Sometimes this RecordClick genealogy researcher likes to drive herself just a little crazy. It’s not intentional. It is that there’s a challenge in cross referencing information. Doesn’t the genealogical researcher know how the federal government is a wealth of information!
Recently I’ve been working with post offices and postmasters.
Probably one of the most famous postmasters was Abraham Lincoln. He was charged with handling the mail in New Salem, Pike County, Illinois from May 1833 to May 1836, when that post office closed.
United States Post Office records are something a genealogy researcher should not overlook. Since the federal government began keeping track of employees in approximately 1816, there have been thousands of post offices and postmasters. This genealogy researcher’s husband’s grandfather took pride in the fact that he never worked for anyone – except for the year or two he was the postmaster for a small town in Wisconsin. The surprise came when my husband discovered that his great-grandfather was the postmaster after his grandfather.
Lists of post offices and postmasters may be found in two different sources. Printed every two years, the first is the Official Register of the United States. The title page pretty much explains it: “…containing a list of Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military and Naval Services.” Basically, the volume(s) name every employee of the federal government. By 1881, this publication had grown into two volumes.
The second volume contained information specifically on post offices and postmasters. This partial Nebraska listing from 1871 provides insight into what the genealogist might expect:
The listings in this tome are alphabetical by post office, county, postmaster and salary. Official Registers may be found on various web sites, but the most complete set that I have found is online at Internet Archives. For the most part, earlier years were published by the U.S. Civil Service Commission and, beginning in the 1900s, the Bureau of the Census. Internet Archives includes listings through the 1950s.
The good part is that they are online. The not so good part is that many of them aren’t listed with years, so the ambitious genealogy researcher has to do some looking. At times, this may become difficult to figure out or keep track of what has been viewed. Because of the enormity of the volumes, typos are to be expected. It is, however, a good source for genealogy researchers.
The second source is Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971. This is a National Archives document and it has posted online in cooperation with Ancestry.com.
As is the way with Ancestry, if it’s not easy it has a tendency to get a bit buried. To find it, go to “search”, click the card catalog and type in “Appointments of U.S. Postmasters”. Once found, names will be able to be searched. It has also been indexed by state, county and postmaster.
The hand written original records list post offices, postmasters, and their dates of appointment. This professional genealogy researcher also like it because there are notes in the margins. The above two clips cover the same time period for the villages of Beaver Crossing and Bee in Seward County, NE.
If a post office is discontinued, this is notated. There may also be information about the post office covering the area or whether an appointment was accepted or declined. Harry Truman was appointed a postmaster in December 1914 (below– and he declined the post:
Both the Official Register of the United States and Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 provide good information for the genealogy researcher. Each compendium covers a different time frame. The Official Register was published every two years, while each volume of Appointments of U.S. Postmasters can cover 30 years or more. The Official Register is in book form with the post offices arranged by state. The Appointments of U.S. Postmasters is handwritten, arranged by state and county, and with each post office usually listed alphabetically.
If the genealogy researcher is unaccustomed to working with these types of records, the quest may be overwhelming.
When you work with an experienced genealogy researcher from RecordClick the search becomes easier. Our genealogy professionals are accustomed to dealing with a variety documents from courthouse records to lists of government employees. These documents may help tell the story of your family.