Now, while you would assume from the above description that only Southerners who had been aligned with the Union would be a part of these records; however, Southerner's loyal to the Confederate cause can also be found. As Elizabeth Nitschke Hicks writes in the article, "The Southern Claims Commission, a little known source of genealogical information,"
"The claimant had to answer that he/she had been loyal to the Union, and had not provided aid of any kind in support of the Confederacy . . . consider that people did what they had to do to receive compensation for losses suffered during the war. Many southerners did not consider it "lying" to "lie" to a Yankee. . . ."
These records can be an invaluable source to a researcher because they may prove to be one of the only records that can be found on a family when a county was "burned over" or may help you verify a location for an ancestor who died before the implementation of state wide vital registration (death records). It also provides yet another clue to what life was like for your ancestor during the Civil War.
These claims included the testimoney of a person's neighbor testimony and the testimony of the claimant about aspects of his/her life during the Civil War. To read some of the questions claimants were asked, check out the posted questionnaires at www.fold3.com (while this is a subscription site, access to these questionnaires is free).
There are three types of claims: Allowed, Barred, and Disallowed. In Allowed claims the U. S. paid the claim. The only record left of these claims includes the name of the claimant, residence, and the amount paid. Barred claims were those where the claimant either filed too late or was deemed a Confederate supporter. These records have the name of the claimant, residence, and a description of the loss. Disallowed claims were not paid and provide researcher with the most information.
One place that you can access the Southern Claims Commission records is through www.fold3.com.
Through the Family History Library you can consult the following resources through the Family History Library catalogue at www.familysearch.org.
Rootsweb has an index page of transcribed 1872 disallowed claims at http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~familyinformation/scc/72index.html. Each name has a link to a digitized page describing the claim.
For those researching African American ancestry, Ancestry has an article about African American claimants at http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=213.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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