The file came in a 10" x 15" tyvek envelope. The original documents had been photocopied onto legal sized 8 1/2" x 14" paper. Enclosed with the papers were my original order form (printed by NARA from my internet order request) and a disclaimer stating that the copies were the best available and that it was a complete file. There were 79 pages.
The file arrived in December but I was only able to take the briefest look at it then. Now I'm ready to sort, organize, transcribe, and evaluate what I find. (Sort and organize are key words here!)
My initial observations:
- Some of the original documents were double-sided as evidenced by bleed-through on the copies. The photocopies are single-sided. (You can see bleed-through on the image below.)
- Some of the original documents appear to have been long sheets folded into fourths.
- There were no paper clips on the papers to tell me which pages belong together. Bleed-through sometimes helps to indicate the front and back of one document; otherwise, it's hard to tell which pages go together.
- Not all pages are numbered or dated.
- The file may have been copied with the first page at the back or the first page at the front. I can only hope that the copies of individual documents are together.
- Documents are not in chronological order.
All of that being said, this first overview gives me new information about Ellis:
- His birthdate (not just the year of his birth)! April 11, 1840.
- A physical description: he was 6' tall, had blue eyes, a fair complexion, and brown hair (when younger)
- Addresses include 102 Grandview Avenue, McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; West Austintown, Ohio; and Scottsdale, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
It's clear that Ellis was not granted a pension at his first request. It is also clear that his widow, Lucy, had to be diligent to continue receiving the pension after Ellis' death.
Ellis's signature. Interestingly, on official papers throughout his lifetime Ellis spelled his last name Biggerstaff. His death certificate gives the spelling Bickerstaff. Among his ancestors and descendants, Bickerstaff is the most common spelling.
There's more to come about Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File. I'll post as I sort, organize, and scan. Maybe there are others of you who wonder what you might find if you order your own ancestor's pension file.