Oct 022010

Yesterday was a very frustrating day for me. As you may know, I am into genealogy, and the National Archives in Washington D.C. is the repository for a tremendous amount of information about our country and our people.

Among the things to be found at the Archives are the original Civil War pension files for anybody who served in that conflict, and later was awarded a pension for injuries or illness incurred during their service.

I was looking for information on my great grandfather, Richard G. Russell, from Cincinnati, Ohio. I knew that he had served in the Union Army, and been awarded a pension late in his life. We got there at 11 a.m., the next “pull” was at 1:30 (you can’t go in the files, you submit a “pull” request and they “pull” files several times a day on a set schedule, and bring them out.) So we were told to be back at 2:15 and the info would be there for review.

With over three hours to kill, we went around to the other side of the building and toured the National Archives galleries, where they have all sorts of interesting historical documents, including the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It was very inspiring to see these famous cornerstones of our democracy, and we noticed that there was a hushed air of reverence among those of us viewing them.

Archives building

When we were done touring the galleries, we went back outside and walked around for a while, stopping in at the United States Navy Memorial, which is located right across Pennsylvania Avenue from the National Archives.

They had several interesting displays, including this diving suit (top) and this protective suit (bottom) worn by sailors whose job is finding and destroying bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which seem to be the weapon of choice of modern terrorists.

Diving suit

Bomb disposal suit

To me, this was one of the most interesting things on display. This is a 30 pound disk of waste plastic. On Navy ships, they don’t throw trash that could harm the environment overboard. Instead, they compress plastic items like water bottles, potato chip wrappers, pop bottles, etc and melt it into these solid disks, which are easier to store, take up less room, and can be disposed of once the ship arrives in port. How cool is that?

Waste plastic disk

Back at the National Archives, we discovered that the first records they had pulled weren’t even the correct name, because somebody had written down the wrong file numbers. So they had to go back and “pull” the correct number file, which they said would take about a half hour.

Finally at 3 p.m. they came back from the latest pull and told me they don’t have Richard G. Russell’s info, the Veterans Administration does, since his wife was still alive and receiving his Civil War Pension after 1920. They said now I have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the VA, and it could take anywhere from five months to a year to process. I was really bummed out by waiting all day long, thinking it was all right there for me to look at and copy, and then getting shot down. Such is genealogy, I guess.

When we left the National Archives, we walked a few blocks to the International Spy Museum.

Spy Museum outside

I don’t know if it was because I was already disappointed about not finding my family info, or because we are a little burned out by so much sightseeing in such a short time, or if it was the huge number of loud, rowdy kids touring the Spy Museum, but it just didn’t interest me at all.

They had some interesting things on display but most of it was very old technology, like this secret transmitter hidden in the heel of a shoe, or a camera that could be strapped to a pigeon. I guess if you were into James Bond films, you might like this place, but it just had a very juvenile feel to us.



Today is our last day in this area, and we want to drive over toward Annapolis and check out a few things there. I was able to find a newspaper that can print our next issue at a reasonable price, so we plan to head to the Thousand Trails campground in Gloucester, Virginia on Sunday. It’s a short drive, about 150 miles or so, but we do have one rather intimidating bridge to cross, over the Potomac River on U.S. Highway 301, that I’m sure will make a sniveling wimp out of me. But I’ll just keep my eyes closed as I drive over, and hope for the best.

Thought For The Day – And on the eighth day God said, “Okay, Murphy, you’re in charge!”

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  6 Responses to “A Frustrating Day”

  1. The plastic waste disk is actually very pretty…..like art. Who knew???

  2. I agree with you about the Spy Museum Nick. It cost us $18 each and wasn’t worth half that. A waste of time and money. The only thing I liked was their bookstore. I got a couple of good books there. But the displays were all geared toward a 13 year old mind IMHO. I was thinking more Maxwell Smart than James Bond.

  3. Yes, sometimes genealogy is frustrating. But I would still fill out the application for the VA to get the pension files. Do not be discouraged. Genealogy is a lifelong pursuit, yours and theirs. I too have waited months for information. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes not. But you have to try every avenue. Good hunting!!!

  4. We did the Spy Museum nighttime tour where they take you on a “spy mission”. I don’t disappoint easily but this one was so bad I can’t believe they’re still doing it. What a waste of time and money. And Connie is right – genealogy is frustrating and takes time but it is so worth it when you find that one little special bit of info that you’ve been looking for.

  5. I don’t know if you are looking for your relatives family or not=but if you want to contact her, she has to be drawing SS and if you write a letter to the SS office they will forward it onto her and she can request from the VA the info you need probably in a shorter time. I am not sure what info you need for her?

  6. Just close 1 eye Nick and hope you don’t meet a tractor/trailer at the top…lol Been over it many times, Molly no longer sit in on the floor in the back of the rig.

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