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Black History Month 2018 – Access Black History Records

February 1, 2018 by | 9 Comments

Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February.

Whether you’re searching for your ancestors or looking for primary documents to help with other research, the Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history: Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction & Jim Crow Laws, World War I & II, and the Civil Rights Movement

Recontruction and Jim Crow LawsAll the titles in our Black History collection contain valuable insight into the history of African-Americans, but titles that are especially rich in information include:

Some examples of interesting records you can find in the Black History collection include:

  • An 1810 inventory for the estate of Joseph Morton, a “free black man”
  • An 1827 inventory for the estate of Thomas Drayton that lists his 160 slaves by family group
  • A Civil War—era photograph of black laborers
  • The service record of Christian A. Fleetwood of the US Colored Infantry, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War
  • A photograph of 3 members of the original black fighter squadron in WWII

Get started searching Fold3’s Black History records here. Or look for individual collections by name here.

Philippine-American War Begins: February 4, 1899

February 1, 2018 by | 87 Comments

The Philippine-American War began February 4, 1899, when shots were exchanged between a small number of American and Filipino forces in a Manila suburb. The war would last three years and end with the Philippines under American control for decades.

Fold3 Image - Artist's depiction of US soldiers in Philippine-American War (from a fictional newspaper story about the war)
The Philippine-American War (sometimes called the Philippine Insurrection) was both a continuation of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule and a consequence of the Spanish-American War. During the Spanish-American War (April–August 1898, in which the United States fought Spain over Cuba), the Spanish territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines fell into American hands. Filipino fighters under Emilio Aguinaldo helped the Americans defeat the Spanish in the Philippines, as the Filipinos had been working to free themselves from Spanish rule since at least 1872 and saw this as their chance for independence.

However, as part of negotiations between the United States and Spain following the end of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million in November 1898. The Filipinos felt betrayed, since they had believed America to be on their side. Now, instead of gaining independence, the Filipinos believed they were simply trading one colonial power for another.

With U.S. forces controlling Manila and Filipino revolutionaries controlling the rest of the country, tensions were high between the two sides. Things finally came to a head on February 4, 1899, when shots were exchanged between the two sides outside Manila. The Filipinos launched a general offensive the following day. For the majority of the first year of the war, the Filipino revolutionaries fought in the conventional style, but they eventually shifted to guerilla warfare.

Before the war was even over, the U.S. began a pacification campaign, where they used promises of self-government, economic development, and social reform to win the support Filipino elites, in addition to providing schools and public services to gain the support of the average Filipino. These measures undermined the Filipino revolutionaries, and by the summer of 1902, things had calmed down enough for the U.S. to declare the war over, though smaller Filipino uprisings would occur for years to come.

In total, there were 4,300 American deaths, 1,500 of them from battle and most of the rest from disease. The Filipino toll was much higher: 20,000 Filipino fighters were killed, and an estimated 200,000 Filipino civilians died from hunger, disease, and other effects of the war. The Philippines would remain under various levels of American control until 1946, when it finally gained independence.

War of 1812 Pension Files

January 18, 2018 by | 34 Comments

Come explore Fold3’s growing collection of War of 1812 Pension Files!

Fold3 Image - Example War of 1812 Pension Claim
In 1813 and 1816, Congress authorized military pensions for men who had served in the War of 1812. These pensions pertained to men who had served between 1812 and 1815 and had sustained service-related death or disability.

However, later acts passed in 1871 and 1878 expanded the pensions to include more veterans. The 1871 act allowed men who had served at least 60 days during the war to draw a pension, and their widows were eligible to apply as long as the marriage had taken place before the end of the war. The 1878 act expanded the pensions even further to apply to veterans who had served 14 days in the war or in any engagement, and to their widows, regardless of when the marriage had occurred.

Although the specific documents available in a particular veteran’s pension file may vary, common documents are:

  • Declarations of pension
  • Declarations of widow’s pension
  • Adjutant General statements of service
  • Questionnaires completed by applicants (numbered forms)
  • “Pension Dropped” cards
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Discharge certificates

From these documents you can typically find information such as:

  • Veteran’s age
  • Place of residence
  • Dates of service
  • Place of enlistment and discharge
  • Organization
  • Rank

If the soldier’s widow applied for the pension, additional information available usually includes:

  • Widow’s age
  • Widow’s maiden name
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Date and place of veteran’s death

On Fold3, the War of 1812 Pension Files are organized by state or organization, then by the soldier’s surname and given name.

Although digitization of the War of 1812 pension files was previously temporarily paused, Ancestry, the National Archives, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are working in cooperation to resume digitization. The first of these newly digitized pension files are already available for free on Fold3, with more to be added to the site in installments throughout 2018 and beyond. So if you don’t see your ancestor’s pension file yet, keep checking back!

Get started searching or browsing the War of 1812 Pension Files on Fold3!

Signing of the Paris Peace Accords: January 27, 1973

December 31, 2017 by | 44 Comments

On January 27, 1973, representatives of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (which included the Viet Cong), and the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords, leading to the end of the United States’ active military engagement in the Vietnam War.

Fold3 Image - Drawdown of US troops following Paris Peace Accords
Though both secret and official peace talks, predominately between the United States and North Vietnam, had been taking place on and off since at least 1968, the breakthrough finally came in 1972. Up until that point, North Vietnam had insisted on an agreement that would ensure a new coalition government, and the U.S. had demanded the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from the south—both non-starters for the other side. But in 1972, the North Vietnamese signaled they would be willing to drop their demand for a coalition government, and the U.S agreed that the north could keep their troops in the south.

In October 1972, American diplomats led by Henry Kissinger and a North Vietnamese delegation led by Le Duc Tho created a near-final agreement that led Kissinger to announce that “peace is at hand.” However, the South Vietnamese government, under President Nguyen Van Thieu, found the agreement unacceptable, feeling that the deal did not look after South Vietnamese interests, and the peace talks fell apart in December.

Following the U.S.’s 11-day Christmas bombing campaign at the end of 1972, the North Vietnamese agreed to resume negotiations in January. The final deal, which was not much different than the one agreed to in October, was secured on January 23, 1973. Then the formal peace agreement—officially named the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring the Peace in Vietnam,” but informally called the Paris Peace Accords—was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. Key points of the agreement included a cease-fire, the U.S. withdrawal, and the return of American prisoners of war.

Although from the U.S. perspective the agreement was meant to end the war, it only really ended the U.S.’s active military involvement. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese broke the cease-fire and attacked the south at Phuoc Long. Despite a promise to the south that the U.S. would take retaliatory action if the north violated the peace agreement, the U.S. did not provide the south with military aid. In late April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the north, and the entire country was reunited under a northern, communist government.

Learn more about events in the Vietnam War on Fold3.

Christmas during World War I

December 19, 2017 by | 64 Comments

This holiday season, learn more about what Christmas was like for men in the U.S. and Commonwealth militaries during World War I—through the words of the men themselves. Fold3 has numerous histories, narratives, and even books that capture how the holidays were (or weren’t) celebrated by the men “over there” during the Great War. A few are excerpted below:

“To add to the worries the first shipment of rations was lost in transit but the boys made merry on tomatoes and onions for Christmas dinner.” –Richard Charms, 21st Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“It was snowing as the train pulled out and just enough had already accumulated to give the countryside a real Christmas appearance. The atmosphere, cool and bracing as it seemed to us when we boarded the train, turned out to be, as our journey lengthened into hours, downright cold and disagreeable, heat unfortunately not being a necessity for military travel in France.” –E.B. Tolman, 505th Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“Christmas day all Catholics were allowed off ship to attend Mass; men who had never seen the inside of a Catholic church turned Catholic for the day.” –Louis E. Clark, 6th Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“On Christmas day, the ‘Northland’ steamed into Liverpool and anchored. Christmas dinner consisted of jam, slum, bread and meat, meat which not even the best of Epicureans could name, but openly suspected by all to be a species of the sea-gull.” –16th, 17th, and 19th-21st Aero Squadrons, Gorrell’s History – AEF Air Service

“During the Christmas holidays it was expected many would get furloughs or passes to go home for the day. These leaves did not materialize owning to a ruling of the Post Commander, possibly issued because of the measles epidemic, which was daily growing worse.” –47th, 49th, and 50th Aero Squadrons, Gorrell’s History – AEF Air Service

“A great deal had been heard or read about our troops fraternizing with the enemy during the Christmas seasons of the previous years of war, but there was none of that during the Christmas of 1916. There was no cessation of hostilities. The lines were held with the same keenness, and there was considerable aerial and artillery activity throughout the day and night.” –Over the Top with the Third Australian Division, Military Books

“Christmas was hardly a ‘cheerful’ day. When the rain and duties permitted we spent the time trying to make up some back sleep which was urgently required. Everybody attempted something in the nature of X’mas dinner of course, though there was little but rations to do it on and it had to be consumed standing up, holding food or mugs at arm’s length, to avoid the cataract from one’s hat.” –The History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Military Books

Learn more about Christmas or other holidays during World War I by starting a search on Fold3.

Groundwork Laid for the Battle of the Somme: December 6-8, 1915

December 1, 2017 by | 18 Comments

On December 6-8, 1915, the Allies met in France for the Second Chantilly Conference, which would lay the groundwork for World War I’s Battle of the Somme, a 4 ½-month-long battle in France that would prove to be one of the war’s bloodiest.

Fold3 Image - One British artillery dump from initial bombardment at Battle of the Somme
At the Second Chantilly Conference, held in early December 1915, the Allies agreed to coordinate simultaneous offensives to exhaust German resources and manpower. As part of this, the British and French agreed to a joint French-led offensive on the Somme River for the summer of 1916. But the Germans attacked the French at Verdun in February, forcing the British to shoulder the bulk of the planned Somme offensive, which developed the subsidiary purpose of relieving pressure on the French at Verdun.

The Somme offensive, stretching along a front 25 miles long, began with artillery barrages on June 24 that lasted a week. The plan was to so overwhelm the Germans with the bombardment that the infantry would have a relatively easy time. However, the bombardment was largely ineffective, which meant that when the infantry climbed out of the trenches on July 1 and crossed into No Man’s Land, they were cut down by German machine guns and artillery. It was the single bloodiest day in British army history, with nearly 60,000 British casualties, a third of them killed.

While there was some success in breaking though the German front line along the southern part of the front on that first day of the battle, there was no real progress along the majority of the line. The Battle of the Somme would last for 4 ½ months, with periods of renewed fighting. One of the most notable of these was the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the first time tanks were used in battle.

By the time the Battle of the Somme finally ended in November with inconclusive results, both sides had sustained high casualties, with more than a million total killed, wounded, captured, or missing, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Do you have family members who fought in the Battle of the Somme? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle and the men who fought in it on Fold3. You can even find entire books about the battle in Fold3’s Military Books collection, including titles such as Sir Douglas Haig’s Great Push or The Somme, as well as some unit-specific titles that discuss the battle, including The 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada or Experiences of the IV. German Corps in the Battle of the Somme during July 1916—and more!

Virginia Half Pay Pension Application Files

November 15, 2017 by | 17 Comments

Fold3 Image - Example of pension certificate
Do you have ancestors from Virginia who served as officers in the Revolutionary War? Come look for them in Fold3’s collection of Virginia Half Pay Pension Application Files!

During and after the Revolutionary War, in addition to the pensions offered by the federal government, states also typically offered their own pensions to soldiers and sailors who served in the war. Virginia was one of these, and in 1779 it authorized half-pay pensions for army and naval officers who served through the end of the war in Virginian units within the state’s borders or in the Continental Army.

However, after the war, a significant number of pension claims made by Virginia officers were rejected by the Virginia State Auditor. Many of these officers had served in territory northwest of the Ohio River that had not become part of Virginia until 1784. After years of court battles, the state courts ruled that the officers’ claims were valid and that they were entitled to pensions.

However, Virginia argued that the state was financially unable to satisfy the claims due to the cession of the northwest frontier territory, and it sought to have the federal government assume responsibility for the pensions, since the government had promised to reimburse Virginia for certain costs related to the northwest frontier. In an act of 5 July 1832, the federal government took on the responsibility of reimbursing Virginia for half-pay pensions paid to officers of the Virginia State Navy and certain units of the Virginia Line that had served in the Continental Army or in the northwest frontier.

The earliest records in this collection date to 1778, but most are from 1830 to 1875. The majority address Virginia half-pay pensions from the Revolutionary War, but a few pertain to pension claims under other Revolutionary War pension acts or claims from the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars.

Most of the 279 veterans whose records appear in this collection also have pension files in the Revolutionary War Pensions collection on Fold3, and the files in the two collections are often closely related. However, the files in this collection differ from the Revolutionary War Pensions in that the documents gathered in these files originally concerned applications for pension arrearages that had been submitted by the heirs of deceased pensioners and thus were handled by the Treasury Department’s Office of the Third Auditor rather than by the Bureau of Pensions.

On Fold3, the records are divided first by Army or Navy service, then by surname in alphabetical order. Files can range in length from less than 10 pages to more than 100 and may include military documents, pension applications, sworn statements, powers of attorney, correspondence, wills, pension certificates, payment vouchers, and other records.

If an individual’s file is more than 10 pages long, the documents may be arranged with “selected records” first, followed by “nonselected records.” “Selected records” are those deemed to have the most significant genealogical information, with “nonselected records” encompassing all the others.

Have you found ancestors in the Virginia Half Pay Pension Application Files? Tell us about them! Or get started browsing the collection here.