Treasures in a Random War of 1812 Pension File recently released the first 1,400 images of the War of 1812 pension files, as part of its partnership with the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Archives. (You can read the full announcement here.) As promised, these images are free — no subscription required!

What’s so great about War of 1812 pension files? They can contain details not only of the veteran’s service, but his marriages, children, residences, and more. I decided to pick a random War of 1812 pension file and see what all I could glean from it.

Veteran: James Abbott of Ohio. You’ll notice on this page that many of the details contained in the file have been summarized. (No, I didn’t read this page and then choose him for my subject!) Even if the pension file you’re interested in has a summary page like this, read the entire file. You never know what else is in there (or what mistakes might have been made when that summary sheet was created).

Service: Captain Patrick Shaw’s Company, Ohio Militia. Enlisted 6 February 1813; discharged 6 August 1813. (page 6 and page 47). Drafted at Lebanon, Ohio (page 14)

Pension: Granted a pension of $8/month, 18 November 1871 (page 6), certificate number 8404 (page 2)

Bounty Land Warrant: 10713-160-55 (page 8 )


  • Warren County, Ohio (page 21)
  • Miami County, Ohio (page 21)
  • Niles Township, Delaware County, Indiana “for 24 years” (stated 21 March 1871) (page 14); Moved to Delaware County, Indiana in 1846 (page 21)
  • Delaware County, Indiana (Granville post office), 25 March 1871 (page 6)

Born: circa 1794 (was 77 in 1781) (page 14) in Clermont County, Ohio (page 21)

Died: 14 October 1874 (page 8) at Delaware County, Indiana (page 21). See also page 52.

Physical Description (age 18): 5′ 9″, dark hair, blue eyes, light complexion (page 21)

Occupation: “Carpenter, and farming until within the last fifteen years he could not farm on account of age,” 21 March 1871 (page 14)

Widow: Rosa, received $8/month pension, certificate 13344 dated 19 December 1878 (page 5)


  • Rosa Keenan, near Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio, 19 June 1824, by Mahlon Roach, JP (page 21 and page 33)
  • According to Rosa, neither she nor James had been married previously (page 21)


  • Son William, age 44 (stated 27 March 1878) residing in Muncie, Indiana; his wife is F. Martha Abbott (page 22)


  • John C. Matthews and William H. Stewart, both of Delaware County, who had known James for 20 years, 21 March 1871 (page 14 and page 15)
  • William and F. Martha Abbott (page 17)
  • Thomas J. Sample and William Abbott (page 21)
  • William H. Stewart and Amos L. Wilson, stating that James Abbott never aided in the rebellion (Civil War) (page 23)
  • Jacob F. Peterson and Henry Shaw, testified to death of James Abbott and that Rosa Abbott had not remarried (page 52)

Preserve the PensionsSee what a great resource War of 1812 pension files are?! These pension files, which had never even been microfilmed before, are being digitized thanks to the Preserve the Pensions project. This project seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize and post online the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files.

You can help! Each dollar donated will digitize two images. Please visit the Preserve the Pensions page for more information. Preserve the Pensions is also on Facebook and on Twitter.

Digitizing War of 1812 Pension Files

From the 12 April 2011 press release by the Federation of Genealogical Societies and iArchives:

iArchives today announced a collaboration with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) to digitize 180,000 pension applications, or an estimated 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 Pension Applications and Bounty Land Warrants. The collection will be available on iArchives’ military records website,, home of more than 72 million historical records.

The multi-year project will consist of scanning the pension files at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and creating a searchable index to the digital images. FGS has targeted the War of 1812 Pension Applications as a high priority project based on the value of the content for genealogists as well as the importance of preserving the fragile records.

“Our goal with any collaboration is to honor our nation’s heritage by preserving the records of our past,” said Patricia Oxley, President of FGS. “In the specific case of the War of 1812 pension records, there is an added priority due to their frail state where not acting may mean sacrificing these for future generations.”

With the burden of proof on the applicant to qualify for a pension, those applying proved participation in the war by including dozens of vividly descriptive pages.  Details recorded include military battle stories, service dates, mentions of fellow soldiers, family relations, marriages, widows’ maiden names and many other clues significant to researchers. The breadth of information allows the pension files to tell the richest story of that time period.

“The most popular database on today is the Revolutionary War Pensions which is very similar content,” said Brian Hansen, General Manager at “Our users have been asking for the War of 1812 pension records for some time, and I expect this collection to be very popular based on the rich war time detail it contains.  We are pleased to make these records available for free on as a result of FGS fundraising efforts to subsidize the production cost.” [emphasis added — ajc]

FGS is proud to be leading the national fundraising to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical and historical societies, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals.  iArchives is providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services. To learn more and contribute to the project,

Page from War of 1812 Pension of Henry Lightner, Pennsylvania. Image at ACPL Genealogy Center.

That’s pretty exciting stuff! I’ve used War of 1812 pension files and they can be fabulous resources. There are two things I’d like to point out:

  1. Did you catch that part about the images will be free on Footnote? Free. As in you won’t need to pay to see them.
  2. FGS is raising funds to pay for the production.

According to the “Preserve the Pensions” page on the FGS website, each dollar raised will digitize two images.

That’s already a good deal, but you can make each dollar of your donation digitize four images! How? Donate through the Indiana Genealogical Society. IGS will match donations between now and June 30, 2011 (up to a total of $10,000). So if you donate $10 through IGS, they’ll match it — making the total donation to Preserve the Pensions $20. Donate $100 and IGS will match it, for a total donation of $200.

Working together — it’s a wonderful thing!

Presenting Civil War topics at Allen County

I am thrilled to be the featured speaker at the ACPL Genealogy Center’s Military Symposium this year. With the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War, this year’s symposium will revolve around Civil War topics. I will present one of the lectures on Friday and all four on Saturday.

The symposium is sponsored by the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana, Inc.

On Friday, October 8:

  • 2:30-3:30: “Using Military Records for Genealogical Research” by Curt Witcher
  • 4:00-5:00: “The Last Full Measure: Military Burials” (I have some cool examples that I’m very excited about!)

On Saturday, October 9:

  • 9:30-10:30: “Researching Your Civil War Ancestor Online”
  • 11:00-12:00: “State and Local Records for Civil War Research”
  • 1:30-2:30: “After Mustering Out: Researching Civil War Veterans”
  • 3:00-4:00: “For Benefit of the Soldier: Civil War Fraternal Organizations”

All of the sessions will be in meeting room A-B at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Cost is $25. Make checks payable to ACGSI and send to:

Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana
PO Box 12003
Fort Wayne, IN 46862

For more information, visit the Genealogy Center’s programs page or call (260) 421-1225. I look forward to seeing you there!

Celebrating the 2nd War for Independence

While celebrating Independence Day this weekend, think about not only the American Revolution but also the 2nd War for Independence: the War of 1812.

Although England agreed to withdraw her troops as a condition of the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolution), British troops remained in territory claimed by the United States. Most were positioned near and around the Great Lakes, in places such as Detroit and present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh was successful in forging a pan-Indian confederation which worked with the British against the Americans. War was finally declared in 1812.

Ohio was key in the War of 1812. Not only was it the site of the pivotal American victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, but she also supplied numerous troops to aid the U.S. effort.

Surprisingly, the National Archives has never microfilmed the War of 1812 pension files. They are among the most-often requested records, with approximately 3,000 of them requested every year.

Preserve the PensionsRecently, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced a program — Preserve the Pensions! — which seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize these 7.2 million pages. The files have been prepared and the digital cameras are ready to roll. The only thing the National Archives needs is the funding.

You can help. Each dollar donated to Preserve the Pensions will digitize two pages of War of 1812 pension files. Further, FGS has reached an agreement with the National Archives so that the digitized images will be freely available on the Internet — not “trapped” in a website that you need to pay for.

So as you’re celebrating Independence Day, celebrate both of the wars for Independence and consider making a tax-deductible donation to Preserve the Pensions.

Our Military Heritage – An Update

You are probably familiar with the fantastic genealogical collection at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. What you might not be familiar with is their growing collection of databases available on their website.

One section of the website is “Our Military Heritage,” which is a collection of digitized books, photographs, letters, diaries…  anything that pertains to military service. There are resources for military engagements from the colonial wars all the way through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve written about this collection before, but my how it has grown!

The World War II collection has some fascinating resources, including four large collections of letters. “Another Side of War: Soldiers Letters to Miss Ann Adang” includes digitized images of the hundreds of letters sent by twelve soldiers to Ann Adang of Fort Wayne. It is very interesting to read the similarities and differences of the soldiers and sailors from different backgrounds serving in different parts of the world. “Letters of Glenn and Ellen Baker and Letters from Home, World War II” includes the letters exchanged between a husband and wife separated by war.

There is an extensive Civil War section, including unit histories, GAR publications, and pension/service records. One of my favorite resources on this site is Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that a copy of my senior honors thesis “With Diplomas of Patriotism: African American Civil War Veterans in Ohio” is also available on this site.)

Some of the resources are quite lengthy, while others, such as the WWI military record of Nicholas J. Martin, are a single page.

Printed materials have been run through an OCR program and are full text searchable.

A Way to Honor Your Military Ancestors

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library offers you the opportunity not only to research your military ancestors, but also to share your military resources. If you would like to contribute letters to and from service personnel, diaries of military ancestors, copies of pension and service records, pictures of medals and citations, discharge papers, military burials and the like, please contact Curt Witcher [CWitcher@ACPL.Info or 260.421.1226] or simply send digital copies of the military documents (scanned at 300 dpi) to:
The Genealogy Center, Attn.: Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Ft.Wayne, IN 46802.

Tombstone Tuesday: Friendship, Love and Truth

George H. Boggs, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Newark, Ohio

George H. Boggs, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Newark, Ohio

This tombstone for George H. Boggs is in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Newark, Licking County, Ohio. It shows membership in two organizations: the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Grand Army of the Republic.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1819. It is also referred to as the “Three Links Fraternity” because of the Order’s symbol. The three links sometimes include the initials F L T, which stand for Friendship, Love and Truth. However, it is common to find the three links on a tombstone without the F L T initials.

Below the IOOF symbol on this tombstone are the initials G A R, which stands for Grand Army of the Republic. It was the largest organization of Civil War veterans and was instrumental in the passage of many laws pertaining to veterans’ benefits, such as pensions for disabled veterans. The organization was for honorably discharged Union veterans; thus, it serves as a clue to Civil War service. An examination of the Civil War Soldiers System database reveals a George H. Boggs served in Company C, 76th Ohio Infantry. According to the unit history (also on the Civil War Soldiers System site), this regiment mustered in at Camp Sherman in Newark. Although this is not definitive proof that the George buried here is the same George in the 76th OVI, it is certainly a compelling clue.

Close-up of the symbols on George Boggs' tombstone

Close-up of the symbols

Waymarking the Revolution

Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio

Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio

I haven’t written very much lately about Waymarking. Here’s a brief recap: Waymarking is a game played with GPS units. Basically, you find places that fit into certain categories, take some photos, record the coordinates and post it on There are categories ranging from National Register of Historic Places to McDonald’s. Many of the categories are historical and even genealogical in nature.

Two categories that are especially appropriate this July 4th are American Revolutionary War Veterans Graves and American Revolution Patriot Graves.

American Revolutionary War Veterans Graves marks the grave of (no surprise) veterans of the American Revolution. Entries are supposed to include a photo of the grave and the text on the tombstone. Many entries go into much more detail, such as abstracts from pension files or county histories. Currently, there are 337 graves waymarked, including 5 that I have posted:

  • John Smith, Smith Burying Ground, New Albany, Ohio
  • Daniel Baker, Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio (includes information from his pension file)
  • Timothy Rose, Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio (includes information from his pension file)
  • Levi Hayes, Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio (includes information from his pension file)
  • Israel Wells, Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Ohio

Since I have yet to find an ancestor who was a Revolutionary War veteran, this is likely the closest I’ll get to joining the DAR!

American Revolution Patriot Graves markes the final resting places of those who supported the Revolution in a non-military capacity. This is a newer category and currently has only 11 waymarks posted.

More military resources

From the latest issue of Genealogy Gems, published by the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne:

In the “Our Military Heritage” portion of are the following new resources:

Civil War:
Abstract of General Orders and Proceedings of the 26th Annual Encampment, Department of New York, G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic]

Indian Wars:
The Black Hawk War, Including a Review of Black Hawk’s Life

Revolutionary War:
Revolutionary War Veterans Buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio

World War I:
With a Field Ambulance at Ypres, Being Letters Written March 7 – August 15, 1915 by William Boyd

World War II:
The World War II Letters of Maxwell P. Smith

Directories, Yearbooks, and Other General Works:
Names of Invalid Pensioners of the United States Who Have Been Admitted to the Rolls Since March 3, 1849

[NOTE: You can subscribe to “Genealogy Gems,” the free monthly ezine published by the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library by going to and filling out the subscription form at the bottom of the page.]

With the advent of Ken Burns’ new WWII documentary, The War, we are certain to see more and more projects to capture the memories of WWII veterans. When you consider that they are dying at the rate of approximately 1,000 per day, you realize how important it is that we talk to them now. Tomorrow may be too late…

One project is a collaborative effort of the PBS stations in Ohio. They have created a website – – which features videos of interviews with veterans as well as civilians who assisted the war effort from the homefront. There are some truly powerful stories.

If you are a WWII vet or know one, record the stories now. Future generations should know what they did.