The National Archives has many noncurrent records of benefits to veterans, their widows, and other heirs. They relate to military, naval, and marine service performed between 1775 and 1934, exclusive of Confederate and World War I service. The benefits included pensions, rights to land, special naval awards, and domiciliary care, The records consist of pension application records, pension payment records, 1bounty-land warrant application records, 2claims files for special naval awards, and records of Federal homes. Each kind of record is described below.


Pensions were granted by Congress to invalid or disabled veterans; to widows and orphans of men who were killed or died in service; to veterans who served a minimum period of time if they were living at an advanced age; to widows of veterans who served a minimum period of time if the widows were living at an advanced age; and, in some instances, to other heirs. Pensions granted on the basis of death or disability incurred in service are known as death or disability pensions. Pensions granted on the basis of service for a minimum period of time are called service pensions.

The acts of Congress under which applications for pensions were made are numerous. They include public acts which affected large groups of persons and private acts which affected specific individuals.

Each claim for a pension was normally based upon a single act of Congress. A claims file consists of the application of the claimant, supporting documents of identity and service, and evidence of the action taken on the claim. There were often two or more claims relating to the service of the same veteran in the same war. For example, a veteran might apply for a pension and, after his death, his widow might apply for a pension on the basis of the same service. A file showing that a surviving widow applied for a pension has normally more information than a veteran's file and is identified by the use of the letter "W" as the first part of the file number.

Initially the documents relating to an individual claim were folded and placed in an annotated jacket. Later these documents were flattened and filed with the jacket in one or more large envelopes. The jacket, now obsolete as a container, was kept because of the annotations on it. The envelopes with their contents are called pension application files. Consolidated with the documents relating to an original claim and in the same envelope or envelopes are the documents, if any, relating to later pension claims based on the same service. In addition, some bounty-land warrant application files and some final payment vouchers have been consolidated with the related pension application files. The number and nature of documents in a file vary considerably.

The pension application files in the National Archives number many millions. They are divided into the following major series: (1) Revolutionary War invalid series; (2) Revolutionary War service series; (3) "Old Wars" series; (4) War of 1812 series; (5) Mexican War series; (6) Civil War and Later series; and (7) Indian wars series. These records are described separately below.

The records in all the above-mentioned series except those for the Mexican War, the Civil War and later, and the Indian wars are arranged alphabetically by name of veteran. The excepted series are arranged numerically by application or certificate number. All series of pension application files have alphabetical name indexes. There is also a 3" x 5" card index known as the Remarried Widows Index, which is useful in identifying files in all series except those relating to service in the Revolutionary War.

The Remarried Widows Index is in two parts: One covers records relating to claims based on service in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Indian wars, and the Regular Establishment before 1861; the other covers records relating to claims based on service in the Civil War and later wars, World War I excepted, and in the Regular Establishment after the Civil War.

Both parts of the Remarried Widows Index are arranged alphabetically by the name of the remarried widow. In addition to the name of the remarried widow, each card gives the name of the veteran who was her former husband, the designation of the military or naval unit with which he served, and the file or certificate number.

1The pension payment records include the Revolutionary War final payment vouchers that are in part consolidated with the Revolutionary War service series of pension application records described under "Pension Application Records."

2Most of the Revolutionary War bounty- land warrant application records and some War of 1812 bounty-land warrant application records are consolidated or interfiled with the related pension application records.

Continue Archives Booklet section on "Invalid Series"

This information is taken from, and thanks to: "Guide to Genealogical Records in the National Archives" M.B. Colket, Jr. & F.E. Bridges, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 022-002-00016-3, 1964.  Despite our oft harsh words for our government, this booklet is provided without copyright, courtesy of our taxpayer dollars.  Errors in transcribing are my own.

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This digitization and all subsequent modification is Copyright ©  1999, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy.  However, this digitization and all subsequent modification is copyrighted by Dr. Frank O. Clark and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.