Nov 102012

Our US Records Study Group has been studying chapter 4 (“Evaluation of Evidence”) in Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. In order to put my learnings to work, I revisited a previous blog post (Did My 2G-Grandfather, John Brenner, Serve in the 11th Ohio Volunteer Militia?”). In that post, I evaluated conflicting evidence about John Brenner’s Civil War service record and came to the conclusion that a 1950 certificate published by the Ohio Adjutant General’s Office was erroneous in listing John Brenner as having served in the 11th Ohio Volunteer Militia for a period of one month in 1862. What I did not do at the time of that post was to classify and analyze the various sources and the information they contained according to the contemporary standards for genealogy research processing (see Mark Tucker’s “Genealogy Research Process”)

After reading Michael Hait’s blog posts (“Reconciling conflicting information” and “Reconciling conflicting information–a case study”)  and  I developed a spreadsheet for classifying each document (and its information) related to John Brenner’s Civil War service. I classified each document as either Original or Derivative; each information item as either Primary or Secondary; each bit of evidence as either Direct, Indirect, or Negative in answering the research question. (Actually there were 4 research questions: Did John Brenner [10 February 1836 – 28 September 1909] serve in the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry? the 44th Ohio National Guard? the 155th Ohio Volunteer Infantry? the 11th Ohio Volunteer Militia?)

A photo of a letter (hand-written by John Brenner in 1900) provides primary information and direct evidence of his service in the 19th OVI. It provides indirect evidence of his service in the 44th ONG and 155th OVI (the regiment numbers are not given). It also provides negative evidence of his service in the 11th OVM. Even though it was written almost 30 years after the events it details, I am inclined to classify this letter as a primary source since John Brenner certainly knew about his military service.

Photos of two discharge certificates (19th OVI and 44th ONG) are primary sources (dated on the day of his discharge; one of them indicating “Gov. Print. Office, May 15, 1861”). They provide primary information; direct evidence of John Brenner’s service in the 19th OVI and the 44th ONG; and indirect evidence of his service in the 155th OVI.

John Brenner’s pension records are original sources, providing primary information and direct evidence regarding his service in the 19th OVI and 155th OVI. They provide no information regarding the 44th ONG because that was service to the State of Ohio, not the United States. I am uncertain regarding the status of the 11th OVM. Was it only an Ohio unit (1 month’s service in 1862) or had it been nationalized as a part of the Federal army? If the unit was nationalized, then John Brenner’s pension records are negative evidence regarding his service in that unit; if not nationalized, then there would be no expectation for its inclusion.

I find that the 1890 US Census Veteran’s Schedule to be somewhat problematic as to classification. It is an Original source. Due to the detail (enlistment and discharge dates), I might surmise that John Brenner, himself, is the informant, but I have no way of knowing if that is so. [According to an article in the National Archives’ Prologue Magazine, “Question 2 on the general population schedules inquired whether the subject had been ‘a soldier, sailor, or marine during the civil war (United States or Confederate) or widow of such person.’ … According to enumeration instructions, if the veteran or widow responded ‘yes’ to Union service, the enumerator produced the veterans schedule, marked the family number from the general population schedule, and proceeded to ask additional service-related questions.” ] Whatever the provenance of the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule for John Brenner, it provided direct evidence of his service in the 19th OVI and 155th OVI. Omission of reference to the 44th ONG and 11th OVM must beconsidered in the same manner as with the pension records.

The National Park Service database of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors (a Derivative source with secondary information) lists six entries for John Brenner in Ohio. Two of them (1st OVI and 8th OVI are for units enlisting those living in other parts of Ohio). There are two John Brenners serving in the 19th OVI; one in Company A; the other, Company B. All information about my 2g-grandfather indicate that he served in Company B. The other two entries are for the 11th OVI and 155th OVI (National Guard). This database might indicate that the 11th OVI (1 month service in 1862) had been nationalized. [Note: The information for Ohio Soldiers and Sailors in the database was gathered by volunteers of the Ohio Genealogical Society. That certainly leaves room for mistakes to have been made. Notation on the National Park site regarding the 11th OVM indicates that “’Compendium of the War of the Rebellion’ by Frederick H. Dyer contains no history for this unit.”]

Now to the ‘culprit’ – that is, the 1950 certificate from the Office of the Adjutant General of the State of Ohio indicating that John Brenner served in the 11th OVM. This is clearly a derivative source containing secondary information – developed 89 years after the fact and reflecting records held by the AG’s Office. The name, rank, unit, mustered in and mustered out dates are are direct evidence of John Brenner’s service in the 11th OVM. The birth date (4-15-1843) would appear to be negative evidence suggesting that perhaps the John Brenner referred to is not my 2g-grandfather. His birth date is 10 February 1836. In fact, the John Brenner who is my 2g-grandfather did not arrive in this country until 1856, 13 years after the birth of the John Brenner who apparently served in the 11thOVM. The confusion comes with the listing of John Brenner’s death date and burial location. These coincide exactly with my 2g-grandfather.

Since my 2g-grandfather was originally buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Youngstown, Ohio, but his grave was later removed to Belmont Park Cemetery by his son, Judson, I would guess that the information concerning the removal of his grave to Belmont Park Cemetery was at some later point forwarded to the Ohio Adjutant General’s Office and added to the wrong John Brenner file. This would explain the inconsistencies recorded on the 1950 certificate regarding the John Brenner who served in the 11th OVM.

According to Joshua H. Horton (A History of the Eleventh Regiment (Ohio Volunteer Infantry). Dayton: W. J. Shuey, 1866. Online in Google Books) the 11th OVM recruited from 5 southwestern Ohio counties and one county in northeastern Ohio (Columbiana County). The 1870 U. S. Census records for West Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, shows a John Brenner (son of Michael and Gertrude Brenner), age 27, born in Pennsylvania. His age is consistent with the 15 April 1843 birth date given on the 11th OVM Certificate from the Ohio Adjutant General’s Office.

The evidence is rather conclusive that John Brenner, my 2g-grandfather, served in the 19th and 155th Ohio Voluntary Infantry units, as well as the 44th Ohio National Guard. The John Brenner who served in the 11th OVM was not my 2g-grandfather, but probably was the son of Michael and Gertrude Brenner. He resided in Columbiana County, Ohio, in 1870 and likely was recruited from that county in 1862. The 1950 derivative certificate would seem to indicate an error in the records of the Office of the Ohio Adjutant General.

In a subsequent post, I will outline my learnings from this process of classifying and evaluating the evidence regarding John Brenner’s Civil War service.

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