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History of Old Soldiers Homes
In 1811 Congress approved a national home for disabled Navy veterans, but construction did not start until 1827. The Naval Home in the Philadelphia Naval Yard was first occupied in 1834. Homes for the Army were also proposed in 1827, but not approved until 1851 after the Mexican War, and again in 1865 after the Civil War. Veterans were eligible for admittance if they were honorably discharged; had served in the regular, volunteer, or militia forces mustered into federal service; were disabled and without support; and were unable to earn a living. By the late 1920s the system had expanded to include 16 federal veterans homes. Most national homes were officially known as a branch National Military Home, and informally called an Old Soldiers Home. In 1930 the national homes were combined with other agencies to form the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veteran Affairs. In many cases veterans homes were converted to veterans hospitals after World War II.
In addition, 38 states established at least 43 similar state-run homes between 1865 and 1941 for military veterans, or their widows, or orphans.
For more detailed histories, especially of National Military Homes, see:
- the Wikipedia article National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
- Trevor K. Plante, "The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers," Prologue: Journal of the National Archives, Spring 2004, vol. 36, No. 1. [FHL Book 973 B2p].
Soldier home registers are typically divided into three main sections: (1) military, (2) domestic, and (3) home, along with some general remarks. The military section includes information such as enlistment, rank, company, regiment, and discharge. The domestic section includes the veteran’s birthplace, age, height, religion, occupation, residence, marital status, and name and address of nearest relative. The home section includes the veteran’s rate of pension, date of admission to the home, discharge, death date, and burial place.
Some reports published by the Board of Managers for the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers contain alphabetical rosters of soldiers. The rosters provide name, rank, company, organization, length of service, war, pension rate, birthplace, admission date, age when admitted, and status (including death date).
Finding the Records
The following table lists the location of old soldier homes, Internet information, and known manuscript (Ms) collections about the homes. For additional records ask at nearby museums, if any. Some old soldier home records may have ended up at their respective state archives.
The Family History Library has microfilms of the following:
- Registers of Veterans at National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866–1937. (On 282 FHL films starting with 1546167.) The registers are indexed individually by the name of the veteran for each home. Upon admission each veteran was given a number. The registers are arranged numerically by these numbers. To find specific microfilm numbers, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- UNITED STATES - MILITARY RECORDS.
Many states also maintained soldier homes as well. The Family History Library also has records for some state homes, including:
- Georgia Index to registers of inmates of the Confederate Soldiers Home of Georgia (2 FHL fillms 1445835-36)
- Louisiana Register books, 1884-1934; index, 1905-1944 (5 FHL films beginning with 1685399 Items 5-6)
- Michigan Applications for admission, 1885-1960 (75 FHL films beginning with 925040), and Historical register of inhabitants, 1885-1927 (10 FHL films beginning with 925039)
- Ohio Admission records of veterans of wartime United States military service, 1888-1919 (8 FHL films starting with 928927)
- Missouri Confederate pension applications and soldiers' home admission applications (27 FHL films starting with 1021101)
- Pennsylvania Philadelphia soldier's home records, 1866-1883 (FHL film 1032842 Items 4-6), and Pennsylvania soldiers and sailors homes, 1864-1872 (FHL film 1032842 Item 3)
- Tennessee Judith A. Strange, The Tennessee Confederate Soldier's Home : marching out of the mist into the light, roster one and roster two, The Tennessee Confederate Veterans' Home (Goodlettsville, Tenn.: Tennessee Tracers, 1996) [FHL book 976.8 M2s].
- Texas Roster of the residents of the Texas Confederate Old Soldier's Home in Austin, Texas (FHL film 1689628)
- Virginia Applications for admission, 1884-1941 (40 FHL films beginning with 2026354), and Registers of residents, 1885-1939 (FHL film 2109655 Items 1 - 3)
- Cyndi's List Veterans' or Soldiers' Homes