Back in April of 2016 I wrote about a new discovery I had made in my 30-year search for facts about John Gooch, my 3rd great-grandfather. After all these years, new information rarely surfaces, so I was excited to find him in a new online database for Bounty Land Warrant Applications on Fold.3. John Gooch’s life has been a study in correlation of indirect evidence, and the facts provided in this new record added substantially to the study.
Years ago I had found evidence on an index card of a John Gooch who served in the War of 1812 in the North Carolina Militia, but was never quite certain it was my John Gooch, who died in Austin, Texas. I was pleased to see that direct evidence in the Bounty Land Warrant Application file was exactly what I needed to verify this connection.
Once again, I was reminded of the importance of obtaining the application file when there is evidence of land ownership or a pension, for example. So many times researchers are excited to know their ancestor was a homesteader or a soldier, and are thrilled to discover a certificate of land ownership or military service, when the real treasure is to be found in the application files that were created to prior to a patent being issued or a pension being approved.
Here are seven key pieces of evidence I found in the Bounty Land Warrant Application file for John Gooch:
- His age was 64 on 11 April 1855. Obviously, any clues about a person’s age are always welcome and help to identify them. In John’s case, other indirect evidence is off a year or more (he had a twin whose headstone gives a birth date of 1 January 1790 and his own cemetery record says he was “abt 70” when he died in 1864).
- He was a resident of Travis County, Texas and filed his application in Austin on 11 April 1855. This reassures me I have the right John Gooch, as he was buried in Austin nine years later where both of his married daughters were living.
- He served as an Ensign in a regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers under the command of Colonel John Patten and Captain James Lowery. When I find a list of men in this regiment it will provide me names of associates, friends, and possible neighbors, since militiamen were mustered from the same community. I can look up regimental histories to understand the movements of the troops when John Gooch was with them. Learning more about these men – particularly those who appear to be neighbors based on tax, census, and land records – I may uncover clues about John’s life. By the way, what is an Ensign in the Army anyway? It is the term for a rank that was abolished in 1815, so perhaps that is why John’s Bounty Land Warrant Application says he was an Ensign, whereas his entry on the War of 1812 Service Record Index says he was a 2 Lieutenant and Lieutenant.
- He was in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina in February/March of 1815. These are the dates he served, and the place where the regiment was mustered in, according to the application file. This is consistent with the land records I have found for a John Gooch who sold land in Buncombe County 1812-1817, and tells me my John Gooch of Texas was indeed the same John Gooch found in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
- The application has John Gooch’s signature on it. This tells me he was literate, at least to a degree, and is evidence he was alive and present at the time of the application. It is also just cool to see! In many instances what appears to be a signature is actually the name written in the hand of the clerk, but I compared it to the writing of the clerk and feel it is his actual signature – the only one I have found for him. If I ever find another record with a signature I can compare them.
- He was also known as John Goudge back when he lived in North Carolina. This is an interesting notation on the application, and something John made a point of having recorded, in case his military records were filed under the alternate spelling.
- James Gillett and William Sauer were acquaintences of John’s in Texas. Once again, it is helpful to know the names of associates, and these two men filed affidavits saying that John was who he said he was. I can look for evidence of John’s relationship with them and perhaps find clues about him in their records.
There were plenty more clues found in John Gooch’s Bounty Warrant Application file, but these are the ones that jumped out at me. After a more careful examination of the records I may pick up on more. I’ve included some images from the file so you can see what it looks like. Not surprisingly, John ended up assigning (selling through an agent most likely) his land to another man, since the 160 acres was located in Council Bluffs, Iowa–nowhere near where he lived in Texas.
Why did John Gooch wait so long to apply for Bounty Land? Well, from what I can tell the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855 awarded bounty land to men who served for as little as fourteen days, whereas the previous acts required a longer period of enlistment. It appears John only served 24 days before the war was declared over, so this was his first chance to apply for bounty land. He didn’t waste much time, either, as the Act was official on 3 March and he applied on 11 April of 1855.
Back of Bounty Land Warrant #27743 certificate issued to John Gooch