Monday, March 16, 2015
#50 An Amazing Experience
I got back last week from an amazing experience. I spent a week in Washinggon, D. C. on a week-long genealogy research tour with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Imagine spending all that time with people who share your passion, understand your roadblocks, and can talk about things that most of your friends would consider very strange. The first two days were devoted to getting to know and doing some preliminary research in the three sites: Library of Congress, National Archives, and the Daughters of the Revolution Library. Each one has its own rules and regulations, from what you can take in, copying fees, security screenings, cards, etc. For example, you can take a purse into the DAR library with no size restrictions, your purse at the Library of Congress must be less than 9 by 6 inches, and you can take no purse into the archives, just a small clear plastic bag. All that combined with finding out how to locate what you wanted was a little daunting, even though I had spent time looking at their websites and getting familiar with each one. However, the NEHGS staff and the librarians at the sites were extremely helpful and I pretty soon had figured out how things worked.
So what did I find? I went with some very clear questions that I wanted to try to answers and was able to answer some of them. I confirmed that James Hannah did indeed fight in the War of 1812. I found his muster cards on Fold3 at the National Archives. He was a private in the Pennsylvania Regiment commanded by Rees Hill. I was not able to find where he lived in Cincinnati, Ohio or where he was buried. From his pension file, I discovered that Joseph Minarcik, my great, great grandfather not only was with the 2nd Cavalry when it explored Yellowstone National Park, he was in battles against Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse! For John Wesley Hannah, my great grandfather, I was looking for additional information about his Civil War service. I found a number of documents that he signed. Some were affidavits attesting that a particular soldier had indeed fought while others were rather sad, as they were the documents he signed when a soldier died. Most exciting, however,
was to hold in my hands the letter that he wrote at the end of his tour of duty, requesting to be discharged and return home –that was much more personal and real to me. There were questions that I was not able to answer. Brick walls I did not knock down. That is OK because for now I know
One of the best parts of the tour was the chance to interact with the NEHGS genealogists. I learned a great deal from them. From Rhonda McClure, I learned that you need to go beyond and look at the details in a documents and see where it leads you. I have already used that and found that when you get a document in Ancestry.com, you need to look at the following pages as there may be more information. Henry Huff gave me some great clues of how to get through a brick wall by looking at how others have solved similar problems, and David Dearborn taught me that there is much more information about the soldiers in the Civil War than the muster rolls and regimental histories.
My task now is to digest and organize all the information I gathered. Stay tuned—I also gathered some information about my great grandmother’s three brothers and their service in the Civil War.