Tracing Immigrants Arrival Pensions
A pension is money paid to an individual (or surviving relatives) on a regular basis because of his or her past service or employment. It is most often given after retirement and meeting specific conditions (usually age and years of service). This group of records is distinctive because of these conditions. Because age was a factor, the applicant had to provide proof of birth. When the benefit went to a pensioner's heir, the heir had to prove his or her relationship. Thus, many pension files contain pages torn from family Bibles, original marriage certificates, or affidavits from family and friends documenting the vital events of the pensioner's life and that of his or her family. These files are sometimes the only place you can find this information.
Although many countries have granted land or pensions for military service since the late eighteenth century, most pension records are a relatively modern record type. (See the “Military Records” section of this portal.) Pension records of private and public companies can be very informative, but they are generally available only since the early 1900s. You must usually contact the company or successor company to get copies of pension records.
Social Security and Government Pensions. Most modern federal governments provide some kind of pension to many of their citizens. In the United States, the Social Security Act, passed in 1935, provides this. Many early applicants were born between 1850 and 1880. In general, the application form provides the date of the application, the name and address of the applicant and the employer, the applicant's birth date and place, and the parents' full names (including the mother's maiden name).
The records for living individuals are restricted. However, records of people who have already died generally are not. To learn more about Social Security records and how to access them go the SSDI article in the United States Portal or Research Outline.