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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Microfilming Unkown USCT Files

Budge and Russ Weidman never expected to become experts on long-neglected Civil War files tucked away in storage rooms of the National Archives. Neither was a professional researcher in the 1990s, when they volunteered to help organize the little-known files and to prepare them for microfilming.

Russ and Budge Weidman began organizing old Civil War files at the National Archives about 11 years ago. (Photos By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)
Eleven years later, long after they had planned to ease into retirement, they spend three days a week at the archives, supervising 30 other volunteers who work in small groups one day a week, smoothing the creases of letters and reports written during and after the war. The completion of this project is many years away, but the immediate result of their work is public access to microfilmed files few people knew existed.

The Weidmans, of West Springfield, have spoken for free at several Civil War conferences about the work of the volunteers and their findings. They say there is something that draws them back to the dusty files and the stories that they tell.

"I love working with the 19th-century original records for the insights you can get that you can't get out of reading books," Budge Weidman said. "I have the gift of time now, and I love to find and read the poignant stories in the letters."

For her husband of nearly 50 years, the attraction is learning about the war. "I know much more now about the battles, particularly the obscure ones," Russ Weidman said. "I've learned more about Lincoln and Grant. Now I am reading books about them."

There is also the excitement of finding a Lincoln signature -- four so far.

The group has finished the records of the U.S. Colored Troops and the military records of soldiers from California, Colorado, Delaware, Nebraska, Vermont and the District of Columbia. The volunteers are working on files from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly called the Freedmen's Bureau.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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