Standard Southern Claims Commission questions
Any researcher who works with Southern Claims Commission files knows the occasional frustration of seeing a detailed report setting out the claimant’s answers to what are obviously very specific questions… without having the questions set out at the same time.
That was The Legal Genealogist‘s whine last night, while working on one particular Alabama claim.
I had all the answers… what I didn’t have were the questions.
The Southern Claims Commission, remember, was created by an act of Congress in 1871 to “receive, examine, and consider” the claims of “those citizens who remained loyal adherents to the cause and the government of the United States during the war, for stores or supplies taken or furnished during the rebellion for the use of the army of the United States in States proclaimed as in insurrection against the United States.”1
Which, of course, made loyalists out of a whole bunch of dyed-in-the-wool Confederates like my Battles fourth great grandparents of Cherokee County, Alabama, who loudly proclaimed their Union loyalty while having sent six — count ’em, six — sons off into the Confederate Army.2
In all, the Commission considered 22,298 claims, but “only 7,092 satisfied the rigid tests of sworn statement and cross-examination used to prove both the sustained Union loyalty of the claimant throughout the war and the validity of the claim.”3 Needless to say, my “send-the-boys-off-in-grey” ancestors were not among the successful claimants.
Even rejected applications have a ton of information, however, and I really wanted to do an in-depth review of the answers given by my fourth great grandmother Ann (Jacobs) Battles in a deposition in June 1874. The hitch was that the document only records the answers, not the questions. Those are referenced only by the name of the interrogatory — the question — she was being asked, such as — for example — “To the 42 Interr. for females.”4
I could find a version of the questions from 1874 online. But the one that Ann was answering? Couldn’t find that one.
Riding to the rescue: the St. Louis County Public Library.
It’s got an absolutely terrific “Guide to researching Southern Claims Commission records” on its website — you can download it as a single PDF if you’d prefer.
It’s got an overview of the claims system, a map of the states from which claims were filed, a step-by-step guide to finding the files and — blissful sigh — a resources page.
With links to all of the sets of interrogatories used by the claims examiners in the field. The initial set of questions from 1871. The 1872 amended set that was used when Ann was deposed. And then the final version from 1874, after Ann’s deposition.
And there’s so much more in this guide.
What a wonderful resource from the St. Louis County Library!!
So if you, like me, need to know about those interrogatories… you now know where to look.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Those interrogatories…,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 30 Aug 2021).
- §2, “An Act making Appropriations…,” 16 Stat. 515, 524 (3 Mar 1871). ↩
- See Petition of William Battles, 20 April 1871; William Battles, dec’d, v. United States, Court of Claims, Dec. term 1887-1888, Case No. 967-Congressional; Congressional Jurisdiction Case Records; Records of the United States Court of Claims, Record Group 123; National Archives, Washington, D.C. ↩
- “Southern Claims Commission Case Files,” Research Our Records: Military Records, U.S. National Archives, Archives.gov (https://www.archives.gov/ : accessed 30 Aug 2021). ↩
- Deposition of Anna Battles, 1 June 1874; William Battles, dec’d, v. United States. ↩