There I ran across the headstone of a Civil War soldier. James R. Van Meter The young soldier died during the war on Feb 18, 1864, at only 21 years old. Here was a hero, who also happened to have a surname matching one of my direct lines! Now like I said, I knew he wasn’t a direct ancestor but I was really drawn to this young man who fought and died at such a young age. Chances are he wasn’t married and left this life without children or any descendants to remember him. So like any other genealogist. I needed to find his place in history to remember him, honor his life and his memory.
Now the one problem with researching a person who lives from 1843 to 1864 is that he doesn’t leave much of a paper trail. The only information I found was that at 16 years old he was living with my g-g-g-grandparents in the 1860 census! Are you kidding me! Now I HAVE to find out who he is! If he was an orphan soldier before, he isn’t now! James R. Van Meter belongs to me and I will search until I know his story.
So I figure James R. is a nephew of my g-g-g-grandparents, James D. and Mariah Van Meter. I know James D. had several brothers but I’ve never researched them or their children. The 1850 census is where I begin. Obviously James R. is not listed past the 1860 census since he died in 1864 and he was born after the 1840 records. So what do I find in the 1850 census? Nothing! My James R., who should be about 6 years old, is not listed anywhere. I do locate a couple of the brothers to my g-g-g-grandfather and their children but no James R. Well – fine! Now I did gain some info with this research. I eliminated James R. as a child to a couple of the uncles yet, there were two I didn’t find. So those two are a possible father to James R. and the focus of my research.
Now because I still am not disciplined with a research plan I decide to research his military service and dump the personal life right now. I hop on over to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website run by the National Park Service. There I find that James was in the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, Co. F. He was a private going in and a private at his death. I headed over to FamilySearch.org I got the same info as before but I did find verification in the Ohio Deaths and Burials that he died in 1864. No other information listed.
Next stop is Fold3 since I’m researching a military service. (**Just a side note here. I signed up with Fold3 the Monday after Thanksgiving. They were having a Cyber-Monday half price sale and I joined for $44 or something like that for a year. In my account I turned off the automatic renewal and will look for a similar sale price again this November.**) Now what I find at Fold3 is very interesting. First there is the index card to the Compiled Military Service record. That again just verifies the regiment he served with and rank.
Next set of records I research are the applications in the Index to Pension Files of Veterans. There I find that May 4, 1864 James’ mother applied for a pension! Wow! I just assumed both his parents had passed away since he was living with my g-g-g-grandparents in 1860. (Oh yeah, don’t assume anything!) Her name is listed as Rachel Milligan, so obviously she had remarried.
I head back to the Federal Censuses to find that Rachel was married to Daniel Milligan in 1860 and living in Allen County, Ohio where everyone was living. What surprises me is that as a mother of a fallen soldier she filed for a pension. Was that a common occurrence then?
So I have James R. with no previous history before, showing up in my g-g-g-grandparents home in 1860. Apparently his father has died and his mother has remarried and trying to collect a pension from his death as a soldier in the Civil War.
Let me tell – you my research takes a surprising turn after this! Please stop back next week to see what I find!