Alexander Sloan is a 2nd great grand-uncle. He was married to Mary Elizabeth McGranahan and lived most of his life in Cowanshannock Twp, Armstrong County, Pa. Alexander was a Sergeant and then a 1st Lieutenant with Company K of the 148th PA Volunteer Infantry. Working through his folder I found that he was born one year earlier than I thought, but no sweat. My date was an estimate from different census records.
Ah .. then I find out he married a different woman and has children with different names than I found. Hmm .. 3rd marriage? Then I discover he died in Oregon, 5 years after my guy died in Pennsylvania. Quick check shows my source is a Pennsylvania death certificate, not a just a cemetery marker. This is obviously not my Alexander C Sloan!
How did this happen? The upside is that I was using my little red camera, a Nikon Coolpix S6300, so I paid no photocopying fees; I just took 88 pictures that I don’t want or need. The “bad” Alexander lived within 10 miles of my Alexander (until he moved to Oregon). He was serving in a unit that recruited from the same area my Alexander lived in. The only problem is that it isn’t my Alexander. I haven’t done the leg work to figure it out, but my guess is that both Alexander’s are cousins, and maybe that’s why my Alexander went by AC Sloan. After digging through all the information about my Alexander, there was no obvious error.
I did what I was supposed to do. I used the Finding Aid (index) to the Civil War pension collection, double checked that the unit “made sense” as in it recruited from the area where my Alexander lived. However, this experience reinforces something I teach: the index points to the really good stuff. Just because the name in the index, and the geography and the ages match, does not mean it is your person! This is why we always get the records the index or finding aid points to. Instead of learning wonderful interesting things about your guy .. you may just discover it isn’t .. your guy!