Superficial Purposes

In the most recent issue of Casefile Clues, I discussed two Civil War pension affidavits from 1915 that were used in support of a claim for a veteran from Missouri. One of the affidavits gave the names of the parents of the veteran and his siblings. I’m reasonably certain he knew who his parents and his siblings were. I’m not doubting the accuracy of the information he provided, but it is possible he provided inaccurate information.

I did have an issue with the names as I read through the list. It was not that I thought the names were incorrect, but that the list appeared to be incomplete.

The list as provided did not include at least one other known child of the parents–a child who was actually living in 1915 and who survived until the 1940s. I suspect that it did not list children who had died before reaching adulthood.

Then I got to thinking about why the veteran made out the affidavit. It was not to leave a complete family record for someone to uncover a hundred years later.

It was done in support of his pension claim.

Documents in Civil War pension claims for the veteran usually appear for one of two broad reasons:

documenting the veteran’s service

documenting injuries and illnesses that resulted from that service

His deceased siblings would not be able to testify to any of that. Some of his living siblings would not be able to testify to that either–particularly his war service for those siblings born during the war. His parents were dead in 1915, so they could not testify either–I was lucky that they were even mentioned.

To throw another monkeywrench into the list of siblings, the veteran indicated that “his parents” had the children who were named. Not mentioned in the affidavit was the fact that the veteran’s father had been married to someone else before he married the veteran’s mother. He had children with that first wife. Were those children listed? After all they weren’t technically children of “his parents.”

When looking at any document or statement one has to get below the surface of what’s stated and get to the purpose of the document.

Sometimes that is easier than others.

The first wife of the veteran’s father was a sister to the veteran’s father’s second wife.

But that’s another story.



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