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by Patricia Craig Johnson

The Beginning

Several years ago I felt lucky to have found the parents of my 3rd great grandfather, William Forrest. They are Thomas Forrest and Margaret. It seemed all efforts to find more about this couple was fruitless. For some reason, one night I checked the Internet to see if there were any new clues about them. It was definitely a spontaneous thing, as I had run out of places to search for them years ago.

The Mystery Clue

Imagine my surprise to find an entry on, submitted by someone, that stated Margaret's name was BRANNAN. That got my attention immediately and I started poking around in that person's database. I never did find out who the person was, but fortunately they allowed a download of their Gedcom file. A Gedcom file is a special file that allows any software program to read the data a person has saved. It imported to my software program, but it had some problems. I could read enough of it to see that the person referred to the donation of a collection of Forrest genealogy to the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, Kansas. By who it didn't say, or I couldn't read it in the Gedcom data.

The Kansas State Historical Society

I have had many pleasant dealings with the Kansas State Historical Society and didn't hesitate to call there and ask an awkward question. "Do you know of anyone that submitted Forrest information to the Society? How much more vague can you get than that? Fortunately I reached a very patient and nice man named William Grace. He didn't think I was crazy at all and said he could check for me if I could hang on. It wasn't long when he came back and said a Lillian Forrest turned in a large collection of genealogy before she died. I could read enough of the Gedcom to know her father was Rev. Joseph Forrest and when I mentioned that, Mr Grace said Lillian's work was the one I wanted. He quickly told me the various files she had submitted and when he mentioned a Biographical Sketch of her father I immediately said "Yes, can you copy that one for me?" I gave him my credit card and he promised to mail me the sketch. He also gave me some names of genealogists that do research there that are for hire. Imagine my delight when I received his packet. There was the article that said Thomas Forrest's wife was Margaret Brannan. Also when and where they were born, where they migrated to from Mifflin County Pennsylvania and when and where they died and are buried. What a jackpot. Of course, I wanted to know more so I contacted Kay Conn in Topeka to see if she would read the Lillian Forrest files and copy what she felt was important. With the help of Richard Green, Bobbi Mathis, and Lynn Rose I have been able to piece the Thomas Forrest family together. Hopefully the copies from Kay Conn will fill in some more blanks! I was a happy camper as May ended.

I started June where May left off. It is so much fun to find a new lead and try to reach back in time and recreate a family scenario. It looks like Thomas Forrest's father, Thomas Forrest, Sr was an immigrant from Ireland. I was not able to find record of his immigration, but his oldest son says HE was born in Ireland. In a history of Mifflin County Pennsylvania it says he was of Ireland and his

two sons, Thomas and Joseph went to Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Help From Topeka

I finally received the packet from Kay Conn. It was typed with an old typewriter and a very faint ribbon, but it had additional information of the Forrest family. I found that Thomas Forrest and his son James went to California in 1850 to the Gold Rush. No wonder I couldn't find him on the 1850 census!! The Gold Rushers didn't have time to answer census taker's questions, that's for sure, if he could even find them in the California hills. She also told what Regiment he served in, in the War of 1812. Also that Margaret Brannan Forrest got a pension for her husband's service after his death in 1856. It was well worth the wait.

I ordered some microfilm from Mifflin and Huntingdon Counties Pennsylvania. There were none of my Forrest family in Mifflin County Tax Lists. On the Huntingdon County Tax Lists, Thomas Forrest, Sr appears first in 1791 and last in 1806. From this I assume he died before 1807 taxes were paid. Thomas, Jr first appears in 1805 in Huntingdon County. Since he turned age 21 in 1802, he should be on a tax list somewhere, but it isn't here. Perhaps in a neighboring county. Men were required to file taxes the year they turned age 21. OR perhaps he was born in 1784 not 1781? This is a possibility as well. Thomas Forrest, Jr. last appears on the Tax List in Huntington Co Pennsylvania in 1808. This means he moved to another county or another state. Since his father's biography says Thomas, Jr and his brother, Joseph migrated to a Northwestern Pennsylvania county, that is probably where they went before going to New York State. So I still have many unanswered questions.

Lillian Forrest mentioned seeing the pension application of both Thomas Forrest and Margaret, his widow. This was for service in the War of 1812 from New York. I ordered a copy from NARA (National Archives) and received a message that there was no such pension. I figured I must have made a mistake in my entry online (this is how you order from NARA now) so I reordered it. I received the same reply! It seems Lillian is actually quoting from the pension application, and this makes me think it has been destroyed since the 1930's when she saw it. I have heard that just because it was once there, doesn't mean it is there now. There can be fires and other disasters that destroy records in Washington, DC. This makes it all the more important that Lillian wrote about and shared her discoveries. At least someone has seen it and passed the information on. This is where she got Margaret's maiden name of Brannan, and the marriage date and place of Thomas and Margaret Forrest. I would love to have met Lillian and visited with her. She was quite a thorough researcher. But wait -----

More Help From Topeka

In January 2007 I wrote to Kay Conn once again and enlisted her help. I asked if she would go to the Kansas Historical Society and read Lillian Forrest's files for me, this time looking specifically for a pension record from NARA that may be in the files. In February I heard back from Kay and she advised me to request the Bounty Land Warrant Application rather than the Pension Application, that these were two completely different documents. I immediately submitted another request to NARA online, asking for the Application for BLWT 33290. I knew from Lillian's information this was Thomas Forrest's land warrant. Imagine my delight when I received the complete file for that warrant number. It told a very interesting story of Thomas and Margaret Forrest.

US Congressional Acts

When Thomas Forrest returned from the gold fields of California, he undoubtedly heard about the law enacted by Congress giving 40 acres of land to veterans of the War of 1812. This law was passed September 28, 1850. Later, on March 3, 1855 the US Congress passed another law that allowed the War of 1812 veterans 160 acres of Bounty Land.

The Bounty Land Warrants

A very interesting subject about the US Government is a study of the various benefits passed to compensate veterans of the wars of the country. The American Revolution and War of 1812 veteran's benefits are especially interesting. Congress allowed the benefits in land and pensions to be available to the veteran, his children (if not claimed by the veteran) and his grandchildren (if not previously claimed). The War of 1812 veteran's did not reap a very big benefit until after the Mexican War in 1848. The veterans of the Mexican War were given such generous benefits that the veterans of the War of 1812 demanded equal treatment! One thing the United States has always avoided is confrontation with veterans. Maybe because they are usually armed or can handle firearms quite well? That is until the 1930's when the WWI veterans were treated so shabbily and dishonorably by the Army in Washington, D.C. But that is another story. At any rate, the US Congress scaled down the list of descendants that were entitled to war benefits after the War of 1812. This is a basis for the story of Thomas Forrest's experience in trying to obtain a Military Bounty Land Warrant.

US Congressional Acts

When Thomas Forrest returned from the gold fields of California, he undoubtedly heard about the law enacted by Congress giving 40 acres of land to veterans of the War of 1812. This law was passed September 28, 1850. Later, on March 3, 1855 the US Congress passed another law that allowed the War of 1812 veterans 160 acres of Bounty Land.

The Military Bounty Land Warrants of Thomas Forrest

Following is a recap of Thomas Forrest's attempt to acquire his land warrant.

1. April 26, 1853 in Winchester, Scott Co. Illinois, Thomas Forrest filed an application for a Bounty Land Warrant for his military service in 1814 against Great Britain. In that application he states his birth date of May 5, 1781 and birth place of Mifflin Co Pennsylvania in the Tuscarora Valley. He said he enlisted in the New York Militia on August 1, 1814 to support the Army at Fort Erie. Thomas served in Captain James McMahan's Company, Colonel John McMahan's regiment. He served for 56 days and left New York State in the fall of 1815. (Now you see why I love these types of files!)

2. June 10, 1853 Thomas Forrest was issued Bounty Land Warrant 90037 for 40 acres if land. I don't know when he actually received it in the mail.

3. July 21, 1855 Thomas Forrest - now of Lee County Iowa returned the 40 acre warrant 90037 to the Bureau of Pensions in Washington City. He returned it so he could apply for Bounty Land Warrant for 160 acres.

4. April 23, 1856 Thomas Forrest died in Oakley Township, Macon Co Illinois. He is buried in the Cross -Rea Cemetery in Oakley Township.

5. July 7, 1856 Thomas Forrest was issued Bounty Land Warrant No. 33290 for 160 acres of land.

6. October 19, 1857 Margaret Forrest applied for a 160 acre Bounty Land Warrant in her own name. She states in this application that her name before marriage was Margaret Brannan.

7. October 25, 1857 Margaret Forrest returned the 160 acre Bounty Land Warrant No. 33290 that was in her husband's name and received after his death.

8. November 29, 1857 Margaret Forrest declares she married Thomas Forrest on August 24, 1803 in Huntington Co Pennsylvania. This was in answer to the need to clarify her marriage to the authorities in Washington City.

9. December 3, 1857 L M Smith writes to Washington City asking for clarification about two warrant numbers, 33290 and 283189. Obviously the slow communication and time between messages caused a lot of confusion.

10. September 1858 L M Smith writes to Washington City to inquire why there has been no word on Margaret's application.

11. April 12, 1859 Margaret Brannan Forrest died in Agency, Wapello Co Iowa at the home of my 3rd great grandfather, her son, William Forrest. She is buried in the Forrest family plot in Dickens Cemetery in Wapello Co Iowa.

12. June 19, 1860 G W Forrest; Wm Forrest; Mary A May; and the minor children of Joseph Forrest write to Washington City to ask why they have never heard anything further about their mother's application for 160 acres.

13. June 26, 1860 The US Government transmitted a warrant to Honorable A Shaw. It was Warrant No 204081 and was sent to Decatur, Macon Co Illinois. George W Forrest was living in Oakley, Macon Co Illinois in 1860. I presume he was the person that received it.

I have no idea what the heirs did with the warrant. None of them needed the land as they were already farmers in Illinois and Iowa. I believe they probably sold the warrant to a land speculator and spilt the money. I am glad they pursued the warrant. It was something their parents were entitled to. It also provided me with a wealth of information about my ancestors.

Thanks to Lillian Forrest of Jewell, Kansas and the National Archives I have been able to piece together the story of Thomas and Margaret Brannan Forrest. This couple started in the Tuscarora Valley of Pennsylvania and lived in New York, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. I am so grateful to have learned about them.

Patricia A Johnson

© December 2007