Monday, May 12, 2014

Pension Applications vs. Pension Application Files

For a long time, I was under the impression that a pension application index card was "all there was".  In other words, when I saw this...
War of 1812, Pension Index Card for Hawkins Bowman,
...I assumed that was all there was.  Don't get me had some great genealogical data; Nancy's maiden name, marriage date and location, death date of Hawkins, and death date of Nancy.  These dates were important because there were no death records or marriage record to be found!

But what I didn't realize was that there was SO MUCH MORE!  So where do you get it?  You can find it one of two ways.  Typically, you would use this information, along with the numbers you see on the left of the card, to order the packet from the National Archives.  The website is and you will want to fill out form number 85 if you are interested in service between the years of 1775-1903.  There is a charge of about $30.00 for this information.  It will take up to 90 days for you to receive your packet in the mail, however, if you are a member of Fold3, you might be in luck.

Fold3 is a website that is dedicated to putting military records online.  The cost is about $79.00/year for a subscription.  Many libraries and also most Family History Centers have this website available to their patrons.

I was fortunate to find my Hawkins Bowman's pension packet online at Fold3.  The packet held 26 pages.

This page gives me a calculated birth year of 1791, stating he was 64 years old when he appeared before the judge in 1855.  It further gives the location of where he enlisted as a substitute.  I had never found where in Tennessee he had lived, so when Elizabeth, Carter County, Tennessee was mentioned, I was excited!

A page from the War of 1812, Pension Application file for Hawkins Bowman,

One of the forms filled out had a reference made that Hawkins was within his community "called part Indian", five foot nine inches and dark complected.

From yet another document within the file, I read that Hawkins died on the farm of James Brittain where he and wife Nancy were living.  And lastly was this little gem, an affidavit from Moses Middleton giving the death date of Hawkins, stating where he died and that Moses himself had shaved and prepared his body for burial.

A page from War of 1812, pension application file for Hawkins Bowman
Information within a packet is not only in regards to the soldier.  Following is the page that informed the court of Nancy's death on 11 Aug 1887.

A page from War of 1812, Pension application file for Hawkins Bowman

Whether the pension application file can be found on Fold3 or you order it; I don't think you will be disappointed!  In my case, birth, marriage, and death records are almost non existent in this locale. It is likely that this pension application file is the only surviving source of information for Hawkins and Nancy's marriage, residence, and death dates and locations.

Take some time to research your own families pension application files.  I hope you are as lucky as I was!

Read more about genealogy tips you can use to break down brick walls in your research:
"Genealogy Facebook Frenzy is Breaking Down Walls"
"What is a Hashtag and How do I use it for Genealogy"
"Hidden Marriage Record: Finished Family Line Part II"

1 comment:

  1. I Just got the Pension application forms for my great grandfather John Hess it is very interesting. It was 8 pages and cost $30.00 Larry Hess


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