Thursday, September 8, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - The Gold Mine Within Fold3

Yesterday I set off to the local family history center wanting to use one of their partner websites, Fold3. At home I had been researching on for more information on Samuel Reed and his wife Caroline, who I wrote about almost a month ago in the post on Pioneer Women. In that post I suggested that I should re-read the Civil War Widow's Pension Packet of 79 pages and the Compiled Military Service Packet.

I was pleased to find on that they have the Index for the Civil War Widow's Pensions and his packet was listed with a link to Fold3 for viewing the packet. Unfortunately the link took me to the screen saying it is a premium service, which I would need to pay for. So, I decided to go to the family history center and see if I could access these records from the fhcportal found on their computers. This is how one links into the partner websites.

Before I was able to look for my records, I stopped to help someone else who had been there for three hours and was not sure how to find out more about her ancestor. We spent over an hour with me introducing her to the browsing portion of digitized records on, and finding her relative listed in the Civil War Widow's Pension Index. We used the fhcportal to access Fold3 and found an enlistment records packet, a Civil War Pension Index Card, and additional files on him. She has some work to do with these records.

We tried to find the same Civil War Pension Index Card on, which she has a subscription to and this has been the basis of her previous family history research. I showed her how to use the old search and to work through the databases that way. We also discussed the Genweb, Rootsweb family trees and using the Kentucky State Archives. Surely she found more than she ever dreamed of finding and she was ecstactic when she left. I left her with a homework assignment to work on these records. In the evening she called and made an appointment for further help later this week.

When she left I quickly returned to the Fold3 website through the fhcportal. I wanted to see what was there for the Civil War Widow's Pension file for Samuel and Caroline Reed. With much anticipation I found them in the index and brought up the file. Much to my shear joy the entire pension file was there, all 83 pages. The extra four pages seem to be the blank backs of documents. My next step in the process was to download the pages to my flash drive. I could see no way to download all the pages at once, so I spent over an hour downloading them page-by-page. The pages have a gray background to them, rather than the white of a photocopy. I have considered having Jonathan Webb Deiss at Webb Deiss Research & soldiersource redo the file in digital color copies, but I think this will do for now.

Then I stopped to consider what this would have cost me to order this file from the National Archives. It is now $75 for a Military Pension Application for the Civil War or later and $50 for pre Civil War. For a Compiled Military Service File it is $25. I originally paid $37.50 in 2000 and waited over two months to get a packet of oversized papers. Now I can look at the digitized copies instantly and share them with others. These were truly serendipity moments.

Now I just have to re-read the material, but I have a very useable manner to do so. So many records are being made available to us and we need to be willing to venture into the Gold Mine of Fold3 and other websites to find the treasures they contain. May you have a fun week finding  new discoveries as you research your families.


  1. What a fabulous find for you and how wonderful of you to give so much help to the patron in the Family History Center. I really enjoyed your post, Sue!

  2. What good information. I often get frustrated working with those sites. I now feel that answer is there but I and many others just do not how to find it.