--I have often filled the gap between 1880-1890 with tax & voting records, as well as court records (county & circuit, primarily.) Thats a shame about the letter you got back from the court, but dont let it deter you;) Stand tall & know that this effort is worthy & worth it. I'll stand with you;)

  2. The advice to look for information on his unit is a good bit. If you know the unit, you may be pleasantly surprised to find what you can on Google. I've used this method when the specific individual's record were not available.


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