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War of 1812 Pension Index Is Online!

Posted by Sean Daly on May 27, 2022
Battle of New Orleans graphic

Geneanet volunteers have completed indexing the National Archives War Of 1812 Pension Index dataset! Learn how this collection can help you locate ancestors who volunteered or were conscripted during the 1812-1815 war between the United States and Great Britain, including its colony Canada.

US Navy graphic describing the War of 1812
This graphic explains concisely the War of 1812. Credit Annalisa Underwood for the US Navy

The War of 1812 between the young United States and former colonial master Great Britain has been called the Second War of Independence — but also the Forgotten War! The US declared war to assert trade rights and to stop the Royal Navy’s practice of “impressment”, the taking of American sailors in ports and on the high seas to man British ships. Today, it is chiefly remembered for the burning of the White House and Capitol in Washington by the Redcoats in 1814 (when First Lady Dolley Madison famously organized the safeguarding of George Washington’s portrait before the destruction) and for the battle of New Orleans, fought after the two sides had signed a peace treaty but before the news arrived (!). And did you know that America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, was penned as a poem by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore?

1819 engraving by John Bower showing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry
Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became the “Star Spangled Banner” during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry near Baltimore. Engraving by John Bower c.1819, this edition c.1905, Library of Congress

Around 1960, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) created a paper card index (on the envelopes containing the full applications) of American soldiers who applied for pensions for their service after the war in case of disability (or their widows in case of death); later, acts of Congress were passed in the 1870s extending benefits to all veterans of the war. Some of these cards are rich with information for genealogists: the soldier’s name and military service information, but also the wife’s name, town of residence (some with addresses), and bounty land numbers. However, this index is above all useful for referencing the full NARA pension application file of an ancestor, which will likely be a multipage document. These are available upon request from NARA; many are available free on Fold3, an American sister site of Geneanet in the Ancestry group. For more information, visit NARA’s War of 1812 resources page and read this old but useful article there.

89,915 individuals indexed by 387 volunteers!

This collection, called at the National Archives the Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files, is part of Record Group 15 Records of the Veterans Administration (VA) and has National Archives Identifier (NAID) number 563315 and microfilm publication number M313. At Geneanet, the collection (available here) is tagged with username “gntreg43190” when you see an entry in search results. Nearly 400 members of the Geneanet community transcribed these indexes, which are searchable on Geneanet by name (or browsable by section) and appear as match hints if an ancestor with the same name and time period is added to a tree. Thank you to all our members who worked on this project!

Screenshot of an index card in the Geneanet collection
Many of the index cards are neatly typed; find these at Geneanet with a simple search on an ancestor’s name!

If you have time to spare, why not contribute to indexing one of Geneanet’s unfinished collections? Perhaps you have a collection to suggest? Visit https://en.geneanet.org/indexation/ to get started!


Find answers to your questions on our forums.

8 comments

The original NARA index card in your example contains more information than was transcribed in the Geneanet index.
Does this mean we can’t see all of the original information unless we go to NARA or Fold3?

Answer from Geneanet: Some volunteers may indeed have indexed less information than what is on the cards. However, we have found cards on Ancestry.com/Fold3 where there is less information than on Geneanet. Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to try to obtain the actual pension application that an index card refers to. These are at NARA, but not online. However, many of them are online at Fold3, and we believe they are open access.


Very interesing… anxious to connect site within a few days Thank you so very much Patti Kirk


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