Several months ago I wrote about military service records. There is another type of record created from military service: Veteran benefit records.
Veteran benefit records usually provide more information than military service records. Veterans, widows of veterans, and dependants of veterans could have filed for a military pension. The pension file includes a variety of documents depending on the time period. The pension application with the supporting documents and the periodic questionnaires are usually the most valuable to genealogical research. These documents often contain information about military service that is not contained in the military service file, Bible records for proof of age, information about family relationships, and details about where the veteran has lived since leaving military service.
For example, the pension file for Civil War veteran Rodney Brown contained a list of his children with exact date and place of birth; names of his two wives with marriage details; date and place of death for his first wife; affidavits from family and friends about his life before, during, and after the war; and a list of places with dates of where he had lived since being discharged from the Army.
Pension claims were often rejected. Those files contain many of the same items as the accepted claims. They are stored with the accepted claims and are available to researchers.
Veteran benefit records before World War I are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The following abbreviated list will help in the search for these records:
The records available are the Pension Application and Bounty Land Application Files. Most of these records are available on microfilm at NARA. Indexes are also available for this time period.
HeritageQuest (www.heritagequest.com) has digitized NARA publication M805 Selected Records from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications. The Web site may be accessed through the public library using your library card number. Footnote (www.footnote.com), an online paid subscription service, has digitized NARA publication M804 Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
Post Revolutionary War–1784-1811
The pension records will be found under the "Old World" Series pension files. This series has not been microfilmed, but a microfilmed consolidated index is available. Bounty-Land files have not been microfilmed.
War of 1812
An index is available on microfilm for pensions and Bounty-Land application files. The records have not been microfilmed.
Indian Wars and Mexican War
Both of these wars have pension file indexes. They might also be found in the "Old War" series of pension files. There are no indexes for Bounty-Land Warrant Applications file. The records have not been microfilmed.
Union veterans: The indexes are part of the "Civil War and later" series. The alphabetical index is NARA publication T288, and the index by unit is NARA publication T289. Ancestry (www.ancestry.com) has the alphabetical index, and Footnote (www.footnote.com) has the unit index. The records have not been microfilmed.
Confederate veterans: Pensions were not granted by the Federal Government to Confederate soldiers. Pensions were sometimes granted by individual states. Check the state archives where the veteran resided.
Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion, Mexican Expedition
All are in "Civil War and Later" series index of pension files. The records have not been microfilmed.
Veteran benefit records before World War I, may be ordered from NARA, Washington, D. C. using NATF 85: Pension and Bounty-Land files as follows:
They may also be ordered online at https://eservices.archives.gov/orderonline.
To order veteran pension files World War I and after, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIC) request form must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
State Pension Records
For some wars, individual states granted pensions. Check for the records at the state archives or state pension agency.
Veteran benefit records contain a wealth of genealogical information. They provide a window into the veteran's life. If you don't have your ancestors veteran benefit records, they should be added to your list of records to obtain.