Revolutionary War Pension Records and Bounty Land Warrants
The first pension law in 1776 granted half-pay for life to soldiers disabled in the service and unable to earn a living. The first pension law based on service was passed in 1818, but it was later amended to make eligible only those soldiers unable to earn a living. The pension act of 1832 allowed pensions again based on service and made widows of veterans also eligible to receive pension benefits. Fires in 1800 destroyed the earliest Revolutionary War pension application records. As a result, pension application papers on file at the National Archives begin after 1800. Certain pension records predating 1800 survive in the form of Congressional reports and other legislation. Reports available are arranged by state; they give name, rank, regiment, description of wounds, and disability; they also give information regarding pension, place of residence, and physical fitness. (FHL film 0944495.)
The National Archives has pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows, and other heirs. The pension records are based on service in the armed forces of the United States between 1775 and 1916. Application files often contain supporting documents such as discharge papers, affidavits, depositions of witnesses, narratives of events during service, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, pages from family bibles, and other supporting papers. Pension files usually provide the most genealogical information for researchers.
Categories of pension/bounty land files available using NATF Form 85:
- A complete Federal pre-Civil War military pension application based on Federal military service before 1861 (includes the Pension Documents Packet.)
- A pension document packet that contains reproductions of eight documents containing genealogical information about the pension applicant, to the extent these documents are present in the file.
- A complete miltary bounty land application file based on service 1775-1855 (includes only rejected Revolutionary War applications).
These pension files are located on the following films:
- Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800–1900. National Archives Microfilm Publication M804. (On 2,670 FHL films beginning with 0970001.) The files are alphabetically arranged.
- NARA Publication M804 pension and bounty land indexes and digital images are available online at Heritage Quest Online ($) and Footnote ($). Heritage Quest images are limited to 10 pages per file. Compilers selected what they felt were the most siginificant 10 pages of the file. Footnote images are of the complete file. Both these databases are available to patrons at the FHL in Salt Lake. Heritage Quest is available to patrons of many local library systems.
- Index to Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives. Special Publication Number 40. Revised. and enl. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 1976. (FHL book 973 M22ng.) This index contains the name of the veteran and or the widow with the state and pension or bounty land warrant number.
- White, Virgil D. Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files. Four Volumes. Waynesboro, Tennessee: National Historical Publishing, 1990–92. (FHL book 973 M28g.) Some entries in this work have cross-references to the Virginia half-pay claims, state pensions, and state bounty lands. Volume four indexes the abstracts. This includes an every-name index for 350,000 names.
- Ancestry, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library [complete file]
- Footnote, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library [complete file]
- Heritage Quest, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library and the Family History Centers [select records in each file]
The 1835 Pension Roll (covers 27 states and one district) is available online at various websites. A WeRelate source page leads researchers to various editions of this resource.
Related Manuscript Collections
- Ledgers of Payments, 1818–1872, to U.S. Pensioners Under Acts of 1818 through 1858, from Records of the Third Auditor of the Treasury. National Archives Microfilm Publication T718. (FHL films 1319381–403.) These pension payment volumes record payments to Revolutionary War veterans and others. The records are arranged by pension act, then by pension agency, and then alphabetically by the first letter of the veterans’ surnames. Entries list name, pension agency, record of payments made, death date, and the date of the final payment made to heirs. To find specific microfilm numbers, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
UNITED STATES - MILITARY RECORDS - PENSIONS
- U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrants Used in the U.S. Military District of Ohio and Related Papers (Acts of 1788, 1803, 1806). National Archives Microfilm Publication M829. (FHL films 1025141–56.)
To find specific microfilm numbers, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
OHIO - LAND AND PROPERTY
- Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996. (FHL 973 R2bo.) Index includes name, state of service, rank, date of record, and acreage.
- Smith, Clifford Neal. Federal Land Series. Volume 2, 1799–1835. Federal Bounty Land Warrants of the American Revolution. Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association, 1973. (FHL 973 R23s, vol. 2; fiche 6087454.) Entries include name and rank of veteran, land warrant numbers, range and township, quarter township and lot numbers, date of register entry and source of information, and number of acres.
- Virginia Half Pay and Other Related Revolutionary War Pension Application Files. National Archives Microfilm Publication M910. (FHL films 1024434–42.) Records include the name; rank; amount of pension; death date; widow and children, if any; pension file number; some dates for wife and children, especially date of death of wife, and so on. Contains 279 pension application files.
- Clark, Murtie June, compiler. The Pension Lists of 1792–1795. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991. (FHL book 973 M2cmj.) Contains transcriptions of congressional reports for 1792 to 1795. Some entries list name, rank, regiment or company, and residence, and include remarks. Other pre-1800 pension-related records are also included.
- The Pension Roll of 1835. Four Volumes. 1835. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992. (FHL book 973 M24ua; fiche 6046995.) For a description look under “Pension Records,” in the “Types of Military Records” section of this.
- United States War Department. Letter from the Secretary of War Transmitting a Report of . . . Every Person Placed on the Pension List of 1820. Reprinted with index as The Pension List of 1820. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991. (FHL book 973 M2ulp; film 0874189 item 1; fiche 6046612.) Arranged by state, then alphabetically by name. Lists rank and service of the soldier.
- Military Records: Pre-WWI Pension Applications (16 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, 2010.
FamilySearch Historical Record Collections
An online collection containing this record is located in FamilySearch.org.
A wiki article describing this collection is found at: