Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Two New Databases

In my ongoing love/hate relationship with Ancestry, I've found a couple recent databases that have piqued my interest*.

The first is:  Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, June 1821–December 1916. NARA microfilm publication M665, rolls 1–244, 297–300 of 300 . Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917, Record Group 94, and Records of United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821–1942, Record Group 391. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

This database primarily contains monthly returns from U.S. Regular Army infantry regiments received by the Adjutant General’s Office from June 1821 to December 1916. It also includes other forms and correspondence filed with these returns.

The Regular Army monthly returns reported on the strength of each regiment, including total numbers of men present, absent, sick, or on extra daily duty, as well as giving a report of officers and some categories of enlisted men by name. Later returns included an accounting of strength in terms of horses and artillery.

The type of information generally found on the returns includes
  • names of regimental commanders
  • names of all officers and reasons for the unit’s loss or gain of officers, if applicable
  • names of company commanders
  • stations of the regiment and companies
  • names of absent enlisted men, 1857–1904, and reason for absence
  • names of enlisted men the unit lost and gained, 1821–1914, and reasons
  • names of enlisted men on extra or daily duty, 1857–1873, and nature of duty
  • record of events, 1832–1916
  • total strength of both officers and enlisted men by rank, 1819–1857
  • total strength of horses by company, 1846–1916
  • total strength of artillery pieces by company, 1857–1912
Other record types filed with the returns include
  • “Historical Data” files (miscellaneous correspondence and records)
  • annual and quarterly returns of alterations and casualties
  • monthly returns of battalions, companies, and detachments
  • special field returns and field returns
  • returns of casualties
  • tri-monthly field returns
Some of the above information was taken from the Descriptive Pamphlet of National Archives Microfilm Publications M665, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Please consult this pamphlet for a more detailed description and history of these records.

The second database is: California State Library - Sacramento Co, Sacramento, California, Pioneer Index File (1906–1934); A–Z. Sacramento, California: California State Library.

10,000 records are contained in this database with biographical information about pioneers who arrived in California prior to 1860. The information is recorded on a series of index cards which were collected into the California Information File beginning in the early 1900s. Many of the facts were contributed by the pioneers themselves, their descendents, or other resources some of which are noted in the records. Available facts about individuals includes name, birth date and location, parents’ names, spouse’s name, marriage date and location, death date and location, and can include extensive personal details like profession or occupation, residence before California, residence in California, political offices held, education, politics, participation in principle events of California history, and lists of descendants.
One can not only gain an extensive amount of biographical information from these records, but also piece together California’s history during the mid to late 1800s. European pioneers and settlers from the states alike traveled to California overland or by sea around South America’s Cape Horn from an array of backgrounds. Individual occupations listed in these records cover a vast range of livelihoods such as a hotel clerk and saloon keeper, gold miners, grocers, livestock owners and farmers, cabinetry makers, newspaper men, streetcar conductors, cabinet makers, professional soldiers, and even an artist turned photographer. California pioneers fought in Indian wars, discovered gold mines, survived expeditions like the ill-fated Donner party, cast votes for Abraham Lincoln, traveled across the country to fight in the Civil War alongside General William Sherman, and encouraged the women of California to support the suffragette movement. This collection is clearly a valuable resource for any one researching their Californian ancestry or history.
With all the information available it is advisable to view the actual records attached to a name in the collection in order to obtain all the biographical facts, descendant names, and supplemental sources mentioned which can add to research. Some newspaper clippings about events and individuals as well as letters accompany the cards in the collection.

Information in this database:
  • Surname
  • Birth date and location
  • Parents’ names
  • Spouse’s name
  • Marriage date and location
  • Death date and location
  • Date of arrival in California
  • Residence previous to California
  • Last California residence
For copies of the original file, write to:
California State Library, California History Section
900 "N" Street, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 94237-0001
Phone: (916) 654-0176
Fax: (916) 654-8777
Website: California State Library, History Section:

Two great databases and I found no direct ancestors in either of them. Nor collateral relatives that I can pick out by glancing through the names. Even though I had a Percival in California before 1850, they are not listed. That could be due to the lack of descendants on the part of Egbert Percival. Although he did have a son, I never found a marriage or children for him. Egbert was my g-g-grandfather's half brother.

As for the Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, well, apparently no direct line relatives were in the Regular Army Infantry during those dates. What a pity!

It would be nice if Ancestry could fix some of their existing databases in the meantime. The ones I have been waiting half a year for.

*Information from, NARA and California State Library via I don't usually grab stuff like this, but there was so much good information in this, I thought it might stir interest for those of you who do not have an subscription. I know I have a love/hate relationship with them, but I couldn't find half of what I find with them as cheaply elsewhere or by ordering each film (if available) through the LDS.

Copyright 2011, ACK for Gene Notes

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