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Capt. Thomas Hart 1870s Documents Returned

You just never know when you will run across some book, photo, diary, certificate or document that should be in the hands of the rightful family. If you are were on the receiving end, getting some forgotten artifact of an ancestor you would be extremely grateful that that piece of family treasure was not lost forever.

When you do your own family history research it is very possible to come across something that really does not fit with your own family. It can happen because your relatives were collectors and were always picking up items of interest in estate sales.  Some people also go looking for what be interesting family items just so they don’t get throw away after a yard sale.  What they do is then donate the savaged items to a local museum.

This is a wonderful result especially when the donated item does fit with the local history.  However, what also happens is that artifact might not have anything to do with the local history.  What then?  This is where many museums do attempt to learn as much as possible about the item and which family anywhere in the country it belongs to.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the Stuart Heritage Museum in Florida that has been my task on several occasions. One item was a large labeled group photo of the class of 1941 for Stuart Junior High in Washington, D. C.  I first attempted to see any tie-in with residents in the Stuart, FL based on the names on the photo.  Nothing matched. Next was to see if that school still existed.  To my surprise it did and I was able to contact their principal along with an image of the larger class photo. The names matched their class rolls, but they did not have such an image in their archives. They were thrilled to have it returned to the school.

Another case were two Florida issued formal documents dated 1870 and 1877 giving a militia commission to Thomas Hart. Back then such documents were actually hand signed by the seating governors of Florida on those two dates.  I researched Thomas Hart who was from northern Florida, learning of his military experiences and his family. Eventually I figured out how the two 1870s documents made their way to southeast Florida. In 1919, Thomas’ daughter, a recent widow came to Ft. Pierce (20 miles north of Stuart) with her daughter and son-in-law to run a boarding house and a grocery store. This branch of the family remained in the area for decades until those local descendants died off by the 1990s. There was an estate sale with family artifacts also sold.  A buyer realized the value in the 1870s documents and saw that they were donated to a museum for safe keeping.

By having researched the branches of the Hart family I was able to then locate a great great granddaughter to Thomas Hart, who lived in Jacksonville Beach. Contacting her and confirming the right lineage and information, she was thrilled to receive from the museum these documents of her ancestor’s military service. They will be the incredible showpiece of an upcoming family reunion.

So if there is something that one of your relatives had that just might be an important artifact with some other family, make the effort to find them.  You would hope that same good fortune reaches you one day.

The image above is just the upper portion of the 1870 document giving Thomas Hart his Florida Militia commission.

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