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Family Tree Friday: Military pension records can hold unexpected surprises!

by on November 13, 2009


Military pensions often contain valuable documents regarding family.  Veterans who applied for such benefits often had to prove their military service, using affidavits from officers and fellow soldiers, or letters and journals written in the field.  Widows and dependents had to prove their relationship to the deceased soldier.  Many personal or family documents often, and quite unintentionally, became part of the official pension record, such as marriage certificates, family Bible pages, or even photographs.  Frakturs, a decorative family register such as the one pictured here from the James Dickisson family, turned up in numerous Revolutionary War pensions.  Family members submitted these personal items not realizing they would never get them back.  Have you discovered something really surprising or unexpected in a military pension file?  We’d love to hear what kinds of unexpected “treasures” you found, even a tidbit of information about your ancestor that you didn’t previously know!

Comments

Becky November 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Although rarer, it wasn’t just veterans and their spouses who applied for pensions. My gr-gr-great grandmother Emily filed for a pension based on her son Albert’s service after he was killed at Gettysburg. The file documents how Albert and his brother John had been financially supporting the family before and during the War. That financial support ended when Albert was killed and John was wounded, permanently disabled, and unable to work. At the time Emily applied for a pension the family was living in extreme poverty.

Jennifer November 14, 2009 at 1:30 am

I’ve found several surprising things in the same situation. My grgrgrgr-grandmother Mary Rutter applied for a mother’s pension based on the service of her youngest son, Philip. He served 4 months before being killing at Tupelo. In the pension were 5 letters he had written. Each is several pages long and very descriptive.
In the pension file for one of Philip’s brothers, Hollis Rutter, a letter is included that was written from the doctor at the hospital Hollis was taken to during the war to his mother. He apparently went a bit “deranged.”

John November 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Hi Jennifer, What a compelling family story! It just serves to show that you never know what you may find until you actually look at the records! Thanks for sharing!

Cheryl Gilbert Riley February 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I am looking for the pension records of my great uncle Selman D Gilbert who was a Private in the Marine Corps at the time of his untimely death. I know he was married to Edith at the time of his death. Can not seem to find out where to attain these records. Can someone please guide me in the right direction??

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