Our September 2018 newsletter is hot off the presses! Get your copy HERE and Happy Searching!
Featuring Kathy Meade, from ArkivDigital
October 5 – 6, 2018 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, MA
366 Main Street, Sturbridge MA 800-582-3232
(mention the Swedish American Resarch Association for a special rate)
Find your way back to Sweden Find your relatives in America and follow your Family in Sweden. 2 Days of enjoyable Skill Building with fellow Swedish – American Genealogists. Maybe meet unknown cousins. Research help will be available
Welcoming reception Thursday evening, October 4, 2018
CONFERENCE COST ($244) INCLUDES: Breakfast, lunch and Banquet, each day and all sessions.
Elms College is once again offering a series of non-credit Irish Language classes beginning this month. There’s still time to register for several of the classes, but they start soon so don’t delay if you’re interested.
For further information, cost, directions, class descriptions and registration information, visit this announcement at the Irish Cultural Center website.
The Berkshire Family History Association will present a special “Informational Talk and Tour” program on Saturday, October 13, from 1:00 – 3:00, in the auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum. It is an opportunity to learn about BFHA and the many benefits of membership. A tour of the library’s Local History and Genealogy department will be given. Please join us and bring a friend or two! It is a free event, open to all, refreshments will be served and no registration is required. If you have questions, call Jan at 413-743-2732 and leave a message.
Pension file discoveries
We are fascinated by the remarkable stories found within military pension files. They often contain valuable details about family history, as told through military veterans themselves, or through their widows and dependents who provided evidence of their relationship to a soldier
Today we share a couple of the interesting stories recently found within pension files while scanning in the Innovation Hub in Washington DC…
“Approved Pension File for Bettie Sugar, Widow of 1st Sergeant Sugar George (alias George Sugar), Company H, 1st Indian Home Guards (C-2496362)”
Widows of veterans often applied for pensions, and sometimes proving you were the legitimate spouse could be complicated. For the pension of George Sugar (aka Sugar George), his widow Bettie Sugar had to first prove she was divorced from her first husband.
She married a man named Peter Smith, also enslaved. After the war and emancipation, they continued living together for a few years, until Peter apparently left and married someone else.
Some years later, Bettie married George Sugar. When George died around the turn of the century, Bettie filed for his pension. The Pension Office inquired if she had divorced her first husband, making her George Sugar’s legal widow. However, she didn’t have a legal divorce while living in the Creek Nation. She explained, “I never got a divorce from Peter Smith but when he married again I thought I had the right to marry again.” The Bureau of Pensions agreed: if a marriage was legal according to the law of the land where the person married, it was good enough for the Pension Office. The same rule applied to divorces. Also of note in this file is a copy of Bettie Sugar’s assets. She inherited from her husband seventy head of cattle, nine horses, 160 acres of land and $12,500 in cash.
“Private Lewis Martin, Company E of the 29th Regiment of the US Colored Troops”
In this file, Private Lewis Martin’s official Certificate of Disability for Discharge includes an image of Martin, seated, showing the two amputated limbs he’d received in battle at the Siege of Petersburg on July 30th 1864. Photographs are a rare find in pension files. Martin was plagued by pain from his amputation sites as well as where shots had grazed his shoulder and temple, but did go on to marry Mary Jones after the war in 1869. His file documents requests for an increase in his pension, which raised from an original pension of $20 to $50 per month over the decades. He dropped off the Pension Office’s rolls in 1895.
American Women and the Vote
Wiki Education, in collaboration with the National Archives, is offering a virtual professional development course that trains individuals with a research interest in political science, women’s rights, history, and related fields to successfully contribute to Wikipedia.
Participants in this new course will learn how to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of the history of women’s voting rights in the United States in honor of an upcoming exhibit hosted at the National Archives Museum, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.. Take an active role in ensuring that the world’s most popular reference source is more representative, accurate, and complete. Apply to be a part of this unique initiative today!
The Radium Girls
Early in 2016, the Electronic Records Division of the National Archives and Records Administration received an unusual collection of donated electronic records. The original paper records, found to be radioactive, were discovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during cleanup operations at the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania Safety Light Corporation Superfund site. These records document the perspective of the United States Radium Corporation (USRC) and its predecessor, the Radium Luminous Material Corporation (RLMC), on the story of the radium luminous paint dial painters, popularly known as the Radium Girls. These digitized records are now available in the National Archives Catalog as Records Related to Radium Dial Painters, 1917-1949 (National Archives Identifier 40978844).
Following Marie Curie’s discovery of the element radium in 1898, scientists and entrepreneurs sought to understand and exploit the element’s properties. Many young women were employed in dial painting studios, applying paint containing radium to a number of products, including watches and instrument dials. For some time after its discovery radium was considered safe and was even advertised as a beneficial substance.
During the early 1920s, a growing number of scientists and physicians began to question the benefits of radium and, slowly, acknowledge its link with the debilitating illnesses afflicting dial painters. Complaints and lawsuits by former employees against the USRC began to proliferate in 1923.
In this case, which received substantial attention in the press and from the New Jersey Consumer’s League, the dial painters received $10,000 (some sources state the amount was as high as $15,000), a $600 annuity while they lived, and the coverage of their medical expenses, subject to the approval of a committee of three doctors.
While a few dial painters received substantial settlements, generally such suits and claims resulted in much smaller compensations. The majority of dial painters received no compensation from the company. In 1980, U.S. Radium was substantially reorganized and ultimately dissolved into new corporations. Its former radium processing facilities, which included the dial painting studio of Orange, New Jersey, where Grace Fryer and her compatriots worked, became a Superfund cleanup site. The EPA completed the cleanup in Orange during 2006, and cleanup work at the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania facility, which is still ongoing, is where the collection was discovered. The radioactive paper records have been disposed of accordingly, but thanks to the Safety Light Corporation’s donation of the documents, and the EPA’s scanning of them, the history has been preserved and made available in the National Archives Catalog as Records Related to Radium Dial Painters, 1917-1949 (National Archives Identifier 40978844).
This post was excerpted from a blog post on The Text Message by Zachary Dabbs, processing archivist at the National Archives in College Park. Read Zachary’s full post to learn more about these records.
To view the NEHGS September 2018 Calendar of events, please click HERE.