A little known source in genealogy is the Southern Claims Commission records which cover the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Southern Claims Commission was established in 1871 and was dissolved in 1880. Its purpose was to review property loss claims by Southerners who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Of the 22,298 claims received, only 7,092 were approved. While most of the claims (accepted and rejected) were for white citizens, there were a significant number of black claimants. What is important is that the claims listed witnesses, usually family members found in these records. There are some 222,000 witnesses with their personal information.
The documents consist of pages of some 80 questions which had to be answered, and the witnesses also had to answer the questions. This provides a treasure trove of insight into families.
The Southern Claims Commission records (1871-1880) are now scanned and indexed on Ancestry.com in three indexes: a Master Index (accepted and rejected); Disallowed and Barred Claims; and Allowed Claims. Make sure you search all three. Plus, I find that sometimes it helps to not put in a name in the search, but only the county. Then I can see who else was filing a claim from the county. It also helps me get around the problem of often marginally literate people trying to maneuver through the government paperwork and dealing with government officials. With seeing who else filed claims, I can get around some of the most horrid spelling errors of surnames imaginable!
Do not ignore this as a major resource for the Reconstruction Era, and for personal details.
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