Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I Learned Wednesday: 13 April 2011

This week most of my research dealt with the Civil War, thanks to Bill West at West of New England and his Civil War Challenge.

The main thing I learned was that it is good to have a Footnote account. That way I can keep a lot of my documents on a particular person relating to a particular event in one place. I also learned which ancestors for whom I have not downloaded documents, and I remedied that this weekend: Richard Mason Brinlee and William T. Sisson.

There is either a real mystery or a mysterious dearth of documents surrounding the Fifth Texas Partisan Rangers. Four of the five Brinlee brothers claimed to have fought with this group - one has partial records, one has no records but his widow did get testimony from two guys who are listed with the Fifth that her husband had served with them, and for the other two brothers who claimed to have served with this unit (including my great-grandfather, who served with the Sixth Cavalry prior to serving in the Fifth) there are no records. My husband says this is simply a result of the nature of partisan units and of Trans-Mississippi operations during the war in general, but I am hoping to find some other evidence or indicators of their service....

Although a few years ago I did send off to the National Archives for the Civil War Service records for several of my ancestors, it is definitely easier to work with the documents on Footnote. For one thing, I have a better chance of finding all of the documents for an ancestor who served in different units. As I remember the experience with NARA, you had to specify one ancestor and one unit per order, and if you were unaware of service by that ancestor in another unit you would miss out. I do wish it was a bit easier to manipulate things and organize images into subfolders on Footnote. So far organizing images mainly consists of connecting them to the pages I set up for various ancestors.

I also finally picked up my latest issue of Family Tree Magazine and found a great article on some of the best websites for Civil War resources; of particular interest are the best state-based sites. These will go into my new Genealogy Toolbox (a separate page on this blog). Of course, right now it is just an empty page, but I have plans!


  1. I have not had much success with footnote until blogging about the Civil War this week. Perhaps I need to plunk down some money....the free access to the Civil War records may have sold me.

  2. I have the same issue with some of my civil war ancestors. There are written accounts that they served with a unit, but I can not find the documentation to back it up. But I won't give up!
    Lindalee-My local library just added a Footnote subcription to their offerings so you might check into your options there.

  3. Greta,

    On Footnote, you can save the images to your gallery and sort them into their own folders(called "collections") there. You can arrange them in any order you like just by dragging and dropping. It's super easy!

  4. Linda - So far the best and main content of Footnote for me has been the military records, and it's much cheaper (and has the potential for being more thorough) than getting them from NARA. I am hoping that Footnote will add more content, too.

  5. Heather - I do have a subscription to Footnote, but so far no joy on these guys there. My husband has been helpful - I am also checking in differently-named units that may have merged with or split from the units in question. I'm thinking my best option may be to find guys who have done the unit histories or are experts on these units.

  6. Jenny - Yes, I have saved images to my gallery and "connected" them to the ancestor pages I have set up, and I am aware of the "collections" capability, but it doesn't seem to include the capability for labeling and organizing the collections (I may be wrong on this, though).