Digested Summary of Private Claims, Volume 4
Digested Summary of Private Claims, Volume 4. (1853-1882) 2007. Historically almost half of the laws passed by Congress have been private acts applying to a single person or a specified group of people
from entrepreneurs to destitute soldiers and widows. Beginning with 10 claims in 1789 the petitions escalated to a high of over 6000 in 1905/6. Most frequently initiated by an individual (or a group of his heirs) these petitions ranged from requests to provide pensions for service in military engagements beginning with the Revolution and continuing through the Indian engagements to the present; restitution for property lost, damaged or destroyed due to government actions (or inaction); bounty land; land titles; patent extensions; payment for services rendered; and a myriad of other personal items that its citizens wanted the government to fix.In 1853 the House of Representatives authorized the publication of a list of the private claims presented to the House from the 1st through the 31st Congress. These three volumes contained over 2200 pages listing over 55,000 claims. A fourth volume was authorized covering the 32nd through the 41st Congresses and a fifth continued the series to the 46th Congress. These added an additional 40,000 claims for a total of almost 100,000 claims. Each individual claim includes the name of the claimant, the nature of the claim, when and how it was brought before the House, to what committee it was referred, the number of the report if printed, if not, the date of the report, how the claim was disposed of by the House and, if passed by both Houses, the date of the Act of Congress. While the bulk of the claims were for pensions, arrears of pay or compensation for property taken or destroyed, land claims ran a close second-from bounty land claims to right of preemption to a mill seat. No claim was too large or too small -one woman applied for relief for loss of husband in public service. Jonathan Painter, a black man wanted payment for services as a spy in 1812, and J.R. O'Bierne wanted part of the reward for capturing John Wilkes Booth. Some petitioners wanted to double-dip- one woman petitioned for pension as a widow of two Revolutionary soldiers and another petitioned for a pension for Revolutionary services of three brothers. Many of these claims never became law, but even if they didn't they generated paper-paper that provides details about our ancestors. And this index is the first step in getting to the additional paperwork found in the records of the House of Representatives's Claims Committees [NARA Record Group 233].The text is fully searchable and the search engine searches across all five volumes simultaneously. (Although the lists are presented alphabetically, it can still be laborious to check each of the three time periods and, of course, there is no index to places, events or organizations.) Search capabilities include single words or phrases; and/or searches, proximity and boolean searches; whole words only, case sensitive and stemming searches. Locating your ancestor in one of these volumes will start you on a whole new adventure in your search for your ancestors.