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.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NARA - Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files #2

Although the process is somewhat involved, it is sometimes possible for a researcher to determine when a pension payment was last paid to a veteran or his heir. Among Veterans Administration records are the field record books (1805 - 1912), which can be used to determine when pension payments were made and when they stopped. To extract such information, one must know under which act a veteran was entitled to receive a pension and the city where the agency was located paying the pensioner. The search can be time-consuming, but information indicating the pensioner's date and place of death could be the reward.
War of 1812 veterans, and later their widows and heirs, could also apply for bounty land under the act of May 6, 1812, and a variety of subsequent federal laws. Most veterans were entitled to 160 acres, but in a few cases some received 320 acres, called double-bounties. Until 1842, the land lay within the states of Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri, and until 1852 the land was not transferable. A typical bounty land application warrant file contains the veteran's name, age, unit, residence, period of service, and if applicable, the widow's (or heir's) name, age, and place of residence. Applications for bounty land claimed under different legislative acts will be filed under a single veteran's name. In many cases, bounty application files from regular army, navy, and Marine Corps veterans consist only of a discharge certificate. These files are arranged alphabetically by name of veteran, but they are unindexed. Researchers of these files should search the pension files in addition to searching the more numerous bounty land files. Less informative are the actual bounty land warrants, which were not issued to the veteran or his heirs. They do show, however, where the land to which the veteran was entitled was located and the date and name of the person to whom the land was given. Since many veterans sold their rights to bounty land to other persons, their names do not appear on many of the warrants. The warrants have been filmed on War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815 - 1858 (M848, 14 rolls).