14-Day Free Trial Blue1


From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 9/1/2004


Beyond the Index: The Special Examiner's Report

"The claimant is a fairly intelligent woman. Industrious, hard working ."

The description of my ancestor could have been much worse. The special examiner from the pension office had nice things to say about my forebear. Civil War pensions were not always granted quickly, and Nancy Rampley had applied on three separate occasions. These applications and two appeals over nine years had still not won her a pension. After the fourth denial a special examiner was appointed to make an onsite evaluation and to hear firsthand testimony. The examiner would actually interview Nancy and her witnesses instead of relying on the submission of affidavits through a pension attorney.

And so a short month before the fall 1902 harvest, examiner J. M. Welsh made the trip from Quincy, Illinois, to "near Hickory Ridge" to hear testimony in regarding the Rampley pension application.

Nancy's sixteen-page testimony, given on 14 August 1902, provided several direct genealogical statements:

"I was born near Milroy, Rush County, Indiana. My maiden name was Nancy J. Newman. My father's name was William Newman. My mother's name was Rebecca Newman. Her maiden name was Rebecca Tinsley. My father and mother are both dead. They died near to Moberly, Randolph County, Missouri.

"I came from Indiana near Reynolds Station, White County, to Hickory Ridge...when I was sixteen years old.

"I was married...at my father's house...John Luft, Matha Luft, John Rampley and James Rampley...were all present." [The attendance of Nancy's family is not mentioned, probably because her family had moved out of state, and her in-laws still lived close enough to conveniently testify to the marriage].

"I have living two sisters Mrs. Sarah Graves, Macon City, Missouri, Melinda Cox, Ripley, Oklahoma...brother Andrew J. Newman."

She goes on to provide the same information on her in-laws.

The vast majority of Nancy's testimony centers on the farm. She goes into great detail of the farm's operation from 1900 through 1902 in an attempt to show her financial situation warrants a pension. We will not transcribe that testimony here but will summarize a few details from her statement that are representative.

After the death of Nancy's husband, Riley, in 1893, the heirs collected on a debt owed their father and sold some livestock. They then paid the bills and built a frame, seven room, two-story house on the farm. Riley's son Louis E. Rampley farmed the property for the few years prior to the interview, providing his own horses and splitting the grain and hay with his mother and siblings. In 1901 the family's garden "dried up," 7.5 ton of hay were harvested, $15.00 in poultry and eggs were produced, but "no butter worth mentioning" (hopefully the cows did not "dry up" too). The family raised oats, wheat, rye, and corn. Nancy's testimony goes into detail about the acreages allocated to each crop and the quantity and value of the harvest.

When asked about the corn for 1902, Nancy is obviously uncertain. She is testifying in mid-August, and the corn has yet to be harvested. She indicates she does not know how the corn will do as "it is only in the roasting ear now."

Louis E. Rampley also testifies about the farm's progress in 1900-1902. His testimony is similar to his mothers. He rents the farm for a share of the harvest and indicates he does not know what amount of cash rent the farm would bring. All the witnesses state that "in this part of the country" cash rent is very uncommon. The additional testimony of Nancy's son-in-law and two of her nephews concur with that given by Nancy and Louis.

The last witness was particularly interesting to me: Charles T. Neill.

Like all the witnesses, Charles indicated that he knew Nancy and was well acquainted with the farm. He adds that he did not know Riley Rampley personally and that he actually resides near West Point, four miles from the Rampley farm. Charles testifies that he has been the family's hired hand in 1901 and 1902. In 1901, he was paid $16 2/3 monthly and in 1902 was paid $18 a month with room and board provided. He adds that in 1901 was a dry year and that the crops were short. About Nancy he says, "[She] works hard and cooks for Louie E. and for the other children. She hoes in the garden and helps raise all of the garden."

Seven months after Charles gives his testimony he marries Nancy's daughter Fannie. Charles' testimony was especially interesting as he and Fannie are my great-grandparents.

From the special examiner's report:

"The witnesses put the case mild when they say the land is broken... the claimant lives on the farm which lies back off main roads in the hills adjoining a creek and about all the neighbors are relatives of claimant."

The special examiner's report is 54 pages, contains the testimony of seven witnesses (including commentary on the reputation of each witness), proves that Riley left no will (and that his estate was never administrated upon), and included the assessed value of the real and personal property. He recommended that her case be reconsidered and her pension was approved. At her death in 1923, Nancy was receiving a monthly check for $30.

Lessons Learned
Nancy's widow's application for a pension provides not only information about her, but also information on:
- Her parents
- Her siblings
- Her in-laws
- Some neighbors

Is there a clue about your ancestor in the pension file of another family member? In this case, we had looked for two decades for the final resting place of Nancy's parents--all to no avail. But there, in the pension application of their son-in-law, was our clue as to their resting place.

Additional Articles
Additional Articles on Civil War Pensions from Beyond the Index:
A Complete Civil War Pension File
Before the Pension


Ancestry's Civil War Pension Index
-- Linked to images of the index cards
(This database is part of the U.S. Records Collection at Ancestry.)


Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: mjnrootdig@myfamily.com or visit his website at www.rootdig.com, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2004, MyFamily.com.



Michael's other genealogy articles