Here’s my first follow-up post from research inspired by sessions from the Michigan Genealogical Council’s 2011 Family History Month Workshop.

As I noted in an earlier post, Pamela J. Cooper’s Homestead Act session encouraged me try requesting a selection of the Federal Land Entry files for my ancestors.  On October 30th I started out by ordering the file of Levi Hampton who was listed in the 1900 Census as my Great Grandfather’s uncle and is one of the few members of my Arkansas family to have a patent listed in the BLM database 

I searched the BLM database for Levi Hampton in Bradley County, Arkansas (one can further limit a search under the “Miscellaneous” section switching the drop down menu beside “Authority” to “Homestead Entry Original”). I took the information in that entry to fill out the NARA order form. The request is currently $40—but it should be noted that this is a flat fee regardless of the size of the file. The deliverables can be photocopies or a digital copy.  I ended up requesting a digital copy to save myself the time scanning.

I was thrilled to receive the disk within 11 days—which is a little funny because it still shows on my NARA account as waiting to be sent. Levi’s file is 44 pages and includes his testimony, as well as that of two distant relatives—Wil Newton and Wilson Terry. I will admit that I really got my hopes up because Levi initially named my 3rd great-grandfather Sam Trotter, his brother, Rial, and their stepfather James Newton all as witnesses. But when the time came for the hearing Newton and Terry were the only witnesses. But regardless, there is a lot of information that I can cull from the file and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it.

Maybe the most interesting moment for me in reading the file was when I got to the presiding Judge, W. J. Hickman’s note on the change of witnesses. He comments, “I think myself that this witness is as good as either one of the others as he has been raised in the neighborhood of the said claimant. They are all Colored and one is as good as the other not withstanding his name does not appear in the publication.” I’m not sure why but it momentarily took my breath away to see that stated so plainly in a federal document. But as my parents noted when I shared it with them… it was a different time.

These files are definitely worth the price and slowly but surely I’ll start ordering Shea, Cunningham, Wilfong, and other family files.

Happy Hunting,