Friday, February 22, 2008

Southern Claims Commission Records

Southerners who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War and who suffered personal property losses, including supplies and livestock, could file a claim for damages with the Southern Claims Commission. Residents of twelve states were allowed to make claims: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Southern loyalists made 22,298 claims between March 1871 and March 1873. Claims were made based on the fact that a Southerner was loyal to the Union during the Civil War and had supplies taken by or furnished to the Union Army.

Now, while you would assume from the above description that only Southerners who had been aligned with the Union would be a part of these records; however, Southerner's loyal to the Confederate cause can also be found. As Elizabeth Nitschke Hicks writes in the article, The Southern Claims Commission, a little known source of genealogical information,

"The claimant had to answer that he/she had been loyal to the Union, and had not provided aid of any kind in support of the Confederacy . . . consider that people did what they had to do to receive compensation for losses suffered during the war. Many southerners did not consider it "lying" to "lie" to a Yankee. . . ."

These records can be an invaluable source to a researcher because they may prove to be one of the only records that can be found on a family when a county was "burned over" or may help you verify a location for an ancestor who died before the implementation of state wide vital registration (death records). It also provides yet another clue to what life was like for your ancestor during the Civil War.

These claims included the testimony of a person's neighbor testimony and the testimony of the claimant about aspects of his/her life during the Civil War. To read some of the questions claimants were asked, check out the posted questionnaires at (while this is a subscription site, access to these questionnaires is free).

There are three types of claims: Allowed, Barred, and Disallowed. In Allowed claims the U. S. paid the claim. The only record left of these claims includes the name of the claimant, residence, and the amount paid. Barred claims were those where the claimant either filed too late or was deemed a Confederate supporter. These records have the name of the claimant, residence, and a description of the loss. Disallowed claims were not paid and provide researcher with the most information.

One place that you can access the Southern Claims Commission records is through

Through the Family History Library you can consult the following resources through the Family History Library catalogue at

  • Civil War claims in the South: An index of Civil War damage claims filed before the Southern Claims Commission, 1871-1880 by Gary B Mills. Aegean Press: California. 1980 (not available on microfilm)
  • Southern Claims Commission, claim number 9404: Congressional claim number 3519, claimant: John Austin Casey of Atlanta, Ga. Editor Diane Casey. D, Casey: Arizona 1994. (FHL Microfilm #1698200 item 21)
  • Records of the Commissioner of Claims (Southern Claims Commission), 1871-1880: National Archives microfilm publications pamphlet describing M87. (not available on microfilm)
  • Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission by Gary B Mills. Genealogical Publishing Co.: Maryland. 1994.
  • Records of the Commissioners of Claims (Southern Claims Commission) 1871-1880. Microfilm of original records in the National Archives.(FHL Microfilm #1463975-1462976, 1463963-1463974).

The Tennessee State Library and Archives web site,, has an online index of the 3,929 Tennessean's who filed claims. You can order a disallowed or barred claim for the Tennessee State Library and Archives by e-mailing them and asking for a price quote.
Rootsweb has an index page of transcribed 1872 disallowed claims at Each name has a link to a digitized page describing the claim.

For those researching African American ancestry, Ancestry has an article about African American claimants at

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