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Here’s to 230 years of Treasury records

The text for the post Today’s Document, posted each day by the U.S. National Archives, is short and sweet:

Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1757, the illegitimate son of a poor itinerant merchant. He would go on to become a lieutenant colonel in the American Revolution, a close confidant to George Washington, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and first Secretary of the Treasury.1

Now, there’s a whole bunch in that short-and-sweet description that might warrant a genealogist’s eye. His birthdate. His story as “the illegitimate son of a poor itinerant merchant.” His military service. His role in the Constitutional Convention.

Hamilton engraved portrait

But the part that The Legal Genealogist is most grateful for is the last part: “first Secretary of the Treasury.”

Because the Treasury Department, created 230 years ago by an Act of Congress as the third department of the new government under the Constitution2 — the others being the Department of Foreign Affairs3 (shortly thereafter renamed as the State Department4) and the Department of War,5 has consistently done something to warm the cockles of any genealogist’s heart.

It’s created records.

Spread out in a number of different collections, called Record Groups (abbreviated as “RG”),6 and generally available only as textual records at the National Archives, these aren’t always the easiest records to find or access.

But they’re among the best any genealogist could hope to find.

Consider the following and how they might come into play in any family’s history:

Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, RG 217. There’s so much in this record group, it’s hard to know where to start. Accounts for expenditures for prisoners in the War of 1812, 1812-16. Revolutionary War ledgers, 1779-81. Ledgers for the Accountant of the War Department, 1792-1817. General ledgers, 1816-68. Paymasters’ ledgers, 1864-1908. Roster of officers and regular army units serving in the Mexican War, 1845-50. Records of bounty due recruits, 1795-96. Registers of payments to discharged soldiers, 1863-65; and colored troops, 1863-68. Settled case files for claims approved by the Southern Claims Commission, ca. 1871-80. Records relating to settlement of the Texas debt, 1850-70.7 I could go on and on — but you get the idea.

Records of the Bureau of Accounts, RG 39. A veritable cornucopia including registers of claims paid under relief and appropriation acts, including the Alabama claims; the French, Neapolitan, Mexican, and Peruvian indemnities; and private claims, 1789-1912. Records relating to the direct tax, 1813-21. Records relating to the settlement of claims with foreign countries, 1835-86. Scrapbook of Confederate currency, 1864. Records relating to financing of railroads, 1865-1928. Ledger relating to the Panama Canal, 1899-1916. Registers of enemy alien property seized, 1917-26. Case files of settled enemy alien trust fund claims, 1918-34, with card files of closed accounts.8

Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department, RG 366. These special agencies were established “in the Department of the Treasury, … permitting licensed trading with insurrectionary states” and “supervised trade and commerce in areas of the Confederacy occupied by U.S. forces…, received and collected abandoned, captured, and confiscable property” and “established ‘freedmen’s home colonies’ to provide employment and welfare assistance to freed slaves…”9

Records of the United States Coast Guard, RG 26. Yep, the Coast Guard was originally under the Treasury Department. It wasn’t transferred to the Transportation Department until 1967 and then to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.10 So all those wonderful records of the Lighthouse Service, the Lighthouse Board, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Life Saving Service and the Bureau of Navigation — just to name a few — are Treasury Department records.11

And that doesn’t even begin to cover all the records and record groups with Treasury records.

See what I mean?

So happy birthday, Mr. Hamilton. We’ll celebrate by singing the songs from your musical… and by researching your records.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Happy birthday, Mr. Hamilton!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 11 Jan 2019 ( : accessed (date)).


Image: “HAMILTON, Alexander-Treasury (BEP engraved portrait),” via Wikipedia.

  1. Document for Today, January 11th: Hamilton, Alexander. Painting (bust),” Today’s Document from the National Archives, America’s Historical Documents, ( : accessed 11 Jan 2019).
  2. “An act to establish the Treasury Department,” 1 Stat. 65 (2 Sep 1789).
  3. An act for establishing an executive department to be denominated the Department of Foreign Affairs, 1 Stat. 28 (27 July 1789).
  4. §1, “An act to provide for the safe keeping of the acts, records, and seal of the United States, and for other purposes,” 1 Stat. 68 (15 Sep 1789).
  5. “An act to establish an executive department, to be denominated the Department of War,” 1 Stat. 49 (7 Aug 1789).
  6. See “Record Group Concept,” Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, online edition, ( : accessed 11 Jan 2019).
  7. Ibid., “Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury (Record Group 217).”
  8. Ibid., “Records of the Bureau of Accounts (Treasury) (Record Group 39).”
  9. Ibid., Administrative History, “Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department (Record Group 366).”
  10. See “When was the Coast Guard (and its forerunners) established and what is its organizational history?,” Frequently Asked Questions, United States Coast Guard Historian’s Office ( : accessed 11 Jan 2019).
  11. Records of the United States Coast Guard (Record Group 26),” Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, online edition, ( : accessed 11 Jan 2019).
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