On this past Tuesday I made my first trip to Washington, DC to research in the National Archives. My friend Donna joined me and at the Archives we met my newly discovered (thank you internet) cousin Elisa from California. Our 5th great grandfathers were brothers who fought in the Revolutionary War, Samuel & William Kenly.
None of us had researched at the National Archives before and we were overwhelmed by how friendly, willing to engage, and laugh as well as helpful the staff were. My focus was on two ancestors who served, Capt. John Cribbs, died at St Clair’s Defeat in 1791, and the second, Private Jeddiah Rumble served in both the Mexican-American War in 1847-1748 and the Civil War. Jeddiah received Bounty Lands for his service in the Mexican War and I was looking for pretty much anything or everything related to his service. I had already located his Mexican War pension.
My first pull requests for both gentlemen, returned nothing, a big old goose egg! I couldn’t imagine there wouldn’t be records, but the big question became where were they at? After several discussions with staff members, 5 at one point, including much laughter and jokes about my ancestors hiding, even in the National Archives, we found Jeddiah. The images on ancestry.com indicated a volunteer unit, but he was actually regular army! Add to that the Mexican War wasn’t a huge war, and the records are mixed in with the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 records, labeled “Old War”. In the end I got his Mexican War enlistment papers, CMSR records, bounty land application packet, his discharge papers and surgeon certificate. For his Civil War service I have enlistment papers, his resignation letter due to health issues suffered during the Mexican War, and information on what to ask for to get his medical records.
Captain Cribbs is a different story. There was a fire in 1800 where many of the early records were lost, including many of the records related to St Clair’s Defeat. Capt. Cribbs CMSR’s are on microfilm and some of the US Levies regimental records still exist. These records however will need to wait for the next trip.
I brought home the survey to fill out as to how helpful the staff were (extremely) which today I will fill out and put in the mail. The last thing I will do is write my Congressman and Senators. The National Archives is a wonderful resource for historians and genealogists. In this era of budget cuts, I want to let my representatives know how much I appreciate their funding this institution. Oftentimes, those of us happy with facilities don’t speak up and share our enjoyment and that may contribute to these institutions being on the chopping block come budget time. I have decided (after the issues in Indiana) to be proactive. When I use a facility (county, state or national) I will write the appropriate representatives, and thank them. What I have discovered is that even our representatives have fallen prey to the notion that everything exists online and we are wasting money on archives.
Climbing down from my soap box. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.