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Join in indexing the Mexican War records!

The Legal Genealogist needs your help.

Actually, we all need to step up and help each other, because what’s being launched by the Federation of Genealogical Societies is going to help anyone who has an ancestor who fought — or may have fought — in the Mexican War.

Battle_of_Churubusco2Yesterday, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the National Park Service’s Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park announced a partnership to develop a searchable database of more than 130,000 soldiers of the U.S.-Mexican War.

FGS President D. Joshua Taylor is ecstatic: “FGS is thrilled to partner with the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park for this important preservation project,” he said in an FGS press release. “We look forward to working with our member societies and volunteers to provide new access to records for those researching the Mexican War.”

And the National Park Service is just as happy about this: “National Parks tell the stories of America,” said Superintendent Mark Spier of the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park. “Palo Alto Battlefield is excited to have the opportunity to work with the Federation of Genealogical Societies to tell the stories of the thousands of soldiers who served in the U.S.-Mexican War.”

Any interested volunteers — and particularly any societies and groups — willing to join in the effort can contact Project Coordinator Patricia Rand, The Villages, FL, at

The end result, if all goes well, is going to be a really useful tool for genealogists. It’s going to let us search individual soldiers, unit histories and more: the plan is to include not just the men who fought, but unit histories and even digitized documents.

And it won’t just be limited to those who fought for the United States: names and information about Mexican soldiers will also be included.

In fact, we’ll be able to use it just the way we can now for Civil War soldiers from both sides on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system database.

That database — also online at the National Park Service — was also created through a joint effort of the National Park Sertvice and FGS. In that 1999 joint project, FGS volunteers completed data entry for more than five million names — and we all get the benefit now.

So why did I start out saying I needed your help?

Because — sigh — there’s something in particular that I hope to learn from this. Remember that rascal second great grandfather of mine? George Washington Cottrell? The one who marries and then promptly gets indicted for bigamy?1 And later for assault, and gaming, and even murder?2 That George?

He also filed for a Mexican War pension.

He was turned down, because the War Department said it didn’t have a shred of evidence that he’d ever served.3

But without a comprehensive index to the service and unit histories of more than 130,000 soldiers of the Mexican War, I can’t be 100% sure that George was making things up.

But with that index, and a chance to check out all the other names that come up in his pension file, I may just be able to put the question of did-he-or-didn’t-he-serve to rest for once and for all.

So, hey, volunteer, will ya? I could use the help…


Image: John Cameron, “Battle of Churubusco–Fought near the city of Mexico 20th of August 1847,” Currier & Ives, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

  1. Judy G. Russell, “Of apples and trees,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 12 July 2014 ( : accessed 8 Aug 2016).
  2. Ibid., “Oh George… you stinker!,” posted 9 Jun 2012.
  3. Ibid., “Darn it all, George!,” posted 19 May 2012.
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