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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Using Civil War Pension Files, Part IV : the Case of Ernst C. Reif

Author's own photo, Fullersburg Cemetery salute, 2016

We begin with the Widow's Brief No. 2, claim #228.542  The soldier : Ernest Reif  The examiner : Geo. W. Taylor
Sub. for final review June 12, 1879

Rejected - Widow with Children
228.542 cert. no. for original and increase. Brief app'd Nov 22 1878
Title : Catherine Reif now Geeting, widow of Ernest Reif who was a private and pensionable rank of private in Company H 34th Regiment Illinois Infantry
Residence of the claimant, Forreston in the county of Ogle, state of Illinois Post office : same location
Attorney : JP Jones, of Rockford, Winnebago County Illinois having been filed Feb 19, 1877

Incidental Matters : Soldier had invalid claim, which was paid up to Sept. 4, 1867.
This widow is rejected on the grounds that she has no title.  She did not apply within 5 years after the death of this soldier, and she had remarried.
Minors claim this day briefed for admission
The Summary of Material Facts :
Widow remarried June 6, 1875 to Simon Geeting.
The particulars of the injury suffered by Ernest Reif are repeated, having been wounded at the Battle of Stone River, non functioning leg and use of a crutch until his death.

Skip to Page 113/220
A Declaration for Original Pension of a Widow, Child or Children under Sixteen years of age surviving.
This page further describes the relationship of Catharine Geeting, formerly Catherine Reif, widow of Ernst,  his wound listed at Murfreesboro, Tenn. on the 31st of December 1862. His death recorded October of 1867
After his death, the widow married Simon Geeting on the 6th day of June, 1875
A child was born unto Ernest and Catharine , a female, on August 2, 1867
Records show that Ernest had never been married before he and Catherine were wed.

Page 115/220 Statements from the Attending Physician of Ernest C. Reif
A statement in the state of Illinois in the County of Carroll, John W. Frazy, MD, of Lanark,Carroll County, Illinois.
He certifies his statement that he was well aquainted with Ernest Reif before he enlisted into the army, and was described as sound.  The Dr. was the physician of Ernst Reif after his return from the Army and treated him up to the date of his death, on the 19th of October 1867, and his death was the result of the gunshot wound received by Ernest while in the army.
Officially sealed, State of Illinois Notary Public, Alvaro Shumway, dated 10th of Oct 1876
Title page mentions the name of Ludwig Foy, father of Catherine Foy Reif Geeting. as he is the legal guardian of Mary, minor child.

Page 117-118/220
An additional statement from Dr. Frazy, now living in Woodbury County, Iowa,  and this statement continues to repeat as in the aforementioned document that Ernst was sound when entering the army, and left an invalid upon his return.  He was a constant infirm from that leg wound which rendered him unfit for business labor for the rest of his life. dated January 22, 1877

Page 119-120/220
Another statement from Dr. Frazy, of Woodbury County, Iowa, now living in Sioux City.
This statement a bit shorter about the death of Ernest on Oct 19, 1867 of the extended infection from the same wound, problems commencing in the hands and extending to the body, the result of long continued suffering and low vitality, from the time he returned from the army until his death, entirely incapacitated for manual labor and a continual sufferer. This dated May 13, 1878, officially sealed by State of Iowa, Notary Public, Madison B. Davis

Page 122/220
A handwritten letter, dated Dec 17, 1877, Sioux City, Iowa
To J. Jones, Rockford, ILL
Dr. Frazy states that he was not issued a copy of his former statements so he is trying to make this statement to the best of his memory, which is of no help because his memory is not refreshed from the records or conversations, and that he cannot recall with certainty any statement, now, from him that might in some points be a contradiciton....signed JW Frazer.  clearly this man is elderly.

Page 123/220 The Birth of Child, Mary Reif
A statement from Dr. Frazy that clearly states that he was the attending physician at the birth of Mary Reif, at 8 oclock a.m. August second 1867, and that he was the attending physician with the said Catherine Reif at the birth of said child.  Clearly signed by John W Frazey, MD. officially sealed
State of Illinois, Carroll County, dated the 10th of October 1876. signed notary Alvero Shumway

Page 125/220 The Marriage of Ernst and Catherine Reif
An official certificate of Record of Marriage, State of Illinois County of Ogle, filled out by Albert Woodcock clerk of the county , certifies that Ernest Reif was married to Catharine Foy on the 4th day of October 1863 officiated by Rev J. K. Bloom, Minister of the Gospel.  This office was located in Oregon, Illinois and dated 17 Oct 1876

Page 127/220 Yet Another Written Statement from Dr. Frazy 
The letter dated Oct 22, 1878, Sioux City, Iowa.
Basically it states that in his opinion the the infection that killed Ernst was caused by the wound in his leg and hip, and which his suffering had been great that the pain in the hip and leg caused the loss of sleep, loss of appetite, general debility, nervous demeanor, bad blood and a condition of low vitality.  He treated him during this sickness until the time of his death, signed JW Frazey MD

Page 130/220  Another Rejected Claim
Claim 184488 claimant Catherine Geeting, date of filing May 18, 1908, declaration
Catherine tried to apply for pension help again, giving the same information as before, and asking for $12/month
It was REJECTED..July 3, 1908, rejection on the grounds of no title under the Act of April 19, 1908, claimant having remarried (ceased to be a widow) prior to the date of filing for claim. This now gives the date of death of her husband, Simon Geeting, March 7, 1905.
An addition document once again repeats the information about Ernst, only this one typed, not handwritten, in red ink.  certified by State of  Illinois Notary Public, Edward Haller...REMEMBER THAT NAME

Pages 132-146/220  Letters of Guardianship and Childs Pension Approval
pages contain all proofs of letters of guardianship by Ludwig Foy for the care of his grandchild, Mary Reif, until her 16th birthday in 1883. Two men, George Balsbaugh and Philip Smith sworn statements that Mary Reif was the legal child of deceased Ernst Reif, and that they personally knew this family very well.

Page 148/220  Certification of Remarriage of Catherine Reif to Simon Geeting
Simon and Catherine married on 6th June, 1875, by H D Healey, Minister of the Gospel, Certified by the county court record in Oregon, Ilinois on 18 Feb, 1913

U.S. Flag of 1861,


pages 149-176/220 A typed file entitled : Affidavit of Edward E. Haller in Regard to a Pension for Catharine Geeting the Widow of Simon Geeting.
These pages contain records of duly sworn statements of witnesses by Edward Haller, Notary Public
of Ogle County, Illinois. In various areas of this file Mr. Haller states that he is filing this case under the direction and request of Catharine Geeting.  Various persons who knew the families of both Ernst Reif and Catharine Foy made statements, under the thought that this was for the well being and support of the widow Geeting, after all, she had been a widow for the past 15 years, and probably needed some support. In various cases, a "signature" of Catherine is recorded, and in some cases, her name printed with her "mark", an X, indicating that she could not write.

PAGE ONE : Haller gives his own bio briefly, and then tells the story of how he knew the Foy family very well, having lived in the same town, Forreston.  Haller's parents knew the parents of Catherine Foy (Ludwig and Magdalina).  They all belonged to the same church. Furthermore, at this date, his parents and the Foys were deceased.  Haller knew the siblings of Catherine, and mentions their names, Lewis, Edward, Louisa, Henry and Maggie Foy. Henry Foy was the Sunday School teacher for Haller.  Catherine Foy worked for Haller's parents as a domestic, and witnessed the birth of Haller. Haller remembers visiting Catherine at her home and playing with her little child.  He affirmed that he knew Catherine and Ernst Reif were legally married.  Upon returned from the War, Catherine's parents found out that the Marriage License was never place on record in the County of Ogle,  They were wanting Catherine to leave Ernst and not live with him anymore.  Their strong German Lutheran beliefs did not support the idea of unmarried men and women living together. Catharine remarried Ernst in the laws of the Lutheran church, Rev. JK Bloom, officiated the ceremony,  Haller said he knew the minister very well.   Regarding Ernst Reif, he stated that he was the janitor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Forreston, up until the date of his death, and lived a few doors from the Church.  Haller stated that all the old folks cried over the disasters of the War.  Haller said he knew of Catherine and Ernst being married in 1861. He knew Catherine to be a good woman.

PAGE TWO:  Edward Haller, notary, said that he had a hard time explaining the importance of all the questions being asked to Catherine.  It was only by chance that Haller discovered someone who had been at her first marriage in 1861, before Ernst enlisted in the Army.  Henrietta Swank (nee Foy), sister of Catherine, and Jacob Swank, her husband and President of the Trustees of Schools, previously the Supervisor of Forreston Township and Deputy Factory Inspector, and Treasurer of the Trustees of Schools, would never say or do anything to discredit her husband.  Haller also mentions Hugh S. Stanley of Forreston, the Round House Foreman. Haller states in the last paragraph that his has no interest in being paid  for this writing filing, and believes that Catherine should receive the pension that she applied on 15 Dec 1905 .
Witnesses Signatures : Riley M Garman and C A Walters
Notary Signature and stamp by Martin H. Earle
seals stamped March 8, 1913 by Law Division and Pension Office.  Civil War Division stamp Mar 20 1913.

PAGE THREE: title page

PAGE FOUR:  Jacob F. Swank, swore under oath that he is over 54, and has lived in the area for over 40 years.  He states that he knows Catherine Geeting, formerly Foy and Reif, and knew her as the widow of Ernst Reif and Simon Geeting. He states that he know Catherine has never married since the death of Mr. Geeting, and trusts that Haller would have found evidence of such.  He signs his name as Jacob F. Swank on May 9, 1908.  This document seals and stamps : May 18 1908 by both the Pension Office and the Congressional US Bureau of Pensions. May 19 for the Law Division. Edward Haller, signed and sealed as Notary.

PAGE FIVE AND SIX:  William Sloggett, swore under oasth the his is over 62, and he has lived in this area since 1855, except for the time in the war.  He enlisted as a soldier during the War on February 24, 1964 in the 34th Infantry company H of the Illinois Infantry.  He was discharged on July 12 if 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky.  He states that he knew Ernst Reif very well, as he saw him enlist into the Army in 1861, and he returned with an honorable discharge and a wound of his left leg.  He knew that Ernst passed away as a direct cause of his wound. His father ran a hotel, now owned by FJ Acker, and Ernst lived on the same block as the hotel.  He knew  that Ernst had married Catherine upon his return from the War, remembered attending the party at their home, which was across the street from the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He knew that Ernst was a cabinet maker before the War, but upon his return, he could no longer work at his carpentry bench.  He had become janitor of the Church.  William Sloggett states that he was the Librarian there, and that Ernst was a teacher of the sunday school.  Rev. N W Lilly was the pastor, who had officiated at the funeral of Ernst Reif.  Sloggett said he had visited Ernst during his sickness and was shown his wound, which was very repulsive and sore to the touch.  William Sloggett said he followed the remains after the funeral along with the family members to the White Oak Cemetery, and remembered the gallant boys of the 34th, who must go  from this life, one by one. He further states that he knew Catherine has not remarried since the death of her late husband, Simon Geeting, and that if she had, he would have heard about it because things like that are not kept quiet. signed by William Sloggett, sealed and signed by Pension office and Congressional US Pension Office on May 18, 1908, likewise signed by Edward E Haller, notary.

PAGE SEVEN: Robert F. Adams, Ogle County Clerk, states that he has custody and control of the tax rolls.  Simon Geeting was assessed with real estate value at $300, located at the N1/2 Lot 14 and 15 Block 3 of Neals Add. Mrs, Geeting was assessed with personal property amounting to $50.  These amounts represent 1/3 of the true value of the same. He signs on 18 Feb 1913, Robert F. Adams. Stamped and dated Mar 8 1913 at the Pension Office and Law Division, Mar 20 1913 at the Civil War Division.

PAGE EIGHT - TEN: Henrietta Swank (nee Foy), testifies that she is over 60, and has lived in this county all her life.  Her sister is Catherine Geeting (nee Foy), and was married in 1861 to Ernst C. Reif before Rev. N W Lilly, a minister, now deceased, of Kansas City, MO, formerly of Forreston in Ogle County.  She said that the marriage license was never returned to the county seat on account of the Civil War.  Ernst was a soldier in that war and was married before he enlisted as a soldier.  There was one child born to them while he was in the war. Catherine kept house and maintained their child, and that child passed at about the age of 10 months,  The child was buried in White Oak Cemetery.  Catherine kept up the house until the return of her husband, Ernst. Ernst had been wounded in the leg and hip.  It was thought best by her parents that since the marriage license was lost and never recorded, they should remarry.  Her parents were very strict Lutheran. Rev. JK Bloom, minister of the Lutheran Church of Forreston married them. After that Catherine and Ernst were blessed with another child.  Ernst died from the gun shot wound and was buried beside his little daughter. She said she was present when Catherine married Ernst in 1861, and can fully remember that it was before the War.  She knew that Ernst came from Germany before the war and boarded and worked for Catherine's father on their farm.  Catherine was courted by him and married before Rev Lilly, and they took up a little home and lived there until the war broke out and Ernst enlisted.  Catherine lived in their home until he returned. When Ernst come home being wounded, it was found that the marriage license was never recorded in Oregon, the county seat.  Ludwig and Magdelena Foy wish no fault with Catherine and wanted to cause no trouble and annoyance to her since she now had a wounded husband.  They suggested another marriage before Rev. J K Bloom, which was recorded.  Henrietta Swank testified that her husband, Jacob F. Swank was from Forreston Township and was past the age of 60.  He is gone from home all the time, that he is the Supervisor of  the Forreston Township for the past 25 years, and was the township School President.  She said she would never make any statement that would reflect on her husband's good name. Her sister, Catherine,is now 75 years and she is dependant on her daily for support.  signed and dated 19 Feb 1913 Henrietta Swank.  witnesses : Anna Haller, Virginia Haller, signed Edward E Haller, Notary, 21 Oct 1913 expiration of notary, stamped and sealed Mar 8 1913 Pension Office and Law Division, Mar 20 1913 Civil War Division

PAGE ELEVEN-THIRTEEN  Robert F. Adams, County Clerk, has filed transcriptions of the records of marriage between Ernst C. Reif and Catherine Foy, 1963, and Simon Geeting and Catherine Reif, 1875, All received in the Law Division and Pension Office, 8 Mar 1913.

Next Up...sworn statements of Hugh S. Stanley and Robert F. Adams, and Edward Haller files two papers, forging Catherine's signature to each.

The SAGA Continues.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Using Civil War Pension Files, Part III - The case of Ernst Reif

Our last post about Ernst, we reviewed the letters of the Adjutant General, and assistants, regarding the death of Ernst, and the extent of his wound.  He was injured by gunshot wound of the thigh, while engaged in combat at the Battle of Stone River, which developed into Erysipelas :

an acute, sometimes recurrent disease caused by a bacterial infection. It is characterized by large, raised red patches on the skin, especially that of the face and legs, with fever and severe general illness.


We continue with the War of the Rebellion Widow's Pension (Original With Increase)  page 103/220

Chicago Pension Office, case 184.488

Catherine Reif now Geeting, widow of Ernst Reif, Priv., Company H, 34 IL Vol.

Resident of Ogle County, State of Illinois, Post Office of Forreston,
Attorney, JP Jones, Rockford, Winnebago County, Fee of $ Twenty-five. having been filed Feb. 19, 1872

Rate of pension $ Eight per month, commencing October 20, 1867, day after soldier's death, (ending June 6, 1875 the date of widow's remarriage) and two dollars per month additional for each child as follows:

Child : Mary   Born August 2, 1867                                 Commencing October 20, 1867
                        Sixteen on August 1, 1883

Admitted and approved by Examiner, June 5, 1879 and Reviewer June 12, 1879

Dates Shown by Papers :

Enlistment Sept , 1861
Muster into pensionable rank Sept 7, 1861
Discharge June 4, 1863
Death Oct 19, 1867
Invalid app. filed  Oct 13, 1863
Invalid last paid to Sept 4, 1867
Widow's app. filed  Oct 28, 1878
Right accrued Oct 19, 1867
Claim completed Oct 28, 1876
Former marriage of soldier  NONE
Death of former wife  NONE
Claimant's marriage to soldier Oct 4, 1863
Claimant's remarriage June 6, 1875

Handwritten comment : Minor's claim heretofore allowed
Cause of death Erysipelas result of GSW (gunshot wound) Place of Death  House - after discharge

Page 104/220  Incidental Matters

Handwritten :

Minor in receipt of pension from the date of widow's re-marriage.

Widow's claim formerly rejected, on the grounds that it was barred by limitation.

Atty. JP Jones made inquiry Dec 19, 1878, relative to the date of commencement of pension which is regarded equivalent to re-opening the claim.

Page 105/220 Summary of Proof, No Former Marriage of Soldier

as shown by declaration of widow

Marriage of Soldier to Claimant

The marriage of Ernest Reif to Catharine Foy
is shown by certified copy of Public Records
Re-Marriage to Simon Geeting, June 6, 1875,
    by certified copy of Public Record

Dates of Birth of Children

By the affidavit of attending physician

Dates of Deaths of Children


Page 106/220     Proof As To Death (of Soldier)
Reports and Testimonies of Adjutant General, Surgeon General Officer, Fellow Soldiers Army Surgeon, Attending Physician, Certificate of Disability, Other Testimony

Soldier was pensioned at rate of $4 - contraction of left leg

Surg. Gen. USA March '78 : Reports soldier admitted to Hospital with GSW of the thigh and discharged  from service on June 4,  or 6, 1863 by reason of GSW

Certificate of Disability, July 2 '63 shows the same as above as  to cause of disability

Lieunt. Hanselods (sp?) Nov. '63  shows that wound was received in line of duty while advancing under the fire of the enemy

Dr. Frazey, Oct 28, 1876  Soldier was sound at enlistment, was his physician after his return home to date of 
death - Oct 19, 1867, cause of death was the result of GSW

Same Physician, Feb 19 '77 and May 23 '78  Soldier a constant sufferer from said wound prior to his death, died Oct 19, 1867 of phlegmonous erysipelas, the result of long continued suffering and low vitality which continued from the time of his return from the army until his death, entirely incapacitated for labor.

Same Physician  Oct 26, 1878 writes direct to this office that in his opinion the erysipelas was caused by the wound in the leg or hip, - Am positive that the erysipelas was developed by the condition produced by the wound, (For full particulars see Minor's Brief)

To Be Cont.

UP NEXT : It is revealed that Catherine Foy and Ernst Reif married before the War in 1861, but the license was never filed


Catherine remarried to Samuel Nietz, who deserted her and her child, and she filed for divorce, two years later.....

A Soap Opera Indeed

Friday, December 2, 2016

Using Civl War Pension Files, Part II : The Case of Ernst C. Reif

Continued....The Pension File of Ernst C. Reif, US Civil War Veteran, 34th Illinois Reg. Vols.


Question: What were the requirements for an injured, invalid person who served the nation, to be able to obtain a government pension for support, in the event he could not support himself because of that injury?

Answer:  The War of 1861. Act of July 14, 1862

Under the act of Congress approved July 14, 1862, pensions are granted to the following classes of persons.
I. Invalids, disabled since March 4, 1861, in the military or naval service of the United States, in the line of duty.
II. Widows of officers, soldiers, or seamen dying of wounds received or of disease contracted in the military or naval service, as above.
III. Children, under sixteen years of age, of such deceased persons, if there is no widow surviving, or from the time of the widow's remarriage.
IV. Mothers (who have no husband living) of officers, soldiers or seamen, deceased as aforesaid, provided the latter have left neither widow nor children under sixteen years of age; and provided, also, that the mother was dependent, wholly or in part, upon the deceased for support.
V. Sisters, under sixteen years of age, of such deceased persons, dependent on the latter, wholly or in part, for support, provided there are no rightful claimants of either of the [???] last preceding classes.
Ernst C. Reif applied for his invalid pension on the 12th day of September 1863 in Ogle County, Illinois. The County Clerk, Albert Woodcock, filed the paperwork, with witnesses, Cyrus Billig and Robert Crunkleton, both residets of the county.  Ernst was 24 years old, sworn to testify the true answers to each question.  He confirmed that he was a volunteer of the 34th Regmt. of Illinois, and entered service at Mount Morris.  His company H was commanded by Capt. Miller, and the 34th Infantry was commanded by Col. Kirk, Bristol(?), etc.  He confided that he was discharged while in Louisville, Ky on the 4th of June in 1863.  Further, Ernst told his story of being engaged at the Battle of Stone River in Tennessee on the 31st of Dec in 1862.  He was shot in the front side of the left thigh, with the ball going through and seriously injured the bone so as to produce lameness, which still existed, and no prospects of improvement.  He refers to the Surg. Certificate that shows he was discharged and the certificate of Doctor Colescott of Louisville, the resident surgeon. He returned to Forreston, Illinois, and has been resting himself, not being able to labor on account of his disability.
Prior to his injuries, he was of good health and had good tempermant.  Now he is considered three fourths disabled and not earning wages.  He wishes to be placed on the Invald Pension Roll.  His represented attorney, C C Tucker, of Washington DC, said he will issue his pension certificate.  He agreed to have his pension mailed to the Post Office at Forreston, Ogle County, Illinois, because his place of abode is in this town, and it is a small place without numbers on the houses. He signed his name as the applicant, (and quite nicely, I might add)  
The two witnesses and the Clerk of Ogle County signed the form, and it was notarized.
On February 8, 1864, Ernst Reif was allowed a pension of $4 per month, commencing June 4, 1863.
A brief was written in the case of Ernest C. Reif, Priv, Co H 34th Ref. Ill Vols.
He reported that his post office address was Forreston, Ogle County, Illinois, along with his dates of enlistment and discharge.  
The brief asked for proof exhibited for Ernst to claim for an invalid pension.  The points written were as follows:
1  Discharge for gun shot wound of  left thigh rec'd at Battle of Stone River.
2. Adjutant General reports him wounded at the Battle of Stone River
3.  1st Lt. certified claimant became disabled Dec 31/62, that his Co. was ordered to advance under fire of the Enemy, and in so doing claimant rec'd a gun shot wound in the front side of left thigh, ball going through and injuring the bone so as to produce lameness & unable to walk without crutches. 
4.  Attndg Surg. certifies June 12/63 to gun shot wound of left thigh, Some contraction & adhesion of parts injured, cannot straighten limb at knee, walks on toes of injured limb, Disability one half and permanent.  Exm. not ordered.
Disabled by Contraction of left leg 
His Cert. No. 34.340, was paid to him, through the Chicago Illinois pension office from 1863 ending 1867.
The Report of the Death of a Pensioned Veteran :

A very yellowed form from the Department of the Interior, Pension Office, dated Nov. 29th, 1876

"Sir : Your respectfully requested to furnish official evidence of the enrollment, must, service duty, and discharge of death of Ernest Reif, who was a private in Company H, 34th Regiment of Illinois Vols. reported died October 19th 1867.

If the above name is not found on the rolls of said Company, will you so state, and report as to enrollment, in the case of any man bearing a similar name, whom you have good reason for believing to  the soldier inquired for.

Please, also, to furnish any evidence on file that may enable this Office to decide whether the soldier's death resulted from injuries received or disease contracted in the service and line of duty."

Please return this circular with your report. Claim No. 228.542
Very respectfully, signed JA Bentley, commissioner pensions
Adjutant General, U.S.A.

The reply is as follows:

The Adjutant General's Office has an acknowledgement of the receipt for the Pension Application
No. 228.542, (widow and child pension application)  dated Dec. 18, 1876, Washington, D.C.

They are repeating what had appeared in the Rolls on file in the Adjutant General Office :

"Ernest C. Reif, was enrolled on the 7 day of Sept, 1861, at Mt. Morris, in Co. H,
34th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, to serve 3 years or during the war, and mustered into service as
a Priv. on the 7 day of Sept., 1861, at Camp Butler, in Co. H, 34 Regiment of Illinois Volunteers
to serve 3 years, or during the war.  On the Master Roll of Co. H, of that Regiment, for the period
from muster in to Feb. 28, 1862, he is reported present.  So reported until roll for Nov. & Dec 1862,
reports him.  Taken prisoner at Murfreesboro.  Subsequently reported wounded in Battle of Stone
River Dec 31/62.  In hospital at Nashville, until roll for May and June, 1863 reports him Discharged
June 3 1863, for disability.  Regt. was in action at Murfreesboro, Tenn. Dec 31/62.
Prisoner of war records furnish no information.
Certificate of disability reports him dischd. at Louisville, Ky.
June 4th 1863, which date is accepted as correct."

I am, sir very respectfully,
your obedient servant,

S N Benjamin, Assistant Adjutant General


Additionally, this letter...

On 4 Jan 1877, a form letter sent by the Department of the Interior, Pension Office, requested the full medical history as possible on the soldier, Ernest Reif, Co. H,34th Regt. Ill. Vols.
     Enlisted  Sept 7 1861
     Discharged June 4/63

Allegations of Claimant in regard to Fatal Disease or Injury,
     Wounded at battle of Stone River Dec. 31st 1862

Report of the Adjutant General U.S. Army
     Enlist.d Sept. 7/61 Pm. Co. H. 34th Ill Vols
     Wounded in battle of Stone River Dec 31/62
     In hospital at Nashville until June 1863
     Roll for June reports him dischgd. June 3 1863
          for disability

     Cert. of disability reports him dischgd. at Louisville Ky
     June 4, 1863

No comments on Death
No comments on Miscellaneous Statements

Please return this circular with your report.

Signed : J A Bentley, commissioner, pensions

The Surgeon General, U. S. Army
Claim No. 228.543

To be continued...Catherine Reif and her daughter, Mary, file for support as a widow and child of the deceased Ernst C. Reif

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Using Civil War Pension Files, Part I : The case of Ernst C. Reif - Part I

Recently I received the full pension files for two Civil War soldiers, and I have never been so 
excited to read the information that has been revealed to me.  Outstanding!

The pension files belong to a great great uncle of my husband who served as a volunteer in the 
Union Army, and an African American Civil War Veteran who served one year in the USCT.  
These were both obtained from the company Twisted Twigs on Gnarled 

US Flag of 1861, public domain photo,

19 April 1908 c. 147 35 Stat. 64

An Act To increase the pension of widows, minor children, and so forth, of deceased soldiers and sailors of the late civil war, the war with Mexico, the various Indian wars, and so forth, and to grant a pension to certain widows of the deceased soldiers and sailors of the late civil war.

In the days of the Civil War, the Pension Office was overseen and part of the Department of the Interior (now oversees the National Parks Service), and the Veterans Administration of today was not formed until much later.

This is the story of veteran Ernst (Ernest) C. Reif of Forreston, Ogle County, Illinois.

Ernst Christian Reif arrived in the United States in 1854, along with his father, stepmother, and some younger siblings.  Being the oldest of the brood, I suspect he had to help his father with the support of this Reif family.  They settled in northern Illinois, the county of Ogle, later moving to Stephenson. Ernst was a carpenter by trade, as well as his father, George Reif.

Ernst enlisted into the Union ranks in 1861 upon the opening of the Civil War.  He served in the 34th Illinois Infantry, where he was wounded at the Battle of Stone River, near Nashville, Tennessee, on 31 December 1862.  He was shot through the thigh and had become so lame that he could not walk without a crutch.  Having been taken prisoner, and later recuperating in a Union hospital, he was discharged in June of 1863. He returned back to Forreston, Illinois and his betrothed, Catherine Foy.

This is where the story of the pension begins for Ernst Reif.  According to his pension papers, he was wounded and taken prisoner.  Having been exchanged with other prisoners, he was able to be tended to and then sent home upon his discharge.  The Examining Surgeon's Report states that he was discharged from Louisville, Kentucky. Later, in August of 1867, he would die from the effects of this permanent damage from the gunshot wound to his leg. One document from the surgeon states that he was subsequently promoted to 1st Lient. This is the only reference to this promotion.

He was admitted to General Hospital 21 in Nashville, Tennessee, (most likely Cumberland hospital, but not proven yet) 13 Feb, 1863. His wound was described as : "gunshot of left thigh, ball entered anterior inner face of thigh, 2 inches below groin, just internal of sartorious, part directly backwards and outwards, behind and internal to femur, and out  on posterior face of thigh, below gluteus maximus, through belly of biceps. Some contraction and adhesion of parts injured.  Cannot straighten the limb at knee, Walks on toes of injured limb."
Signed by the examining surgeon, 12 June 1863, Louisville, Kentucky. Many Union soldiers, sick and wounded, were treated at one of the several Nashville military hospitals, before being transferred to Louisville for further treatment.

Ernst was transferred to Louisville from Nashville in April of 1863, to General Hospital 7.  This is where he was cared for until June of that year, and was sent home with a certificate of disability and eligible for an invalid pension. Hospital 7, also known as Brown  General Hospital, built by the Union Army in Louisville, the largest of six general military hospitals in Louisville.

To be continued.....

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What's So Special About Following Newsletters and Blogs?

Post box,

Why Follow Blogs and Newsletters for Genealogy?

Do you read many blogs and newsletters from individuals and associations?  No?  You should!!!

Online newsletters can tell you about things that you ordinarily would not know about.  Wouldn't you like to know when someone has published a book on the subject that you have been wondering about? What about finding a new database that just might have the information you have been needing to break down a brick wall in your research? These are just a few things that you will benefit from when you subscribe to newsletters and follow blogs.

Just a few of the many newsletter and blogs to check out:

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, by Richard Eastman.  Specific to genealogy, Richard tells you about all that is new in the world of genealogy research.  And, if he misses something, just send him a line and he will look into what you have suggested for his mailing.  Check it out at 

Genealogy Today, has articles, search tools and database links to the newest sites for online data sources.  There is also a Marketplace, Memberships and Database listing on their home page.  See what its all about at

Ancestry's Genealogy Newsletter, a portal to the Learning Center,, lets you follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Ancestry Blog in just a click away.  It also has links to tips, census and record information, new additions to the Ancestry community of databases, and an opportunity to subscribe.

GenealogyBlog,, is available as a free daily online magazine. It has a catagory search list on the home page so that you can find just the topic that you'd like to read about.  And there are so many topics listed.  I can't imagine what is not listed there, because it covers everything, and I mean everything.  Try this out.  You just might find something that you have been wondering about, or learn about a new topic.  Endless possibilities.

Geneabloggers, headed by Thomas MacEntee, and, Cyndi's List, have great collections of blogs related to history and genealogy.  Sit back, and click away.

Do you have some favorite Newsletters and Blogs that you follow?  Tell us about them, and share what you learn from them, and why you follow them.  Thanks in advance for your replies.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Genealogy OnLine : How to Get Started

Getting Started in Genealogy ONLINE, W. Dollarhide, 2007 reprint,

So you want to do some family research?  Where do you start?  Right here, is a good beginning place.

William Dollarhide has been writing some of the best books on research.  This is one of our favorites.
If you are looking for a how-to book that is easy to read, right to the point and not too cumbersome, then this is the book for you.

At just about 64 pages (including master forms for family data, pedigree and family group sheets), this publication has all that you need to start your journey. Just be careful.  This journey will never end.  You have been warned.  Once you get bitten by the genealogy bug, you are hooked for quite a while.

Mr. Dollarhide starts from the beginning...with yourself, your immediate family and extended family.  Conducting interviews is the first step to get the oral history started.  Then there is the task of getting first hand documents (or secondary copies of first hand documents) to back up all the stories that you have been told.  Death records and death certificates can certainly start the collection of information that you will need.  And, using the Federal and State Census records to track the locations and persons in your family is an essential step.

The Family History Library Catalog has a nice, and easy, search engine to see what has been copied, and or documented.  Don't forget,,,,it's FREE.

The author goes on to announce how nice it is to be able to search for book titles on the Internet.  We think so, too, since is a place that we like to start (we own the company)!  Lots to choose from, and we offer help in finding just the right publications for you, whether we carry it in our catalog, or not. Books are great!

Further into this book, the search for those special websites that seem to offer the pot-o-gold is discussed.  Every little bit of information helps, so don't turn you nose up at any site.  Bookmark those that seem promising.  Some websites are  lineage-linked, and others are sponsored by software companies, archives, libraries, cemeteries, societies and organizations.

There are several resource centers located across the United States.  Search those out, and plan field trips or family vacations and make a visit...even though the kids will roll their eyes.  Get them involved in the search, and add an award to the kid who finds the best bit of information.

When all else fails, you get too tired, or just don't have the time to do the search and legwork, contact a professional researcher.  Or, subscribe to the many genealogy magazines, newsletters and blogs. Many are listed in this book.

Finally, browse the top twenty Reference Books for Genealogists, of which  has many listed in our catalog.

Document...Document...Document every piece of information you collect.  The Master Forms sheets at the end of this book, kindly provided by William Dollarhide, are just what you need.  Make copies, keeping data and images stored online, in a cloud, and yes, paper is good, too.

You can get a copy of Getting Started in Genealogy ONLINE, at
and purchase at a 15% discounted price.  Looking for a nice gift for someone who wants to dabble in the hobby of genealogy and family history?  This is a very good, and affordable, idea.

Thanks for reading, and HAPPY HUNTING

Fannie, Black Lab Mix and History Buff Mutt

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Showtime : Ancestors in the Entertainment Business

Lights    Camera    ACTION

Do you have any family members that were employed in the entertainment or broadcast business?

It might be interesting to learn about them and their professions.  There are several ways to look up what they might have been up to.

My Uncle Bennie....Horse Trainer, Circus Actor, Western Film Stuntman; public  domain,  accessed 20 June 2016
As little kids, our mother often told us of our Uncle Bennie, who worked in Los Angeles in Western genre films.  I never met the man, but my siblings had.  I only saw photos of him.  After years of hearing about our cowboy relative, I decided to find out a little about him and his career.

Aunt Ethel, wife of Uncle Bennie, often called our home to let us know what films Bennie would be appearing in, and later her son, Carl, also took up the "reins" and followed in his father's footsteps.  He also appeared in films and television shows.

Visiting Aunt Ethel when I was a teenager, I asked her how she and Uncle Bennie met.  She said that she and her brother left their home when teenagers and toured the country in a traveling Wild West Circus Show.  They were from Montana, and had lots of experience around horses.  When the show appeared in the town where Bennie lived, he went to see the performances.  His eyes met hers, Her eyes met his, and "the rest is history", she said.  They traveled with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.

The family that Uncle Bennie came from was very involved in Italian fruit marketing.  Obviously he did not go into this business like his father and siblings.  I looked into the 1911 old phone books and found Bennie listed, living with his parents and siblings, but he was listed as "theatrical" at the age of 19.  The rest of his male siblings were listed as fruit dealers.

Bennie married Ethel, had their son, Carl, in 1916, and at WWI he registered with the draft.  His draft card states that he was employed a performer with the Ringling Bros. Circus.

Several family photos were produced by various persons showing Bennie with western star Tom Mix, who appeared in westerns, most of which were silent films, from 1909-1935.

Many newspaper articles, most of which were from the early 1950s, made mention of Bennie and his touring of the nation in traveling western shows.  Also, there were mentions of his training of movie stars in the western movie business. He was very adept in lassos, knife throwing, hatchet throwing, horse  whip tricks and shooting performances.

He was mentioned as a personal assistant to Will Rogers as a chauffeur, and a very good friend of Will Rogers, Jr.

In his obituary of 1955, it states, "a famed western showman, a long time western film  horse trainer and stuntman, close friend of the late Will Rogers, a double for many famous stars in western films, owner of a ranch formerly owned by Will Rogers, Jr., and appeared  on the television show "You Asked For It" where he performed a knife-throwing act with his wife and partner, Ethel."

There was so much more found in newspapers and ephemera regarding Uncle Bennie.  Too much stuff to mention here. But, at least I found several ways to learn about him, and now you can research your Entertainer Ancestor, too.

from the collection of Mrs. Louis Busalaki Stepler, 1917-2002.