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Madison County Genealogical Society

Minutes of the Meeting - September 12, 2013

The September 2013 meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library on Thursday, September 12, at 7:00 pm.

President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.

The following is the Treasurer's report for the month of August:


Do you have a family member that is interested in (or even obsessed with) genealogy? A membership in the Madison County Genealogical Society would be a very thoughtful gift. A gift card will be sent to the recipient of any gift membership.

The following memberships are available:
Individual/Family Annual Membership $20.00
Patron Annual Membership $30.00
Life Membership $250.00

Contact our Secretary, Petie Hunter, at, about a gift membership.

September Meeting

On September 12, 2013, Tom Pearson, Subject Specialist in the Genealogy Room of the St. Louis Public Library, presented a program titled Squeezing Your Sources: Extracting All The Info You Can From Compiled Military Service Records and Civil War Pension Files.

Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs)

Each volunteer Union soldier who was mustered into federal service has one Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) at the National Archives in Washington, DC, for each unit (normally regiment) in which he served. CMSRs also exist for some (not all) Confederate soldiers. The CMSR contains basic information about the soldier's military career, and is the first source the serious researcher should consult. The CMSR consists of an envelope (referred to as a "jacket") containing one or more cards. These cards typically indicate that the soldier was present or absent during a certain period of time. Cards may also indicate other information like date of enlistment and discharge, amount of bounty paid, and wounds received or hospitalization for injury or illness. The soldier's place of birth may be indicated, if foreign born, only the country of birth is usually stated. The CMSR may contain an internal jacket for so-called "personal papers" of various kinds. These may include a copy of the soldier's enlistment paper, papers relating to his capture and release as a prisoner of war, or a statement that he had no personal property with him when he died. Note, however, that the CMSR rarely indicates battles in which a soldier fought (unless he was wounded or killed); that information must be derived from other sources.

A CMSR is as complete as the surviving records of an individual soldier or his unit. The War Department compiled the CMSRs from the original muster rolls and other records, some years after the war to permit more rapid and efficient checking of military and medical records in connection with claims for pensions and other veterans' benefits. The abstracts were so carefully prepared that it is rarely necessary to consult the original muster rolls and other records from which they were made. When the War Department created CMSRs at the turn of the century, information from company muster rolls, regimental returns, descriptive books, hospital rolls, and other records was copied verbatim onto cards. A separate card was prepared each time an individual's name appeared on a document. These cards were all numbered on the back, and these numbers were entered onto the outside jacket containing the cards. The numbers on the jacket correspond with the numbers on the cards within the jacket. These numbers were used by the War Department only for control purposes while the CMSRs were being created; the numbers do not refer to other records regarding a veteran, nor are they useful for reference purposes today.

Generally, Union CMSRs contain more "cards" and provide more information than Confederate CMSRs due to the loss and destruction of Confederate records and the institutions that stored them. In addition, many Confederate CMSRs are incomplete beyond 1863, and in some cases would lead the researcher to believe that the soldier went "AWOL" (absent without leave) or deserted when, in actual fact, the man's absence was temporary and the later documents that would prove additional "honorable" service do not exist.

Pension Records
Many Union army soldiers or their widows or minor children later applied for a federal pension. Pensions were granted to Confederate veterans (and, in some states, their widows and minor children) by the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Pension application files can be very rich sources for family history and biographical research. There were three main reasons why the Federal Government or the former Confederate States paid pension payments for military service:

  1. The former soldier later became disabled and was unable to support himself (or had become an invalid during the war due to wounds or illness incurred while he was in the service).
  2. The soldier was a volunteer whose State unit was mustered into federal service.
  3. A dependent pension was awarded to a woman or children whose husband or father died while in service. A survivor pension could be awarded to the widow or disabled adult children of a veteran who died while receiving an invalid pension.

There are three main types of pension applications: veteran (invalid), widow, or minor child.

  1. A veteran's application typically contains the veteran's name, rank, military unit, period of service, residence at time of application, place and date of birth (or age), and property.
  2. A widow's application typically contains more detail, including all of the veteran's information plus her name, age (or date of birth), residence at time of application, maiden name, date of marriage, and veteran's date and place of death.
  3. A minor child's application may contain all of the veteran's and widow's information as well as the heirs' names, dates, and places of their births, residence(s) at time of application, and date of their mother's death.

A typical pension file consists of the application of the claimant, supporting documents of identity and military service, evidence of the action taken by the Federal Government or State, and the widow's application (found under the name of the veteran). If two or more claims relate to the service of the same veteran in the same war, the claims are filed together.

The supporting documentation used to support a claim may include, but is not limited to:
 1)  Adjutant General's Office statement of service (Union only)
 2)  Affidavits and depositions of witnesses
   Discharge papers
 3)  Personal papers
   Marriage certificates
   Pages from family Bibles
   Personal narratives of events during service
   Supplemental pension applications

   1) Age in years at time of application
   2) Amount of current pension allowance
   3) Battles/actions engaged in
   4) Cause and degree of disability
  5) Children's names and dates of birth
   6) Date and place of birth of claimant
   7) Date and place of discharge
   8) Date and place of enrollment
   9) Date and place of marriage of claimant
 10) Date and place of muster
 11) Date of death of pensioner
 12) Existence of record of marriage
 13) Length of time known to witnesses
 14) Literacy
 15) Married names of female children of pensioner
 16) Name and address of official claim agent
 17) Name of clergyman who married claimant and spouse
 18) Names and place of residence of witnesses
 19) Pension certificate number
 20) Physician's statement of disability
 21) Place of residence at time of application
 22) Places of residence after discharge
 23) Previous marriages of claimant/spouse
 24) Previous pension applications
 25) Previous/subsequent service in armed forces of claimant and relatives
 26) Prisons where confined
 27) Rank in
 28) Rank out
 29) Regiment and company
 30) Spouse's name/maiden name
 31) Transfers/detached duty stations
 32) Wounds/sicknesses while in service


1) Braxton-Secret, Jeanette. Guide to Tracing Your African American Civil War Ancestor. Bowie, MD, Heritage Books, 1997.
2) Dollarhide, William. Genealogical Resources of the Civil War Era: Online and Published Military or Civilian Name Lists, 1861-1869, and Post-War Veteran Lists. Bountiful, Utah, Family Roots Pub. Co, 2009.
3) Groene, Bertram H. Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor. Winston-Salem, NC, J. F. Blair, 1973.
4) McManus, Stephen, Thomas Churchill, and Donald Thompson. Civil War Research Guide: A Guide for Researching Your Civil War Ancestor. Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole Books, 2003.
5) Neagles, James C. Confederate Research Sources: A Guide to Archive Collections. Salt Lake City, UT, Ancestry Pub, 1986.
6) Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, UT, Ancestry, 1994.

7) Civil War Records:
8) Civil War Service Records Research Guide:
9) Confederate Pension Records:
10) Civil War Records:
11) Microfilmed CMSRs of Civil War Soldiers: and-confederate-cmsrs.pdf
12) Missouri Soldiers Database:
13) Online Civil War Indexes, Records, and Rosters:
14) Research in Military Recordsthe Civil War:
15) Types of Military Records Stored in Washington, DC:

This presentation was very well received by the audience and generated much discussion and several questions.