We’re working on a transcription of an affidavit from a Mexican War pension. This couple moved from Illinois, to New Mexico and California, back to Tennessee, only to return to California.
The affidavits discuss the family’s financial status and the health of the veteran. The veteran’s grandsons helped the veteran with his work and fortunately they and their relationship to the veteran are stated in the papers.
One of the most overlooked records for researchers looking for American ancestors in the pre-1900 era are federal benefit records. A significant proportion of American citizens received some sort of benefit during this time period–usually through military service. For service before the American Civil War, those benefits were generally land warrants although some later veterans did receive pensions. For service in the Civil War, pensions constitute the majority of these benefits. Spouses were often included and other family members may be named.
Of course affidavits were given with the intention of maximizing the probability that the applicant received the benefit. It was not unheard of for someone to exaggerate their financial situation–not all, but a few. The affidavits can be analyzed on their own, but should also be utilized for clues.
They are one of our favorite items to analyze in Casefile Clues.
Issue 4-19 discusses a petition to appoint an administrator with the will annexed in Illinois in 1877:
Administrator with the Will Annexed
Apparently Mimke left a valid will that was admitted to probate, but no executor was appointed to oversee the execution of that will. It could be that Mimke’s will either did not nominate an executor or that the one nominated was unable or unwilling to act. Antje’s petition does not provide any additional specifics—it does not need to address those specifics. Usually administrators of an estate perform their duties and disburse property according to current statute.
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This was used in an old issue as an illustration and was created in Excel. Sometimes these charts can be helpful to see how pieces might have fit together if the relationships are not stated in the actual document.
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Part of our analysis in this issue included a chronology of statements made by Eliza Jane Ramsey in her 1892 affidavit in support of her widow’s pension based upon her husband’s service in the Mexican War. There’s more to the analysis than that chronology, but it’s a good organizational tool all the same.
||Harrison Ramsey born.
|Before Mexican War
||Harrison Ramsey’s first wife (unnamed) died.
||Harrison and Andrew Ramsey work in the Galena, Illinois, mines.
||Harrison and Andrew Ramsey enlist in Mexican War.
|During Mexican War
||Andrew Ramsey died.
||Harrison Ramsey meets Eliza Jane.
||Harrison Ramsey marries Eliza Jane.
||Harrison Ramsey dies.
||Eliza Jane Ramsey makes out an affidavit in support of her widow’s pension claim.
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Issue 4-17 discusses a guardianship appointment where the previous guardian’s appointment is revoked. Here’s part of the document we analyzed:
This day on evidence to the Court, and the court being advised in the premises, and it appearing that George Fennan who has been appointed by this Court Guardian of Franzise Bieger aged 5 years on the 27th day of January last, and of Louise Bieger aged 1 year on the 27th day of May last, and also administrator of the estate of Peter Bieger decd of this state he is hereby removed from his said office
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Part of issue 4-16 (discussing a land patent issued based upon a surrendered land warrant):
Father and Heir at Law
Harrison Ramsey is styled in the patent as the “Father and heir at Law” of Andrew Ramsey. The reference to Harrison as an heir-at-law of Andrew suggests that Andrew had no children. Heirs-at-law are individuals who inherit from a deceased person based on the rules of intestate succession as defined in contemporary state statute (individuals potentially mentioned in a will are legatees or beneficiaries—not heirs-at-law). Had Andrew had living descendants at the time of his death…
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