Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Finding James BRETT

When a version of my first post, James BRETT Died at Andersonville, was published in the Norfolk Ancestor, I received several compliments on the vast amount of research that I must have done. As one should, I smiled and emailed my thanks. In reality, I was pretty lucky with James BRETT, and the search was fairly easy and educational.

James’ basic information was found in very traditional ways. The births/baptisms of his family members and himself were found in 1995 on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library. The parish records of St. Peter’s and Paul’s Church, Swaffham, Norfolk, are now available at www.familysearch.org. Ancestry.com was the source for immigration records (New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957) and the U.S. Censuses for 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900.

I found James’ interesting Civil War history on 24 Jan 2008 while Googling. He appeared at www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/prisoners.htm, the National Park Service site for Civil War Soldiers and Sailors. It provided very basic facts unknown to me at the time. He was in the Civil War, in Company K of the 88 Illinois Infantry, and died 24 July 1864 at Andersonville. There was his capture date and place, as well – 20 Sep 1863 at Chickamauga, GA. What a fabulous find! It is hard to find so much in one record.

On the same day, I found his state record at the excellent site of the Illinois Secretary of State, www.ilsos.gov/genealogy/CivilWarController. There were his personal characteristics; height, complexion, hair and eye color followed by his service record. Now I knew the date he enlisted in the 88th and the day they mustered, all in Chicago. A history of this state’s involvement in the war was found at http://www.illinoiscivilwar.org/.

The Civil War had never been fascinating to me before James entered my life so I had to check whether Andersonville was the infamous prison. That was easily done a few days later at another part of the National Park Service site www.nps.gov/seac/histback.htm. It was probably worse than I remembered from high school history. Next I read Chapter 7, Civil War Prisons: a Study of War Psychology, by William Best Hesseltine, borrowed from the local library. This book was written in 1930 and reprinted in 1998. More general information, especially about enlistment procedures, was found at http://www.civilwarhome.com/. 

I requested the ‘small’, less expensive pension records from NARA and found James' marriage to Marie; the birth of his child, Henrietta; and Marie’s remarriage to James Cloke. Marie and her lawyer did not mince words on her application – the cause of James’ death was ‘starvation by the rebels.’

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