Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby!-Searching Original Records

 Recently I was able to spend a couple of days at the South Carolina State Archives in Columbia. I wanted to search through Civil War Pension Records.The SC Archives has done, and continues to do a wonderful job digitizing records and has many Widows Pensions to view on their website. I had  previously searched this on line data base for my ancestors and had found two.Knowing that I had others who had served in the War from South Carolina, I decided that I would look to see what additional records may be in the Archives.
  My first search of the Index for Sumter County, SC Pension Rolls led me to a Pension Roll Book that had the name of my 3rd Great Grandfather Alpheus J. Baker (1824-1917). It showed that he was living in Bishopville, SC and received  a pension payment on 17 Feb. 1901 for his service in White's Battalion for "service until surrender".


1901 Sumter County,SC Pension Roll Book
Picture of original held by the SC State Archives

    Next, I wanted to look at the microfilm for the Lee County, SC Pension Roll records. Lee County was formed from a part of Sumter County in 1902. Bishopville had become a part of Lee County so Alpheus should be in these lists.
 When I went to get the microfilm it wasn't there. Turns out that some one else was using it. I was told that the original papers would be pulled for me instead!
 Yes! Originals! 
What I was brought was a file box with the Pension Rolls from Lee County, SC 1909-1919.
   Each year had an envelope that contained the Pension Roll papers plus letters. Handwritten or typed letters were in almost everyone. The letters were statements as to the standing of a person receiving or who had been denied a pension. Some were asking that their pension monies be given to various people to bring to them since they couldn't come themselves, or asking the Pension Board to look into their case again. 
 One of the best ones I saw was this typed note from 1914 that includes the name of my 3rd Great Grandfather's sister Julia Dorrity Byd. Julia was receiving a Widow's Pension in behalf of her deceased husband, James Byrd.   
1914 Letter to Comt. Gen, Columbia, SC from R.H. Singletary
 Picture of original held by the South Carolina State Archives

      On the bottom is says:
 " Please let me have a check for Mrs. H.J. Goodman, Mrs. Mary Deas, and Mrs. Julia A. Byrd, who are on my list as dead and who are still living as these people are worrying the life out of me about it,
                                                               Yours truly,
                                                                   R. H. Singletary"
  I hope this got cleared up quickly so that Mr. Singletary could get some peace!

 If I had looked at the microfilm would I have seen this or any of the other letters? Would I have just scrolled through until I found the right place and name? Were the letters microfilmed along with the Pension Rolls? I don't know but I do know that there is great value in looking at the original. How fun it would have been to find a handwritten letter signed by someone in my family tree!
 There is nothing like holding an original record created by or for your ancestor. I am so glad that the microfilm that I needed was being used that day.The next time I have a choice between a copy or the original I will ask for the real thing!

©Cheri Hudson Passey


  1. What a wonderful letter. "these people are worrying the life out of me". ha!

    1. I know funny right? I hope they got it straightened out. Poor guy!!! Hahaha!
      Thanks for reading my post!

  2. You know you are a genealogist when... you get excited over 100 year old paper! Congrats on your research coup :)

  3. This is a exciting discovery! And an amusing note by Singletary.

    I never stopped to think that if there is a microfilm, of course the original must be somewhere. And there were the originals in a file box! Very encouraging.

    I have a Janet Martha Bradley (but d. 1875) from Williamsburg in my family tree. And there are LOTS of our relatives from Bishopville. Ever run across any McCutchens? I still think that someday we will find that our families converge.

  4. It really was fun to look at the originals. Nothing like feeling the document!
    No McCutchens.....
    Thanks Mariann!

  5. Interesting pension roll records. Many records were destroyed from that time period. Courthouses were instructed to. Good find.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Guerry! It was a lot of fun. I hope to go back soon to continue with the Pension Rolls from other counties.

  6. Cheri,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thank you so much Jana! It's such an honor to be listed in your Fab Find posts!
      Hope your weekend is wonderful too!

  7. I love when a record shows a little spark of personality!

    1. Me too! Thanks for yor comment! I really appreciate you reading my post.