United States Navy Widows' Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.

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Record Description

This collection is an index to approximately 20,000 pension application files of widows and other dependents of U.S. Navy veterans who served between 1861 and 1910. The applications are commonly referred to as "Navy Widows' Certificates.” Prior to approval, applications were termed "originals." When claims were approved, a new file number was issued, and the records were referred to as "certificates." This collection corresponds to “NARA publication M1279: Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans, ('Navy Widows' Certificates'), 1861-1910.” The index is arranged alphabetically and numerically.

This is an index to the Widows’ Certificates Collection, which was compiled from documents submitted by applicants (which include proof of their relationships to the veterans) and also from records created by the government (such as requests for documentation, certificates, or more information). The information in this index is quite reliable. However, keep in mind that even though this index is very accurate it still may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings or misinterpretations.

Record Content

Information found in this collection may include:

  • Navy veteran’s full name
  • Rank and rate of pay
  • Pay commenced on what date
  • Name of wife and children
  • Petitioner's full name
  • Petitioner's relationship to veteran
  • Application number
  • Certificate number

How to Use the Record

To begin your search it is helpful to know

  • Your ancestor’s full name
  • Identifying information such as names of spouse and children

Search the Collection

list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Add this new information to your records. If you want to find further information about your ancestor, the pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records. For example:

  • Use death dates to look for death certificates, mortuary records, or burial records.
  • Use the age to calculate an approximate birth date.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have been seeking the pension.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

Keep in mind that this is only an index to applications that were approved by the government. There are other case files at the National Archives and Records Administration (publication M1274 and M1391) that contain the applications that were rejected for various reasons.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Related Websites

National Archives Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Navy Veterans

Related Wiki Articles

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citations for This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation

"United States Navy Widows' Certificates, 1861-1910." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2015. Citing "Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans (Navy Widows' Certificates), 1861-1910." Fold3.com. http://www.fold3.com.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for United States Navy Widows' Certificates, 1861-1910.


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  • This page was last modified on 26 August 2015, at 20:21.
  • This page has been accessed 3,593 times.