Thursday, April 7, 2016

Research Tip: Revolutionary War Pension Applications

When you are researching an Indiana ancestor, you may not think of the Revolutionary War. The Northwest Territory, which Indiana would be formed from was not even created until 1787, some 4 years after the end of the Revolutionary War, and no battles were fought in the area. But that doesn't mean that those who settled Indiana were not Revolutionary War veterans. And as with the Civil War, whether the application was approved or not, there can be lots of details and genealogy proof provided in the application file.

Beginning with the Continental Congress during the war, a series of laws were passed concerning who was eligible to apply for a military pension for their Revolutionary War service:

  • August 26, 1776 - half pay for life for officers and enlisted men who were disabled.
  • May 15, 1778 - half pay for 7 years for officers who were in service at the end of the war (enlisted men who were in service at the end of the war got a $80 bonus instead of a pension). This law was amended on October 21, 1780 to half pay for life, but was amended again on March 22, 1783 to full pay for 5 years.
  • August 27, 1780 - half pay for 7 years to widows & orphans of officers who were in service at the end of the war.
  • April 10, 1806 - existing laws were extended to include veterans of state units and militia service.
  • March 18, 1818 - pension for life if you had served for at least 9 months, or had been in service at the end of the war. NOTE: This marked the first time that eligibility was expanded to include those who had suffered no disability or death, and it resulted in a large number of pension applications.
  • May 15, 1828 - full pay for life to officers and enlisted men who had served until the end of the war.
  • June 7, 1832 - full pay for life to officers & enlisted men who had served at least 2 years. If you had served between 6 months and 2 years, you would get less than full pay. Also, any last payment that was due to the pensioner at the time of their death could be collected by his widow or orphans. NOTE: This produced the most pension applications out of all the laws.
  • July 4, 1836 - using the eligibility of the 1832 law, a widow who had married the veteran before the end of his service could now apply to receive all of his pension.
  • July 7, 1838 - if a widow had married the veteran before January 1, 1794, they could receive a pension for 5 years.
  • July 29, 1848 - full pension for life for a widow if they were married before January 2, 1800.
  • February 3, 1853 & February 28, 1855 - all restrictions on marriage dates were removed for widows.
  • March 9, 1878 - widows of soldiers who had served a minimum of 14 days, or been involved in any engagement, were eligible for life pensions. NOTE: This law was passed over 100 years after the beginning of the Revolutionary War; as such, it pertained mostly to younger women who had married much older veterans.
The Revolutionary War pension application files have been microfilmed by the National Archives. Their microfilm series M804 totals 2,680 reels. This microfilm has been digitized by and is available to subscribers in their database, U.S. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900. The digital images are also available to subscribers of The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne and the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library have all 2,680 reels for in-person visits.

For IGS Members:

The Military Records section of the IGS Members-Only area includes databases about Indiana residents who received pensions in 1818, 1828, and 1835, as well as those who were denied pensions in 1839.
From Henry Van Dalsem's Revolutionary War pension file. He applied from Fayette County, Indiana. Image from Fold3.

No comments:

Post a Comment