Found in the Widow’s Pension File: How to get to “out-of-the-way-places”

USGS Wilmore Quadrangle Snippet

1905 USGS Wilmore Quadrangle Snippet

This made me laugh out loud the first time I read it, just because it was written in 1912 and still holds true 100 years later. “The Pocket”, where the home-place was, is a bit of a ride for “city folk”- now and then!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Lexington, KY., Oct 5 ‘12

Hon. Commissioner Pensions,

Washington, DC.

Dear sir:-

Through investigation it was found that the home of this claimant was in quite an out-of-the-way place and as a guide would be necessary, it was thought best to use automobile service; the driver of which also acted as guide because of his knowledge of the roads leading to the place. Thus, expenses for meals, buggy hire and other incidental expenses were avoided and much time saved.

Hoping this explanation is satisfactory.

I am yours respectfully

P.D. Robinson

Examining Surgeon

If you look at a 1905 US Geological Map (above, red circle marks the approximate spot) and a Google Earth image today (below, star is the marker), you will see, it’s still “out there”.

This is one of the gems I found in my Great-great-great-grandmother’s widow’s pension file. She was applying for a pension for herself and a so-called “helpless child”, since she was the caretaker of her then 16 year old son. An examiner was sent to her house for confirmation, because she had claimed to be unable to travel to the Board of Examinations with her son.

Google Maps Image

Google Maps Image “The Pocket”

I have more than 100 pages of pension and widow’s pension papers, so more finds to come!

University Libraries and Archives – Part 2

SalliandnormanOne night I decided to peruse the internet and found a site that accounted for my second positive experience with University Archives. I was searching in the Kentucky Digital Library and ended up at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at The University of Kentucky website. There were no results for “Camp Nelson”, BUT there was a hit titled “History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project”. From reading about the locality, I knew that “Hall” was another name for the refugee slave community Camp Nelson and hoped I’d find a relative in the index. Right off the bat I found two Overstreets!

I used the contact form to see how I could access the interviews, since the index only gave call numbers. For weeks I heard nothing. I finally decided to call the Center and inquire about the interviews. It turns out that I had used the wrong method of contacting them. The employee I talked to was very helpful and informed me that they were in the process of transcribing the interviews. He also promised to have the person in charge contact me and possibly get me access to the audio content. A few days later I received an email and was given links to the two Overstreet interviews! I listened to Norman’s recording. Although the quality was pretty bad, I was overwhelmed to hear Norman say that he was related to Ed and Josie Overstreet! The recordings were from an oral history project from the mid 1990’s. This is from the History of Hall Kentucky Oral History Project website:

“History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project

This project provides information on the community of Hall in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The community grew out of the refugee camp established at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, in which John Fee, founder of Berea College, had a large input. The interviews are with people who lived in Hall or nearby communities such as Poortown or Camp Nelson on the Kentucky River. They include information about race relations, the history of settlement at Hall in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, work in farming and at the local distillery, and community organizations such as the Brass Band and the Camp Nelson String Band.”

Sallie Overstreet turned out to be Norman’s wife. There are still no transcriptions available, but I can see why, since I had a really hard time transcribing Norman’s interview myself.

On my trip to the community cemetery on Payne’s Lane last year, I photographed Norman and Sallie’s gravestone, without knowing exactly who they were. There are 19 interviews in the collection and I am sure I am related to a few more of the interviewees! This is an invaluable, FREE, resource, proving my point of the importance of University Library holdings.

Happy Listening!


A New Year, A Do-Over!

Photo credit: ‘New Year’ by Sally Mahoney on Flickr

Wow! My blog officially turned one a few days ago and it is already week two of a new year! Initially my goal was to post weekly. Well, that was a high bar to set. My site stats tell me I have 12 published blog posts. I can live with having posted on a monthly basis! So, for 2015 my blogging-resolution is to post at least once a month. I have really come to enjoy blogging and have a lot of ideas for posts.

This is a genealogy blog, so I will look at my genealogy goals as well. Last year, I wanted to get more organized. I succeeded in at least starting to rename my digital files, using a system I found in one of my Facebook genealogy groups. I cancelled my Ancestry subscription, to minimize data-hoarding -and save money. In addition to that I was able to get three close relatives to test their DNA. In May, I traveled to my paternal, ancestral home. I talked to relatives and visited the community where my people lived after the Civil War. There, I took photos of about 100 gravestones and started making an Excel sheet to document the names on the stones. I acquired letters written from that time period about the community, downloaded Freedmen’s Bureau records, purchased a Civil War military record of a great-great-great-uncle and found oral history recordings of relatives from a university library online archive. Overall, that doesn’t sound too bad. What I have to admit though, is that a lot of these ‘projects’ have been started and abandoned. I have been all over the place! My number one goal this year is to follow through with whatever I am doing.

To this end I am participating in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. It will be a 13 week process, with weekly prompts to do-over your genealogy. There is a Facebook group, a Pinterest page and a resource page. Now, this do-over can be different for whomever takes part in it. For some, it means concentrating on one area that needs work, for others it means starting from scratch. Personally, I need a do-over! I have learned so much since I started this hobby, that I have realized my many mistakes and/or inaccuracies, due to bad organization, inconsistent citing and analyzing of information. I am sure I have loads of info that I have overlooked, due to my mess!

Week one tasks of the do-over were to put our old research aside, think about research warm-up habits and come up with base practices and research guidelines. I have cleared my workspace and piled everything into my bookshelf. By the way, I will NOT be throwing out previous research and especially not any original documents I have, but will rather be reexamining  it and them with the skills and knowledge I have today. I will be making cheat sheets for my research process and file naming standards, as well as for Google operators, since I am bad at remembering those. My research warm-up will consist of me actually having time to do it right. I will not Google an ancestor’s name five minutes before bedtime, in bed! Also, I will be at my desk, in our office, near my reference books and binders, when I decide to work on genealogy. Basically my goals and Base Practices/Guidelines are to plan, organize, track and cite in a manner that lets me pick up where I left off and keeps me from doing things twice. I will be using Evidentia software and my Family Tree Maker for Mac3 database and have started reading Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Evidence!, which I have had -untouched- for quite some time.

I will do my best to accomplish what I have set out for myself and will not beat myself up if some thing just doesn’t work out. Hey, I have already reached my January blogging goal with this post!

Happy New Year!


University Libraries – underused and overlooked?

There is a first time for everything right!? I recently contacted a University archive for the first time, namely The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The archive houses papers that pertain to the American Missionary Association, but also works of art, photography and scholarly papers that document African American history, as well as the history of other Ethnic Minorities.

I was interested in records pertaining to the American Missionary Association, because of their preachers’ work at Camp Nelson. Two things prompted me to finally send an inquiry. A mutual blogger, Teresa Vega, commented on one of my posts mentioning Gabriel Burdett. He worked at Camp Nelson as part of the AMA and married my great-great-great-grandparents. Teresa encouraged me to contact the center, since she had received helpful information from their archives once before. I ‘sat’ on this info for a while and then I read a post about the importance of using University Libraries on Facebook by Tim Pinnick. Tim is an expert at researching African American Newspapers and lectures on Black Coalminers.

Finally, I emailed the center, explaining my interest in AMA activities and letters from Camp Nelson. I received a timely response and was given an index of men who had sent letters from that location. I chose three names from that list (Scofield, Hall and Burdett), that I recognized from reading the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and other literature. The referance archivist then looked them up and informed me that it would be at least 140 letters! He gave me a quote and I decided to go ahead and have the copies made. I spent around $80 dollars for 203 copies. I really hope to get more insight into the daily lives of my ancestors from these letters. The exchange was very friendly and the correspondance swift, although Mardi Gras delayed things a bit, but that’s New Orleans – I guess!?


This was part of the packet I received from The Amistad Research Center

I learned quite a few things from this experience…For one, blogging can really put the word out and connect you to people who can share their research experience. Also, even if you are not where the archive is, the reference archivists will most likely work with you. Lastly, there is a wealth of information in these archives that is waiting to be found! If you got the impression that accessing these types of holdings will only cost you, please read my next post about what I found for FREE!

Camp Nelson CemeterieS

Memorial Day is a great prompt to blog about my recent twelve day trip to visit family in Kentucky. While there, I decided to do some family research and went to the Camp Nelson Heritage Park and cemeteries. I am using the plural for the latter, because there is the National cemetery, a graveyard at the Park, as well as a cemetery that was used by the families that stayed in the area after the Civil War (scroll left & it is right below the Jim Beam Preserve marker on Payne Lane). I saw them all!

The Camp Nelson National Cemetery is where two of my great-uncles and my father are laid to rest. It is a beautiful place situated upon hills.


From Camp Nelson Heritage Park you can see the National Cemetery and old distillery buildings that mark the U.S. 27 exit, taking you to the Camp Nelson community. I walked the trails of the Heritage Park and got a good feel for how large the Civil War camp must have been. I literally felt it in my feet, due to my bad choice in footwear! I also learned that there was a graveyard at the Park marked by a white obelisk-type marker. The monument reads:


Here lie the bodies of numerous unknown Tennessee white refugees and Kentucky African-American refugees who perished from disease while at Camp Nelson. These civilians sought freedom and protection within this U.S. Army post.


Maybe some of my people lay there. At the time wooden markers were used. They decayed, so the monument was erected.

The community cemetery is located on Payne’s Lane, Nicholasville, KY. It is on the other side of the highway, across from  the National Cemetery.

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker, back







My great-great-great-grandparents Josie and Ed Overstreet are buried there, as well as my great-great-great-uncle William Overstreet, whom I blogged about in earlier posts. William has his Civil War military service with Company K of the 124th U.S. Colored Infantry on his marker. Ed does not, unfortunately. I decided to take photos of all of the remaining grave markers in order to post them, possibly on Find A Grave. Also, I am sure I am related to a great number of the people that were laid to rest there, so the information will come in handy one day.

Edmond Overstreet


Josie Washington Overstreet








William S Overstreet

Scipio, oh Scipio…

I am waaaaaay behind on my weekly posting goal, so I decided to use a few old Facebook postings to get me started on this newest blog post. To prevent confusion here are a few things to remember when reading the following:

  1. My great-great-great-grandfather was Ed Overstreet.
  2. He was enslaved by Philonzo Scipio Fitch (a.k.a. P.S. Fitch) since birth, according to his own account in his military records.
  3. It is unknown to me how my family got or why they kept the name ‘Overstreet’.

In September 2013 I googled ‘African American Overstreets’ and found some of my old message board posts/queries etc. Among those was an old response from a white Overstreet sending me to Afrigeneas to look at the slave data she had donated. I found this index entry:

Holmes County, MS – Will Book #1 Page 78 Will of B. CHELTON OVERSTREET Brothers – John Overstreet, William Overstreet, Comendes Overstreet, Cerestus Overstreet Sisters – Mary Morrison, Ardelia Morrison Executor – Thomas Trainor Slaves – Andy, Lewis, Dick, Prince, Mahala, Lee Dated 1848, Probated 1848 Witnesses – Morgan L. Fitch, Wellington Jenkins

I looked up the original on Familysearch and came up with a very bad copy.

"Mississippi, Probate Records, 1781-1930," images, FamilySearch (,344668501 : accessed 23 Apr 2014), Holmes > Wills 1833-1888 > image 71 of 617.

BC Overstreet will

Fortunately there was a transcription available due to the state of the original! I will need to go through the whole will myself, but I found a short summary on a Rootsweb page.

There was a Fitch as a witness to the will of Chelton Overstreet in Mississippi! I looked ‘Morgan L. Fitch’ up on and he was born in NY, just like the other Fitch. The town’s name: Scipio! P.S. Fitch’s certificate of death states his place of birth as – can you guess it!?- Scipio, NY. They could be related!

Some time in December, while decluttering my desktop, I (re)discovered a file containing documents for P.S. Fitch. I noticed an index of what seemed to be probate records from the 1800s. I could not remember when and where I had gotten the file from (SMH at myself…). I have a Mac, so I right-clicked and went to ‘get info’. The file was from 2009 and I had saved it from I decided to investigate and went to the site to see what record set this was from. I tried a regular search, but came up with nothing. Then I tried the ‘Catalog’ tab and searched for KY records. ‘Kentucky probate records, 1727-1990’ came up and they were available online!

I found my county, Jessamine County, then the Book, and finally scrolled to the page listed in the index. I ended up finding the enslavers will, from 1877. This was interesting enough, but didn’t yield anything of research value for the moment. I decided to look for some Overstreets. This entry for ‘Overstreet, Scipio (col)’ immediately caught my eye:

Overstreet, Scipio Probate Index

So, my Overstreet was enslaved by a Philonzo Scipio Fitch in Jessamine County. There was a colored man there named Scipio Overstreet, with a will in 1838. Also, there was a Fitch born in Scipio, NY, named as a witness in an Overstreet’s will in 1848!? Coincidence!? Who was this Scipio Overstreet? This is the transcription of the will:

I Sipio Overstreet a man of colour of the County of Jessamine and State of Kentucky being of perfect mind and memory. I do hereby make and ordain this my last will and testament. It is my will that my land and all other property which I own ( with the exception of my wife Mary and her two children Patsy Ann and Louisa) to be sold to pay any just debts or so much of it as will pay them. It is also my will that after all my debts are paid that my wife Mary shall be free. It is also my will that Mary my wife, shall have the aforesaid Patsy Ann and Louisa during her life and at her death the said Patsy Ann and Louisa shall be free. Lastly I do hereby appoint Thomas Overstreet Exor. Of this my last will and testament. As witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th of November 1838.                                                                                                                                          Sipio Overstreet s.



Aron -his mark- Murphy

Jessamine County [?] December Court 1838

I certify that the [?] last will and testament of Sipio Overstreet decd. was this day produced in court and proved by the oaths of T. Overstreet and Aaron Murphy the subscribing witnesses thereto to be the act and deed of the said Sipio Overstreet. Whereupon the same was ordered to be recorded which is done.

Att [?] B. Price C

This is where I am at still. I haven’t done any more research into the matter, but my guess is I will figure it out down the line.

Maybe the Fitch’s and Overstreet’s intermarried and that is how an Overstreet slave could have ended up as a Fitch slave with Overstreet as his last name. Overstreet slaves could have been left to the Fitch children (P.S. and his siblings for example). Maybe they kept this name to find family members that were separated from them, because of the death of an enslaver, or marriage of a daughter? This just goes to show that African American’s must research their families as well as their ancestor’s enslavers. Now that I mention it, P.S. Fitch was married to a Margaret Hanley Moss and Ed Overstreet’s mother was Celia Moss Fitch! The search continues…

Europeana 1914-1918

Life has made me fall behind my weekly posting goal, but it also helped me find the topic for this post. After a sleepless night due to a teeething toddler, I found myself on the couch watching a morning show- which I normally never do. The hosts mentioned the upcoming centennial of the start of World War I and showcased a website called Europeana 1914-1918, launched in commemoration of the event. It hosts an archive of World War I stories from the public, national library collections from eight countries as well as films. Europeana 1914-1918 is viewable in eleven different languages and allows people to contribute to the archive themselves. There have and will be “collection days” throughout several European countries where material can be brought, scanned or photographed and added to the archive. It is also possible to donate material online. According to the site: “All of the Europeana 1914-1918 material is available for re-use.”

I could spend all day browsing the photos and diaries. This has reminded me that I have ancestors who were affected by and even fought in this war. My interest has been piqued and I want to find out more. Maybe I will be able to contribute as well.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital (mid-photo, with widow’s peak).