Friday, May 21, 2010

NARA - Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files #1

Perhaps the most genealogically rich records for this period are the pension application files in the records of the Veterans Administration (Record Group 15). There are two primary series of pension application files that relate to War of 1812 veterans. The first series ("Old Wars") consists of pensions to veterans of the army, navy, and Marine Corps based on service resulting in death or disability from the end of the Revolutionary War period up to the Civil War. The files include not only information about the veteran's service but also are likely to contain family information such as children's names and data about the widow's maiden name and marriage. The records are arranged alphabetically by veteran and can be accessed by using the name index that has been microfilmed as Old War Index to Pension Files (T316, 7 rolls). The index also indicates the veteran's name, unit, and state from which the claim was made, and type of claimant, whether widow, child, or other heir. Related records (YI), also arranged alphabetically, pertain to navy and Marine Corps veterans.
Pension application files for most War of 1812 veterans, however, will be found in the second series of pension files, i.e., those based on the acts of 1871 and 1878. These acts, based on length of service alone, relate mostly to militia veterans called to federal service. The 1871 act provided pensions to veterans who had served at least sixty days or to their widows if they had married before 1815. The 1878 act provided pensions to those veterans, or their widows, who only served fourteen days.  By the time these acts were passed, most applicants were widows or minors rather than veterans themselves. A typical file usually contains the soldier or widow's application file, a statement of service usually provided by the Pension Bureau, and other papers prepared by the Third Auditor's Office. Of the two, the widow or minor's application is potentially the richest in genealogical information. This is because the widow had to provide proof of marriage, including the date or place of marriage, and usually the maiden name.  Important data about marriages before 1815 found in some of the files may not be available anywhere else. Interfiled among these pensions in some cases are some bounty land application files.  While the pension files are not on microfilm, an informative index showing much data has been microfilmed as Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files (M313, 102 rolls). Supplementing the index is a remarried widow's card index, which covers the period 1816 - 1860.  The alphabetically arranged index cards show the new remarried name of the veteran's widow and the former veteran's name.

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