Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?
The challenge for last week's "52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy" kind of got pushed to the wayside, for I was involved in preparing to teach six classes at the 16th Annual Family History Jamboree in Dayton, Ohio. I thought about it all week, but I truly ran out of time.
But, I must respond to this one!
One of my ancestors is Asbury Alburt Moore. He was born and raised in Grayson Co., Virginia, and moved to Ironton, Lawrence Co., Ohio with his family and most of the neighborhood in the mid-1800's.
He fought in the Civil War.
My mom spent many years trying to find out where Asbury, her great-grandfather was buried. He died at the National Military Home in Dayton, but that was really all she knew.
I sent for his pension file many years ago. The day it arrived from the National Archives, it was raining cats and dogs. The file was so large I had to carry it into the house using both arms. I didn't care about the rest of the mail, but I didn't want that pension file to get wet!
I spent the next week digging through that file. I didn't care what else in the house got done. My kids fought. I had hair growing on my dishes in the sink. The laundry began to stack up.
I didn't care.
Asbury had been married to a woman named Catherine. They had a large family, then it looks like they may have divorced. This was all news to me, for the pension file listed a new wife and a whole new family.
Asbury had been injured in the Civil War when he slipped on the ice under a wagon in Tennessee. A load of wood had fallen into his lap. The next several years were spent in applying for an "invalid" pension. I thought it mean "invalid" pension.
Years were spent writing letters back and forth to the government. Character references were sought, each one saying, "Yep, he was a character. One of the most dishonest and ill-natured men ever."
Finally, the government gave him his answer. No. How much of an invalid do you think you are? You had a whole bunch of kids after your injury in the War. You weren't that much of an invalid!
There are two different death certificates for Asbury. One states he was divorced. Another states he was married. This new wife was quite a bit younger than he was, and I believe when he became older and infirm, she placed him in the Military Home. When he died and had a tiny bit of money and belongings, she showed up again.
The pension file opened up a whole new world about the characterization of Asbury Moore. Sometimes we like to think of our ancestors as heroes and very genteel in their nature. Some are not.