Military Pensions Packets from NARA

Military pensions are a gold mine for genealogists and many of the soldiers who served received a pension. The National Archives holds Federal pensions awarded to soldiers who served the United States, which excludes Confederate veterans. Confederate veterans who received a pension did so via the state government they served from, so consult the state archives to determine who received a pension and how to view it.

Pension packets frequently contain:

  1. Demographics for veteran, his service, life pre and post war
  2. Wife(s), their lives, proof of marriage, children
  3. Death certificates or proof of death for the veteran, widow and minor children
  4. Family Information Circulars (1898, 1915)
  5. FAN Club members providing affidavits concerning veterans service, health and livelihood
  6. Affidavits from personal physicians documenting health and disability
  7. Personal letters from family members regarding circumstances
  8. Tax and real estate records, documentation of assets, and annual income
  9. Requests to War Department for proof of service
  10. Requests for medical records from hospitals that treated the soldier during the war
  11. Examining Surgeon’s Certificates (exams by government physicians)

Pension packets can range in size from a small pension at approximately 20 pages to 400 pages or more!

Some pensions are available online for free at

  1. Revolutionary War pensions for soldiers who served in the Continental Line
  2. War of 1812 pensions are available online covering last names that begin with the letters A-S (remaining pensions pending resumption of the digitization effort)
  3. Civil War pensions for Union widows whose husbands died during the Civil War

How do you know if your ancestor received a military pension? The National Archives has published finding aids (indexes) that we can find on our favorite genealogy websites that assist us in determining which ancestors received a pension.

  1. “Old War Index to Pensions, 1815-1926″ based on NARA T316 is available at FamilySearch and covers pensions for Indian Wars and Mexican War service
  2. “Civil War Pensions Index 1861-1900” based on NARA T289 is available on fold3 covers pensions from the Civil War and later.
  3. “US, Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934” based on NARA T288 is available at and covers Civil War and later pensions.

A sample finding aid, or an index card, provides information needed to retrieval a pension from the National Archives looks like this one for Uriah Smeltzer who served during the Civil War.

All of the information required to retrieve your ancestors’ pension is located on this card! To order a military pension, please fill out this form, and email it to, along with a copy of the pension finding aid for your ancestor, and RumbleSoft will schedule your pension retrieval. Details on how our record retrieval process works are outlined here.