Posted in Forts, National Archives

Plans of Military Posts in the United States, 1840–1947

Records held by the National Archives are valuable for Western States researchers. Think about it: beginning with California in 1850 and ending with Arizona and New Mexico in 1912, statehood for Western States meant that territorial records were transferred to the federal government for archiving. After statehood, federal records were created for the region.

The variety and scope of territorial and federal records pertaining to the Western States is quite interesting, and recently NARA added some records relating to military posts, or forts to their catalog.

The collection is titled “Plans of Military Posts in the United States, 1840-1947” (also titled “Miscellaneous Forts Files”). The creator is the War Department, Office of the Chief of Engineers, the NAID is 305806. Local ID is 77-MFF. It is partially available online, and searchable here.

The description on the NARA website reads: “This series consists of maps and plans of military posts primarily in the western United States. Most of these plans were originally compiled by Army quartermasters at each post before the drawings were transferred to the custody of the Corps of Engineers. Included are detailed maps, architectural plans, elevations, sketches, diagrams, and views of buildings. Also included are plats of the posts. Arranged alphabetically by name of post and thereunder numerically by sheet number.”

While this series may not have the names of personnel or other details about activities of the troops or forts, maps are valuable resources for researchers, and detailed drawings of buildings could be fascinating. The fact that part of the collection is available online is a big bonus!

For records that have other items of interest for researchers I recommend searching National Archives Record Group (RG) 393 titled, “U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920”, and particularly those found under 393.7 Records of Posts, 1820-1940. Those records include, “Letters sent and received, with indexes and registers; endorsements; telegrams; issuances; registers; reports; and other records of the headquarters, subordinate units and subposts, and staff offices of various posts.” Unfortunately, these records are not digitized as far as I know, so they require onsite research. Consult this NARA page to see where RG 393 is housed, as it is found in several different locations.

I previously posted about researching forts Out West, and you can access that post here for more resources and methodolgies.

Posted in Forts, Indian Wars, Library of Congress, Maps, Military, National Archives

Hold the Fort! …or at least stick around and learn a little more about it

Out West, early on, it was lawless and rugged and full of guys who wanted land, gold, and water rights, and sometimes did not get along with the Native Americans who came first.  So Out West is also where forts and the United States Army Cavalry could be found.  Maybe your ancestor lived near a fort, or maybe he lived in one as a soldier.

Fort Laramie, Wyoming
Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Walters Art Museum {{Commons:File:Alfred Jacob Miller – Fort Laramie – Walters 37194049.jpg}} at Wikimedia Commons

You will probably be surprised to know how many forts actually existed in the 19th century Out West.  I don’t have an exact number, but I have some resources that will help you track them down, and also find the records created by the U.S. Army at those forts. Continue reading “Hold the Fort! …or at least stick around and learn a little more about it”

Posted in Forts, Land and property, Maps, Texas, Texas Land Grants

Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists

I am on my way home from a research trip to the Texas Hill Country to find the land my Gooch ancestors occupied from the late 1840s at least through the 1880s.  I know Texas would rather consider itself part of the South than part of the West, but that’s where my folks were before they moved to Arizona, and if a trip through the county roads of central Texas is not On Granny’s Trail, then I don’t know what is.  Besides, any state with the amount of cacti and roadside taxidermists I saw surely qualifies as “Western.”

My specific goal for this trip was to locate my ancestors’ original land tracts on a modern map, so I could drive there and take pictures of the surroundings.

This post recounts the steps I took in the research process and the fun surprise ending. I plan to follow up in the future with some helpful advice for planning a research trip but I couldn’t wait to share what I found, because it involved what I call Ninja Genealogy and some delightful serendipity. The post is long, but not nearly as long as the 25 year journey I took to this particular tract of land. Continue reading “Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists”