Southern Claims Commission
Who Qualified and Who Was Mentioned
Although only a few people per county qualified for a settlement, the application papers of the Southern Claims Commission typically include questions mentioning hundreds of their neighbors. Neighbors of all races, and classes were questioned and discussed in these records.
Southerners from 12 states (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas) filed 22,298 claims before the Southern Claims Commission (SCC) between 3 March 1871 and 3 March 1873, based on the fact they:
- were loyal to the Union during the Civil War
- had quartermaster stores or supplies officially taken by or furnished to the Union Army during the rebellion
Southern Loyalists (those who were Union sympathizers) made 22,298 claims for property losses totaling $60,258,150.44. However, only 7,092 claims (32%) were approved for settlements totaling $4,636,920.69. Each claimant sought to prove their loyalty and loss through the testimony of others. The paper trail created by the claimants and the people who came forward to testify, for or against a claimant, provide a wealth of information about individuals living in the South during the Civil War.
Content of the Records
Southern Claims Commission records may include information about people of all classes, all races, all political/military backgrounds, and explain their relationships potentially including:
- personal descriptions, and accounts of events during the war
- military records of claimants, or their relatives
- letters, diaries, and family Bible records
- wills, property inventories, and probate records
Strategy for Finding Ancestors
The most effective strategy is to search all the Southern Claims Commission records for everyone living in the same Southern county as an ancestor. Any particular ancestor is unlikely to have actually applied to the Commission (only 0.2 percent of population), but he or she is more likely to have testified (2.3 percent) about an applicant, and an ancestor is even more likely to be discussed (about 10 ? percent) in the hundreds of answers to questions in other people's testimony. This is an advanced, time-consuming strategy with a less than 50 percent chance of locating information about your ancestor. But you will learn about the way of life in the county where your ancestor lived, and much about relationships between his or her neighbors.
Steps of Using SCC Records
These are the steps to use to find all the Southern Claims Commission records in a county. This strategy will involve reading thousands of manuscript pages with no guarantee you will find a particular ancestor mentioned in them.
Step 1. Determine the Southern county where an ancestor lived.
- Use family records, census, county histories, or other records to identify the residence of an ancestor during the Civil War from 1861-1865.
Step 2. Printout all the claimants in that county from the "Geographical List of Claimants."
- A. Open the St. Louis County Library [Internet site] article “Geographical List of Southern Claims Commission Claimants.”
- B. Scroll down to the links to PDFs for states and counties listed in alphabetical order.
- C. Click the link that would include the county where the ancestor lived between 1861-1865.
- D. Print the page(s) of the PDF for the county where the ancestor lived.
- E. Close the PDF.
Step 3. Copy data for each claimant in the county in Southern Loyalists in the Civil War.
- A. Get access to Gary B. Mills, Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1994, or reprint 2004). [FHL book 975 M2s].
- B. In this book find and copy all data provided for each claimant in the county.
Step 4. To identify which NARA microfiche to purchase, use an appropriate NARA descriptive pamphlet (DP) and follow instructions at the St. Louis County Library’s Internet site.
Step 5. Order from the National Archives a microfiche copy of the file for each claimant in your ancestor’s county.
Step 6. Search each county claimant’s file for information about your ancestor or his neighbors.
Step 7. Search related Commission journals, agent letters, and miscellaneous letters at the FHL.
On the Internet
- St. Louis County Library, "Researching Southern Claims Commission Records" in St. Louis County Library [Internet site] at http://www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/scc/scc-main.htm (accessed 1 April 2009). Many of the NARA descriptive publications are actually online at this website including:
- St. Louis County Library, "Geographical List of Southern Claims Commission Claimants" in St. Louis County Library [Internet site] at http://www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/scc/scc-geolist.htm (accessed 1 April 2009). Use this list to find all the applicants in a given county.
- Footnote.com, a subscription site also available at some libraries, is beginning to index SCC records.
- Dick Eastman, "Southern Claims Commission 1871-1880 Online" in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2007/03/southern_claims.html (accessed 1 April 2009). Explains SCC records.
At the Family History Library
- Gary B. Mills, Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1994). [FHL book 975 M2s]. A composite directory of case file in alphabetical order by name of claimant; also provides county name, office number, report number, and status of claim.
- Gary B. Mills, Civil War Claims in the South: An Index of Civil War Damage Claims Filed Before the Southern Claims Commission, 1871-1880 (Laguna Hills, Calif.: Aegean Park Press, 1980). [FHL book 975 H22m]. Index in alphabetical order by state, then by name of claimant.
- United States, House of Representatives, Commissioners of Claims, Records of the Commissioners of Claims (Southern Claims Commission) 1871-1880 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1945). [FHL film 1463963-76].
- United States, National Archives and Records Administration, Barred and Disallowed Case Files of the Southern Claims Commission, 1871-1880 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1987). [FHL book 973 J53m no. 1407].
The records have not all been filmed or fiched, note the chart below to learn what is currently available through the National Archives; the Family History Library (FHL) has not accquired them as of April 2009. As noted below search on line sites for additional information. Chart prepared by Joan E. Healey
|State||Record||Record Group||NARA #||FHL First Film||Number of Films|
|National||U.S. Court of Claims 1884-1943|
Disallowed Case Files and those barred,
U.S. House of Representatives
A: Consolidated Index of Claims;
B: Summary reports of the Commissioners. 1878-1880
U.S. Court of Claims
Docket Cards for Congressional Case Files,
ca. 1884-ca. 1943
|National||Records of the Commissioners of Claims, 1871-1880||56||M87|| 1463976 roll 14: Consolidated index
1463975 roll 13: Geographical List of Claims
|Alabama||Approved Claims, 1871-1880||217||M2062||unavailable||36 rolls|
||Not on film|
|Florida||217||M2094||Not on film|
|Georgia||Approved Claims 1871-1880||217||M1658||unavailable||761 fiche|
|Louisiana||217||M2094||Not on film|
|Mississippi||217||M2094||Not on film|
|North Carolina||217||M2094||Not on film|
|South Carolina||217||M2094||Not on film|
|Texas||217||M2094||Not on film|
|Virginia||Approved Claims 1871-1880||217||M2094||unavailable||45 rolls|
|West Virginia||Approved Claims 1871-1880||217||M1762||unavailable||3 rolls|
- St. Louis County Library
- Tennessee Southern Claims Commission Index
- Rockingham County, Virginia