Breaking It Down – Put It In Date Order

Milton Thomas McCoy

Milton Thomas McCoy courtesy Sharon Brown

I have been working on a friend’s genealogy off and on when I have time for the last three years. Found out he has two Civil War soldiers on his dad’s side. We have not done his mom’s side yet. My friend ordered the pension files for these two soldiers and had them shipped to me. Wow.

File no. 1 was for Henry A. Hayes, Ohio Union soldier. His file is 150 pages long.

File no. 2 was Milton T. McCoy, Iowa Union soldier. His file is 175 pages long.

Now, National Archives will send you up to 100 pages for the $75 they charge you for a full pension file. Anything over 100 pages is not sent until you call or write them giving them a payment for the rest. Well I called them as soon as the files arrived Monday to give them a credit card number so I could get the rest of the pages.

When you get a pension file it is not copied in date order. This makes it difficult to grasp the full picture. So I pulled out my post it notes and a stack of paper clips and got to work. I used 3×5 post it notes to write the year on and attach to the first document in each year’s stack. I used the tiny post it notes on some documents to tag a date or note about something in that document. Things that stuck out. I paper clipped multiple pages together.  It took me about a half an hour to sort and organize the 100 pages for one file, then another half an hour for the other.

What do I have now? An organized file by date. I can track the medical issues for each man from the date of his discharge to his death. I learn the names of doctors who treated them and the neighbors and friends who vouched that each man was who he said he was. I can also track when Milton moved from Iowa to Missouri. I had an idea of when that took place but now I can narrow it down to a few years thanks to his pension file.

No matter if your documents for a person are thick or thin, putting them in date order can make a world of difference when it comes to fully understanding a person and locating clues.

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