About U.S., Southern Claims Commission Allowed Claims, 1871-1880
In 1871 the U.S. government created the Southern Claims Commission, an organization through which Southerners could file claims for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. Claims could be filed by residents of:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The main stipulations for qualifying to receive a reimbursement were that: the claimant had to prove loss of property, that he had supported the Union during the war and that he not provided any assistance to the Confederates. Nearly 22,300 cases were filed by individuals and families, as well as businesses, institutions, churches, and other organizations. Not only do the names and locations of the claimants provide background information about the Civil War, but each claimant was required to provide witnesses. The witnesses had to answer the same 80+ questions that the claimant had to answer. Many of these witnesses were former slaves whose names rarely appear on any other legal document from the Civil War era. They also provided names and dates for family members who often lived on other plantations.
This database contains files of allowed claims filed with the Southern Claims Commission. Information available in the claim files can vary from packet to packet, but many of the files are very rich in genealogical information.
How to Search These Records:
The best way to search these records is to begin by searching the Southern Claims Commission Index database. If you have not already done so, please go there first, carefully reading through the description, before continuing on with the following steps.
If you locate a name in the index with the status “A”, that means that it was allowed, and you are in the correct database to find the claim file.
- Indicate the fact that you are seeking an approved Southern Claims Commission claim
- Full name of claimant
- Commission claim number
- State and county in which claim was made
- Be sure to include your complete mailing address for their reply
- The availability of the original documents for the claim
- A price quote for a photocopy of the documents
1. If the claim was in one of the four states which has been filmed by the National Archives (NARA) (Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia), you will find the entire case file here in this database. Simply type the name of the individual into the search template above to locate the claim. You may copy or save any or all of the pages of the claim for your own files.
2. To obtain a copy of an approved claim that has not been microfilmed (not one of the four above mentioned states), you must contact NARA to find out if the documents for that claim are still available, as not all claims have survived.
To submit a question regarding the case file online, go to the NARA website: www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html. You will want to click on the “I have a question” link, and then click on “I have a question about research and records at NARA.”
Or you can contact them via mail:
- Civilian Records Branch
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740
Include the following information when requesting information – either by mail or via the internet:
NOTE: If you are told that the case file is missing, the case may have been sent for Congressional review under one of two acts which were passed in 1883 (Bowman Act) or 1887 (Tucker Act). In order to determine if the case file you want was sent to Congress for review, you must obtain the congressional case number. To do this, send a letter requesting the congressional case number to the:
- U.S. Court of Claims, Index Section
717 Madison Place, NW
Washington, DC 2005
If they respond with a congressional case number, in order to get a copy of the case file, send the information (with the newly acquired congressional case number) to:
- Suitland Reference Branch (NNRR)
8th and Pennsylvania, NW
Washington D.C., 20409