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your military ancestors this Memorial Day by learning more about their lives and service.
One way is through pension records, which can be rich with information about the person
Various laws made those who served in the armed forces between 1775 and 1916, or their
survivors, eligible for military pensions. You can search some indexes to pensions
at sites such as Ancestry.com, Fold3, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage and findmypast.
One of the most helpful indexes is the General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934,
from National Archives microfilm T288 and searchable
free online at FamilySearch.org.
For earlier conflicts, try the Old
War Pension Index, 1815-1926, from NARA microfilm T316.
The pension files themselves are on microfilm at the National Archives (with copies
at the Family History Library), with some collections online. A few are:
War Pensions on Fold3 and on
HeritageQuest Online, which is available through many public libraries
War of 1812 Pension Files is a free,
growing collection at Fold3 (learn
more about the Preserve the Pensions project here)
Civil War Widows’
Pensions, a growing collection on Fold3
The exception is pensions for Confederate soldiers in the Civil War: The former Confederate
states awarded pensions to their armed forces, so look to those state archives for
records. You can
link to several states’ Confederate pensions collections from here. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org also
have collections of some Confederate states’ Civil War pensions.
A final tip: If you plan to leave flowers at an ancestor’s gravesite this Memorial
Day, consider also leaving a note for the next person, who may be a cousin.
Research Value Pack—now just $49.99—has a webinar, CD of how-to articles, and
a class that provide you in-depth guidance for finding your ancestors’ military records
throughout US history.