Southern Claims Commission

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United States  > African American Research  > Southern Claims Commission
Union loyalists in the grey states on this map who suffered losses could apply for compensation from the Southern Claims Commission.

Who Qualified and Who Was Mentioned

Although only a few people per county qualified for a settlement, the application papers of the Southern Claims Commission typically include questions mentioning hundreds of their neighbors. Neighbors of all races, and classes were questioned and discussed in these records.

Southerners from 12 states (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas) filed claims before the Southern Claims Commission (SCC) between 3 March 1871 and 3 March 1873, based on the fact they:

  1. were loyal to the Union during the Civil War
  2. had quartermaster stores or supplies officially taken by or furnished to the Union Army during the rebellion

Southern Loyalists (those who were Union sympathizers) made 22,298 claims for property losses totaling $60,258,150.44. However, only 7,092 claims (32%) were approved for settlements totaling $4,636,920.69. Each claimant sought to prove their loyalty and loss through the testimony of others. The paper trail created by the claimants and the people who came forward to testify, for or against a claimant, provide a wealth of information about individuals living in the South during the Civil War.

Content of the Records

Southern Claims Commission records may include information about people of all classes, all races, all political/military backgrounds, and explain their relationships potentially including:

  • personal descriptions, and accounts of events during the war
  • military records of claimants, or their relatives
  • letters, diaries, and family Bible records
  • wills, property inventories, and probate records

Strategy for Finding Ancestors

The most effective strategy is to search all the Southern Claims Commission records for everyone living in the same Southern county as an ancestor. Any particular ancestor is unlikely to have actually applied to the Commission (only 0.2 percent of population), but he or she is more likely to have testified (2.3 percent) about an applicant, and an ancestor is even more likely to be discussed (about 10 ? percent) in the hundreds of answers to questions in other people's testimony. This is an advanced, time-consuming strategy with a less than 50 percent chance of locating information about your ancestor. But you will learn about the way of life in the county where your ancestor lived, and much about relationships between his or her neighbors.

Steps of Using SCC Records

These are the steps to use to find all the Southern Claims Commission records in a county. This strategy will involve reading thousands of manuscript pages with no guarantee you will find a particular ancestor mentioned in them.

Step 1. Determine the Southern county where an ancestor lived.

Use family records, census, county histories, or other records to identify the residence of an ancestor during the Civil War from 1861-1865.

Step 2. Printout all the claimants in that county from the "Geographical List of Claimants."

A. Open the St. Louis County Library [Internet site] article “Geographical List of Southern Claims Commission Claimants.”
B. Scroll down to the links to PDFs for states and counties listed in alphabetical order.
C. Click the link that would include the county where the ancestor lived between 1861-1865.
D. Print the page(s) of the PDF for the county where the ancestor lived.
E. Close the PDF.

Step 3. Copy data for each claimant in the county in Southern Loyalists in the Civil War.

A. Get access to Gary B. Mills, Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1994, or reprint 2004). [FHL book 975 M2s].
B. In this book find and copy all data provided for each claimant in the county.

Step 4. To identify which NARA microfiche to purchase, use an appropriate NARA descriptive pamphlet (DP) and follow instructions at the St. Louis County Library’s Internet site.

Step 5. Order from the National Archives a microfiche copy of the file for each claimant in your ancestor’s county.

Step 6. Search each county claimant’s file for information about your ancestor or his neighbors.

Step 7. Search related Commission journals, agent letters, and miscellaneous letters at the FHL.


On the Internet

At the Family History Library


The records have not all been filmed or fiched, note the chart below to learn what is currently available through the National Archives; the Family History Library (FHL) has not accquired them as of April 2009. As noted below search on line sites for additional information.

Southern Claims Commission Records
State Record Record Group NARA # FHL First Film Number of Films
National U.S. Court of Claims 1884-1943        
National Disallowed Case Files and those barred, U.S. House of Representatives 123 M1407 unavailable 4.829 fiche
National A: Consolidated Index of Claims; B: Summary reports of the Commission. 1878-1880   P2257 unavailable 1 roll
National U.S. Court of Claims, Docket Cards for Congressional Case Files, ca. 1884-1943 123 M2007 unavailable 5 rolls
National Records of the Commissioners of Claims, 1871-1880 56 M87 1463976 roll 14: Consolidated index
1463975 roll 13: Geographical List of Claims
14 rolls
Alabama Approved Claims, 1871-1880 217 M2062 unavailable 36 rolls
Arkansas   217  
Not on film
Florida   217     Not on film
Georgia Approved Claims 1871-1880 217 M1658 unavailable 761 fiche
Louisiana   217   Not on film
Mississippi   217     Not on film
North Carolina   217     Not on film
South Carolina   217     Not on film
Tennessee Online Claimant Index        
Texas   217     Not on film
Virginia Approved Claims 1871-1880; Rockingham Co.Index 217 M2094 unavailable 45 rolls
West Virginia Approved Claims 1871-1880 217 M1762 unavailable 3 rolls

Online Resources