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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.

Friday, June 3, 2016

World War II : D Day Research

Do you have relatives or friends that participated in the D Day operations in Europe during World War II?

There have been many viewpoints written about this epic day in history.  So many died on the beaches during this unprecedented invasion. And, yet, so many were fortunate to survive.  For them, it was a memory that I am sure they never wanted to repeat.

There are some great publications written by many of these survivors.  And, many researchers are now able to find information about the behind the scenes actions since many of the files have become declassified. One of these books is written by Kenneth H. Garn, The Secret D-Day, 2004., available for sale through
The author was part of a defense platoon in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment.  He unravels the truth behind the D-Day invasion.

This book is highly recommended for those who enjoy reading first hand accounts of war. sells at a discount off of list price, and is giving FREE SHIPPING to customers when they buy 3 Military Catalog items until June 13.  You might want to take advantage of this offer.  It would be a good savings to anyone.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Researching Ancestors While Reading Biographies and Historical Accounts

Not very many people are so lucky as to have ancestors with published biographies on the shelves of every library in town.  In fact, not too many people have ancestors mentioned in history books. I should know....I've been researching our families since 2002.  Seems like yesterday when I picked up an old photo in a relative's box of belongings and wondered...Who are these people, and why do I look like them?

And so you start to wonder a bit about family of long ago, those that you have never met.
But that is where life gets interesting.  It's time to do some investigative reading.

Looking into the lives of our ancestors, we need to pick out every place that they lived, every school that they attended, the churches that they visited on Sundays with family and any military and occupational experiences they had.

Look at all the possibilities that you have to gather more information into their lives.  Research the schools that they attended.  Google books on their churches.  Find histories written about the towns, villages, counties and townships in which they lived.  Research the  history of the military units in which they served.  Find the places of employment and read about the history of the company or corporation.

Besides reading books on all of the above, search for news articles in newspapers and periodicals that may have stories about those schools, churches, companies, etc.  Your ancestors probably knew many of the people who are named in all of these sources.  Now you know a little more about your ancestor. is a good place to start.  Our newly purchased company has gone through quite a change in the past 60 days.  Redecorated website, blogs, social media....yes it's all been a lot of work.  But we are not done with the changes yet.  We will begin to write newsletters to our subscribers FREE of charge on a monthly basis.  If interested, go to our website,, and sign up for the newsletter...we will send you a FREE 15 Generation Chart (two-sided) when you leave your address on the subscriber sheet.