The Bullitt County History Museum

Military Pensions
by Betty R. Darnell

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:
1735-1765Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
1808-1898Interim Militia (1808-1898)
1772-1797War of 1812 (1812-1815)
1792-1814Black Hawk War (Apr-Sep 1832)
1797-1820Mormon War (1837-1838)
1796-1824Seminole War (1836-1842)
1806-1830Mexican War (1846-1848)
1821-1847Civil War (1861-1865)
1836-1858Sioux Indian War (1876)
1858-1880Spanish-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.

Revolutionary War

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.

Old Wars (1789 to 1861: War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War)

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.

Civil War

Pension records for Union soldiers can be obtained from the National Archives; pensions for Confederate soldiers were issued by the state, and can be obtained from the state archives. Kentucky Confederate Pension records are on microfilm at the Kentucky Historical Society Library, and at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. The best site to find Civil War Soldiers is the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS). The site is hosted by the National Park Service, at this link.


Books at Ridgway Library, Shepherdsville (Genealogical Section):

  • Revolutionary Soldiers in Kentucky, Anderson Chenault Quisenberry, 1985 (973.3 REVO)
  • Kentucky Pension Roll of 1835 (929.3 KENT)
  • A Census of Pensioners [Revolutionary War and Indian War Pensioners in the 1840 Census], 1967 (929.3 CENS)
  • Virginia/West Virginia Genealogical Data from Rev. War Pension Records, Patrick G. Wardell, 1988 (929.3 VIRG)
  • Index to Mexican War Pension Applications, Barbara Schull Wolfe, 1985 (973.6 WOLF)
  • vConfederate Pensioners of Kentucky, 1912-1946, abstracted by Stephen Douglas Lynn, 2000 (929.3 LYNN)
  • Inventory of Confederate Pension Applications, Kentucky, Alice Simpson, 1978 (929.3 KENT)
  • Inventory of Confederate Pension Applications, Ky., Supplementary Index, Michael L. Cook, 1979 (929.3 KENT)
  • Report of Adjutant General of State of Ky., Civil War 1861-65, Union Volunteers, 1979 (973.7 KENT, 2 vols.)
  • Report of Adjutant General of State of Ky., Civil War 1861-65, Confederate Volunteers, 1979 (973.7 KENT, 2 vols.)
  • Report of Adjutant General of State of Ky., Soldiers of War of 1812, 1891 (973.7 KENT)

These books by George K. Schweitzer are very helpful:

  • Revolutionary Genealogy
  • War of 1812 Genealogy
  • Civil War Genealogy

Books at larger libraries, as Kentucky Historical Society Library, Filson Historical Society:

  • Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Virgil D. White, 1990, 4 vols.
  • Index to Old Wars Pension Files, Virgil D. White, 1987, 2 vols.
  • Index to Mexican War Pension Files, Virgil D. White, 1989.
  • Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926, Virgil D. White, 1987, 2 vols.

Ordering from the National Archives

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.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 08 Sep 2020 . Page URL: