This is one in a series of researching tips taken from presentations by Betty R. Darnell, a noted local historian and genealogist. These notes are copyrighted by her.
Your ancestor may have served in the military and may have received a pension, if he was age 18-40 at time of service; frequently, soldiers were much younger or much older.
|Born about:||May have served in:|
|1735-1765||Revolutionary War (1775-1783)|
|1808-1898||Interim Militia (1808-1898)|
|1772-1797||War of 1812 (1812-1815)|
|1792-1814||Black Hawk War (Apr-Sep 1832)|
|1797-1820||Mormon War (1837-1838)|
|1796-1824||Seminole War (1836-1842)|
|1806-1830||Mexican War (1846-1848)|
|1821-1847||Civil War (1861-1865)|
|1836-1858||Sioux Indian War (1876)|
|1858-1880||Spanish-American War (1898)|
The pension record may include: the veteran's address, age, birthplace, and date of birth; date and place of enlistment and discharge; rank, company, and commanding officer; physical description; occupation; date and circumstances of any disability resulting from service; date and place of his marriage; names and dates of birth of his children; addresses since his discharge; his signature; and his date and place of death.
On 26 Aug 1776, Congress authorized pensions for invalid officers and soldiers; on 10 Apr 1806, invalid pensions were extended to volunteers, militia and state troops. In 1813, military records and pension applications were burned, during the War of 1812. On 7 June 1832, pensions were authorized for all Revolutionary soldiers and sailors, and their widows and orphans.
The New Albany-Floyd County (Indiana) Library now has Revolutionary War pension application files, on microfilm. Or, you can order pension application files on microfilm, and print copies, at the Family History Center on Hurstbourne Lane in Louisville. You'll need the pension file number, from Virgil White's abstracts (see book list). The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Library in Louisville has the "select" pension files on microfilm. The select files include the ten pages that the National Archives staff deemed as the most informational.
At the 1840 census, a list of pensioners was included, to determine how much money to allocate for pensions. An index for the pensioners can be accessed at this link.
This series includes pension applications for those who were disabled or killed while serving in any war after the close of the Revolutionary War and before the start of the Civil War. Pensions were authorized for veterans of the War of 1812 still living in 1871.
Veterans of the many Indian Wars (1817-1858) received pensions from 1892 to 1926.
Pensions for veterans of the Mexican War, and their widows, were authorized in 1887; applications were accepted until 1926.
Books at Ridgway Library, Shepherdsville (Genealogical Section):
These books by George K. Schweitzer are very helpful:
Books at larger libraries, as Kentucky Historical Society Library, Filson Historical Society:
The U. S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a safe and secure Web server, from which you can order Federal Military pension application files, with a credit card. (Remember that this does NOT include Confederate pension records, which are held by the state.)
To order by postal mail, you'll need National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) Form 85 for ordering federal pension records. You'll need one form for each ancestor; they will not accept photocopies of the forms. Forms can be requested by mail, from
Old Military and Civil Records (NWCTB-Pension)
Textual Archives Services Division
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20408-0001
or forms can be ordered from the website.
To complete the form:
Check whether you want the Full Pension Application File ($37), or the Pension Documents Packet ($14.75), which contains 8 documents that contain information about the pension applicant. Not all of these documents will be found in every file. The package will include any of the following items that are in the file: (1) declaration of pension; (2) declaration of widow's pension; (3) Adjutant General statements of service, (4) questionnaires completed by applicants, (5) "Pension Dropped" cards, (6) marriage certificates, (7) death certificates, (8) discharge certificate. They will not provide a count of the remaining pages.
The required minimum identification of the veteran: his name (last, first, middle), branch of service (Army or Navy), state from which he served, war in which he served.
Additional information, especially important if your ancestor has a common name: date and place of birth, date and place of death, name of widow, places veteran lived after service.
You can pay with a credit card, or they will bill you, and hold the file until payment is received. The process might take about 8 weeks.
There is no charge if a file is not found.