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Little Known Facts in Pension Applications

Military pension records are often overlooked in the research process, but they can contain a wealth of information about your ancestor.


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Military pension records are often overlooked in the research process, but they can contain a wealth of information about your ancestor. One reason people do not always use the pension is that the veteran had died before the pensions were obtainable. The key to remember is that if the widow lived until the point the pension was offered, she could file for the pension.

It is a good idea to research the history of the area where you ancestor lived. Look at your ancestor's date of birth and see if it matches any military service. It is important to remember that in the early wars, age was not the factor it is today. Young men, sometimes age fourteen, joined as well as older men in their fifties and sixties. It is worth the effort to track your ancestor's possibility of serving in a military engagement.

Evidence of identity and proof of military service were the components for early pension "then moved to another place.

If a widow applied, she had to provide proof of the marriage. This is where a researcher may hit a gold mine. Sometimes, although not always the case, pages from the family Bible, marriage certificates and other legal documents may be found in the military records as proof for the pension. This documentation, if included, may prove invaluable in your research.

A question regarding marriage on the Creek Indian War of 1836 pensions led me to find information about my great-great-great-grandmother's first marriage. She had married my ancestor, Jesse Fowler when she was Henrietta Gilly, in 1837 in Crawford County, Georgia. Jesse Fowler had mustered into service for the Creek Indian War in 1836 in Muscogee County, Georgia. I could not locate a Gilly family anywhere that matched for Henrietta's age. In the pension application she submitted as a widow in 1896 in Taylor County, Georgia, she stated that her first husband, Hardy Gilly, had been kicked by a horse and killed. This piece of information led me to finding her place of birth.

Sometimes pension files may include receipts or payment stubs to the veteran. Medical conditions were often listed in the pension files. A physical description was often included. I found out from the pension application that his widow, Henrietta, had filed that Jesse Fowler had black hair, blue eyes and stood five feet six inches tall. Oftentimes, the names of the surviving children at the time of the application were listed, along with their residence at the time.

The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Union veterans of the Civil War pensions will be found at NARA. A researcher may order these forms directly from the NARA website at

Often pensions were paid by the state government, as is the case with the Creek Indian War of 1836. Some Revolutionary War state pensions were also paid. If you are researching soldiers from the South during the Civil War, you will need to go to the state archives.

Each state has a separate archives. These may be located through or by entering the name of the state with the word "archives" through a search or by using a similar search engine. The interesting fact is that quite often additional information may be found in the state pension records.

Don't forget to search for military records when you are doing your family history. They may yield some surprising and quite helpful information.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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