Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day


Port Byron wishes all of our service men and woman a safe return. 

They are among generations to contribute to the defense of National freedom.  We owe our liberties to the cause. 

May God continue to bless the families of those that have fallen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mystery Band Photo Solved

Last year I posted a photo of the Port Byron band from the 1935/37 period.  Today I found the newspaper article that shows this was a photo of an award winning band, taken at Syracuse University.  The photo was cropped but you can see that signature hand rail in the background, so mystery solved.

Also note that Edward Dougherty received special recognition from the brass section!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Revolutionary War Records

It was my pleasure to serve as one of the volunteer genealogists for the Owasco Chapter NSDAR Lineage Workshop that was recently hosted at the Port Byron Library.  I'd like to thank the library for their continued support and for letting us use their facility.  The workshop drew a standing room only crowd in search of their families, many focusing on finding proof of service for their ancestor who served in the American Revolution. 

I thought I would share some details on the various pension acts and how to obtain those records.  If your ancestor drew a pension, the date they became eligible varies depending on their rank, regiment served, disability and need of financial support from the Government.

Pension applications assigned a unique letter in front of the application number which signifies the following:

S = soldier was pensioned.
W = widow was pensioned.
R = pension was rejected.

Having a pension application rejected does not mean the soldier did not serve.  It may only represent that the soldier did not meet the minimum standards of the particular pension act for which they applied.  Some acts had a minimum service requirement, or was limited to the Continental Line.  Soldiers were responsible to present their own proof of service at the time of such application.

Due to the lapse of time from service to when they applied for pensions, many soldiers had already lost their discharge papers.  In such cases, soldiers were expected to present written testimonies from fellow soldiers or anyone else that could support their claim. 

Soldiers who applied directly via open court did not fare as well as compared to those that hired a lawyer.  The main reason for this is simply because the lawyers knew to gather statements from others who could vouch the applicant did indeed serve.  This was accomplished by obtaining statements from any combination of fellow soldiers, commanders, family or neighbors who could provide details as to when the applicant enlisted or was discharged.  This was needed as many pension acts had a length of service requirement.  Soldiers who could not present satisfactory proof to duration of service were denied.

Keep in mind that many soldiers of this war came from other places and spoke limited English.  Perhaps language barriers kept them from understanding that their word alone was not considered proof.  It was not the role of the open court to then go obtain witness statements, their role was simply to evaluate what was submitted before them.  While some rejected pensions could indicate a false claim, more often it was a case of failure to submit the needed proofs to determine minimum service requirements as required by the pension act.

Here are some links that provide a nice explanation of the evolving changes to the pension act:


Pension Timeline




Today there is a growing number of sources where one can obtain portions or all of the pension files.  Heritage Quest, which requires membership but may be a benefit from your local library, offers what I like to call the mini pensions.  This is the same as the Federal Military Pension Applications - Pension Documents Packet (NATF 85B) at the National Archives, also known as M805.  This shorter file contains pages that have been preselected to be most relevant to family history.

When possible, I recommend obtaining the full file, which is called the Federal Military Pension Application - Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85D) at the National Archives, also known as M804.  This file contains up to 100 pages which many pensions far exceed the page count found in just the pension packet mentioned above.