Our ancestors had quite the sense of humor. It is interesting and at times serendipitous to see how comments in genealogical records can provide us with insight into the marital dynamics of our predecessors.

William Deter was a private in the Civil War who served a three year term in the 93rd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry  from the 20 September 1861 until he was discharged on 31 December 1863. Following his discharge he immediately reenlisted as a veteran volunteer and served until 27 June 1865.

Prior to 1890 Civil War Veterans were only granted a pension based on an inability to perform manual labor because of an injury or illness that was incurred in the line of duty during the war. William Deter claimed that he was injured during the war as he received a kick in the chest from a mule while detailed as a teamster on a march near Winchester, VA in August of 1864. His pension file was initially rejected.

When the laws changed in 1890 to allow Union veterans the opportunity to apply for a pension based on an inability to perform manual labor due to a non-service related disability, William Deter applied again several times and was eventually granted his pension. In complying with the pension laws he had to  submit forms on an ongoing basis ranging from surgeon’s certificates to questionnaires.

Oral family history doesn’t speak very fondly about the marriage between William Deter and his wife Elizabeth Billet despite the ten (10) children they shared. She supposedly was a domineering woman who could easily intimidate others including her husband and he apparently had a strong affinity for the bottle.

In one of the many questionnaires that William Deter completed and returned to the Bureau of Pensions he was asked if he was married, and if so when, where and by whom was he married, and also what type of record exists to prove his marriage. His smart witted reply to the question:”What record of marriage exists?” was “She still lives.”

To learn more about what you can find in military records on your ancestors be sure to attend our upcoming session Marching through Military Records on Wednesday, June 22nd at 6:30 p.m. at the West Oaks Branch Library and Genealogy Center.

William Deter Pension