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20 March 2013

What's Hiding In Your Relative's Pension File?

If your ancestor, widow, or minor children, received a military pension, those records could contain a wide variety of information. This could include details of their vital statistics, migration, associations, economic status, family relationships, and business associations. If your ancestor was in a war that later resulted in pension benefits for veterans and you've not checked out those records, you could really be missing out.


  1. What would be a good source to use when searching for pension files? I'm trying to find one for Elias J Johnson who served in the 114th Infantry in Illinois during the Civil War.

    I found something from the Pension Index on Ancestry (from the National Archives and Records Database) but it only lists his widow's name and the dates she filed for the pension. I see nothing in regards to vital records or other family relationships.

  2. That other information will only be in the file itself and the amount of information in the file can vary greatly. The index cards to which you refer were only meant to be finding aids for clerks within the pension bureau to find the appropriate file.

  3. I couldn't help but laugh when I reading the application of a destitute Confederate -- "If you have any more questions, we have a telephone." If he was so poor, how could he afford the telephone in the early 1900's?

  4. I laughed at the title of this post. I have a copy of a pension application by my husband's 2nd great grandmother. The file is very thick because it turns out that her husband did not use his "real" name to join the Army (or to get married). The Army spent a lot of time and money to track down the other identity the widow was aware of. They could not find it either. Instead of identifying my husband's 2nd great grandfather, the pension file just hides him a little deeper.

  5. I found a treasurer in my 2nd great grandmother pension file.
    Her first husband my 2nd great grandfather died while serving in the civil war and she remarried. I could never find the date or place of his death, and had given up hope of every finding it.
    Then i found where she had filed for a pension under her second husbands name as he had also served in the civil war. In those records was a letter that her first husbands brother had written with information on when and where he died, he was taken to a hospital in VA as he was ill and had given out on the road. I contacted the cemetery in that area and since he was the first solider to died there they also had a obituary from the local paper. They do not know where he is buried as their is no marker but are sure he is there.