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Kimberly Powell

What Can You Learn from a Single Document?

By February 28, 2014

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No, you still can't research your entire family tree online. But it is crazy, these days, just how far you can get and how much you can learn. Take, for instance, the pictured U.S. pension certificate of a man named Jacob Faller obtained from a dealer in Civil War artifacts. Using this single document as a starting point, let's see just what we can learn about Mr. Faller...

When looking at a document from your own family history, the best place to begin is to transcribe the document in full, or at least abstract all potentially relevant information (everything that isn't "boiler plate" language). Pulling out the relevant details we learn:

  • Pension # 1036642
  • stamped "Reissue"
  • "under the act of February 6, 1907"
  • Jacob Faller was a "Private Co. C, 100 Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry"
  • entitled to a pension at the rate of "fifteen dollars per month" commencing on 18 July 1907
  • payable quarterly by the U.S. pension agent at "Pittsburg, Pa."
  • given at the Department of the Interior on 20 January 1908, and signed by James Rudolph Garfield, Secretary of the Interior

So who was Jacob Faller? We know that he served in the Civil War and in what company, as well as that he was living somewhere in the Pittsburgh region. This gives us a great place to start.

Civil War Pension Files
Fold3, a subscription site owned by parent company, Ancestry.com, is the best online source for records of U.S. military veterans. A search here for "Jacob Faller" from "Pennsylvania" narrowed to the Civil War era easily brings up our Jacob in the "Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index." This index card includes enough details to confirm this is the same Jacob -- he served in Co. C, 100th Regiment, Pa. Infantry, and his pension certificate number is given as 1,036,642. While this is only an index card we do learn more about Jacob Faller, including the fact that he died on 23 January 1910, and that his widow subsequently applied for a widow's pension (application # 934,938) which was granted (certificate 697,635). We also learn that Jacob originally filed for a pension on 7 Oct 1901, and then filed again on 18 July 1907 (which matches the commencement date on our pension certificate) and explains why it was stamped "Reissue" -- Jacob likely received a pension upon his original application in 1901, and applied for an increase in 1907 when the laws changed. A different index card found online in United States, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 on FamilySearch, does not include Jacob's date of death, but does name his widow -- Julia A. Faller -- as beneficiary.

Jacob Faller's original pension file is not yet available online, but with the information from the index it could be easily ordered online from the National Archives. Fold3 is in the process of putting the Civil War "Widow's Pensions" online, but they haven't yet gotten to Julia -- although there are a few other widow's pensions from that same company already online. They are digitizing these in numerical order by certificate number (the collection is about 5% digitized), and are only up to about WC130,000, so it will likely be quite a while before they get to Julia at WC934,938. Again, however, the widow's pension can be ordered online for a fee. Pension records are often rich with information, such as details of military service and, in the case of a widow's pension, documentation of the marriage was also required.

Civil War Pension Acts
You might wonder why I made a note of the fact that Jacob Faller filed for a pension under the "act of February 6, 1907." This is because the reasons why documents were created can sometimes provide information beyond the document itself. In this case, the Pension Act of February 6, 1907 provides us with at least one new piece of information about Jacob Faller -- that he was between the ages of 70 and 75 in 1907. So how do we know that?

The pension act of February 6, 1907, was the first to take into account the idea that advancing age might lead to increasing disabilities, and granted pensions as follows:

"That any person who served ninety days or more in the military or naval service of the United States during the late Civil War [Note: this does not apply to Confederate soldiers!] or sixty days in the war with Mexico , and who has been honorably discharged therefrom, and who has reached the age of sixty-two years or over shall, upon making proof of such facts according to such rules and regulations as the Secretary of the Interior may provide, be placed upon the pension roll, and be entitled to receive a pension as follows: In case such person has reached the age of sixty-two [62] years, twelve dollars [$12] per month; seventy [70] years, fifteen [$15] dollars per month, and seventy-five [75] years or over, twenty [$20] per month..."

Just Google "Act of February 6, 1907" or search/browse for it by date in the U.S. Statutes at Large (you can find it in Volume 34, p. 879-80). In this case, understanding the act under which Jacob Faller applied, along with the fact that he was granted a $15 per month pension, tells us that he was at least 70 years of age on 18 July 1907, and under the age of 75 (i.e. born between 18 July 1832 and 18 July 1837).

Company C, 100th PA Regiment
From records and published sources freely available on sites such as FamilySearch, HathiTrust and Internet Archive, you can learn a great deal about Company C of the 100th Pa volunteer infantry regiment. From the History of Butler County, Pennsylvania (1895), for example, we learn that in August 1861 Captain James E. Cornelius raised a company of volunteers in the "northwestern and western part of the county" which entered the service as "Company C, One Hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers." It goes on to add that the regiment was made up largely of descendants of the "Round Heads" of the English Revolution, along with Scotch-Irish Seceders and Covenanters, that it was known as the "Round Head" regiment. He's listed as Jacob Fuller on the website of the One-Hundredth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment (they don't appear to have yet matched him up with the Jacob Faller from Butler County, Pa.). There is even a Society of the Roundheads Facebook group! The 1890 Veterans Census, online for free at FamilySearch.org, tells us that Jacob enlisted on 29 February 1864 and was discharged on 24 July 1865 after 1 year, 4 months, and 25 days of service.

Jacob & Julia Faller
Moving beyond the pension record, it is also easy to learn more about Jacob and Julia Faller online, from the very detailed FindAGrave entry for Jacob Faller to census and other records on both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, such as the 1870 Federal Census, 1880 Federal Census, and 1900 Federal Census entries for Jacob & Julia Faller in Butler County, Pa. on FamilySearch. You can also use the Butler County Library System Obituary Database Search to locate index entries for the obituaries of both Jacob and Julia, along with instructions on how to obtain copies. Transcriptions of their obituaries are also found in their previously mentioned FindAGrave entries. There is plenty more too...for anyone who wants to keep on digging!

For More Information:
How to Obtain Civil War Union Pension Files
Researching Civil War Ancestors

Comments
February 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm
(1) David Welch says:

Thank you for this great article! I administrate the 100th Pennsylvania Roundheads webpage. Jacob Faller of Co. C was listed in Bates Roster as Jacob Fuller. I did not make the connection until your article but this is a great example of the need at times to dig deeper! I have found numerous instances in my research of Roundhead soldiers that Bates listings and actual last names (or first names) differ. I am updating today the information on my “Soldier Data” page for Enlisted Soldiers, name “F”.

February 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm
(2) ~Kimberly says:

And thank you David for the great job you’ve done putting together such an excellent resource for this regiment! It’s easy to tell how much hard work and research has gone on behind the scenes.

If you have access to Fold3.com you can browse the Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index to see if any more of the soldiers from that regiment who you have not yet placed applied for a pension. They have the index set up in such a way that you can browse directly to the state, regiment and company. Unfortunately, the Compiled Military Service Records for Pennsylvania are not yet available online — only the index — and they are browsable/searchable only by soldier’s name, and not by arm of service, regiment, company, etc. You CAN, however, browse the roster of the 100th PA Regiment on the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors site run by the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-regiments-detail.htm?regiment_id=UPA0100RI) which was created, in large part, from the General Index to Compiled Military Service Records, and cross-reference that with Bates’ roster in History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 18611865. Keep up the excellent work!

March 18, 2014 at 11:07 pm
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He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him.
Fairly certain he’s going to have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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