Thursday, March 18, 2010

Civil War Pension File Received!

I'd waited MONTHS for this, and the day finally arrived. I received my ancestor Ezra Wilkinson Nichols' Civil War pension file!!

First though, a bone to pick, and then a sincere thank you to the folks at NARA. I received the *wrong* pension file TWICE in a row before finally getting the right one on the third try. It would have seemed more understandable to me if they had gotten the name only slightly wrong, or been off by a number or two. Instead though, it was as if someone had picked out a file at random, stuffed it into a big envelope with my original request, and sent it off on its way. I still do not understand how this occurred, or how it happened not once, but TWO times. Each time, I emailed customer service to tell them of the error. The first time they asked that I send the file back (at my expense I might add). The second time, in my complaint message I demanded that they send me the correct file and I refused to send the new one back. I had wasted a good $10+ on sending the first one, and it had been their mistake after all.

To the folks at NARA's credit, my second complaint was handled *personally* by the gentleman receiving and answering these correspondence. He went to the files personally, secured the copy, and got it ready for shipping to me, and then sent me a personal apology and note. So THANK YOU to him. He has proved that there are some great, competent folks there, and I'd like to think I just got a bad apple or two the first two times.

I still have the pension file for one mistaken person. It is at my mother's place now, but when I go back to visit - probably this summer or spring - I will post the name in appropriate message boards and offer to send it just for the cost of shipping, to any descendant or researcher of his line.

But now for the correct file. The file was IMMENSE. Possibly 1.5 inches thick! I believe I would have been required to send additional payment for the whole thing normally, but due to NARA's first few mistakes, they didn't ask me. (Thanks NARA!) I've skimmed the whole thing and taken some notes. It didn't give me the answers I was hoping for on Wilkinson Nichols' ancestry, however it did give me a whole lot of answers I wasn't looking for. It confirmed some family connections and migrations I hadn't been able to confirm by any other sources except for censuses. And it painted a wonderfully detailed story of the personalities of some my ancestors, and their trials and tribulations navigating multiple, perhaps bigamous marriages.

In my next post, I'll talk a bit about just what is in a Civil War Pension file, and what you might find.

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