Sunday, September 13, 2009

Henry C. Meinzen: Civil War Veteran or Not?

I was surprised to find a Civil War Graves Registration card for Henry. It said that he enlisted in August 1862 and was discharged in August 1863; that his rank was "Seaman" in the U.S. Navy; and that he served on USS Cairo and USS Brilliant. (Further research about those ships indicated that the USS Cairo was the first armored ship to be sunk by a torpedo.)

At right is a photocopy of the Graves Registration card and below it is a transcription of the information for easier reading. You can on the image to see a larger image.

Our family didn't pass many stories down through the generations, but I would have thought that having a German immigrant ancestor serve in the Civil War would have been worthy of at least a brief mention! Frankly, I didn't believe he served in the Civil War, and I don't yet. But I'm doing some research to see what I can find to help prove or disprove it.

So for the past few months I've been on the hunt for any other information I could find about Henry's (supposed) Civil War service. I doubted that he had received a pension (because he didn't have young children, as far as we know, he wasn't injured in the war, and because he outlived his wife who would have received the pension) but the NARA site told me that I should first request that before requesting service records. Henry did not receive a pension.

Where to search next? It seems that CW army information has been compiled and made easily available, but Navy records have not been given the same status by NARA. I began borrowing books about Civil War genealogy from the library and finally found something that I thought would be helpful. One book said that the SLC FHL had some films relating to the enlistments into and transfers of men in the Navy. The one with enlistments is called "Index to Rendezvous Reports, Civil War, 1861-1865." The other is "Weekly Returns of Enlistments at Naval Rendezvous ('Enlistment Rendezvous, Jan. 6, 1855-Aug. 8, 1891: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, National Archives and Records Administration, M1953." So I went to our local Family History Center and ordered copies of the films. I didn't know if they would be helpful or not but I thought it was worth it to look at them.

The first one came in this past week. Saturday morning I went to the FHC and looked at the film. Our little FHC has 2 manual microfilm readers and 1 reader/printer. I wondered whether to be optimistic and use the reader/printer or whether to be doubtful and use the reader only. I started with the reader but had to transfer to the reader/printer because the film was so small.

I found that the names were in alphabetical order by last name, Maney to Moore. I stopped at the possible variations of Meinzen on the way to Meinzen, but found nothing. Then appeared on the screen what I thought was "Meinzen, Henry." Wow!!! Is that MY Henry? The dates were correct. But then I looked more closely and the name was "Meinze" without the "n." (See to the right a copy of the original and a transcription.)

I came away from the library knowing no more about Henry than when I went. BUT, because one of the staff people there is expert on German research, I came away with some suggestions of where else to search. And I have one more film to come. Perhaps that will have Henry Meinzen (instead of Henry Meinze) and I'll learn something more about Henry.

How can one man leave a trail behind him (his posterity) without a path leading to him from behind (his ancestors)? Who were your parents, Henry, and where were you born? Where and how did you learn your carpenter's trade? Did you apprentice, and where? I want to know these things! (And plenty more, besides.)

For anyone who's interested, here's a (very poor) copy of a photograph of Henry C. Meinzen taken about 1870. There is a matching photograph of his wife, Elizabeth Armitage. I'm guessing the date they were taken by assuming, based on the similarity in size and background of the photographs, that they were probably wedding photographs.

Later I'll post this photograph side-by-side with one of Henry when he was older. You'll be able to see the similarity.

So, I'm still hunting for evidence of Henry's (supposed) Civil War service. Can anyone out there read German newspapers?

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