Civil War Pensions at the National Archives

On Wednesday, November 18th, a friend and I took a day trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC.   We caught Amtrak at 30th street station in Philadelphia at 6:05am and arrive in Washington around 8:20 and by 9:00 I was walking into the Archives.

If you’ve never been to the Archives before (Gerri had not), you are required to take the orientation course, a short 10-15 minute presentation that you read, which informs you of the rules, highlights include:

  • list of pull times and where you turn in your pull slips
  • 4 requests can be submitted per pull time
  • camera use permitted, absolutely no flash
  • pencils only into reading room, paper will be provided, no binders, laptop bags (but laptops, tablets and cell phones permitted)

After reading the presentation you get your NARA Research Id, which is good for one year, lock your stuff in the lockers provided and get to work.  Having advised Gerri in advance to print out her  military service pension cards (available at, fold3, familysearch, and at the National Archives) and filled out our pull slips.  Everything you need to fill out a Civil War pension pull slip is shown in the picture.  I advocate printing them out or take them on your computer as transposing a single digit will prevent you from getting the desired file.hayes_william_b_pension_card

Whose military pension should you pull?  I pull pensions for our direct ancestors and uncles and spouses of aunts.  Why?  Each pension packet usually has a couple to several affidavits to support statements made by the soldier or the widow.  No surprise but siblings and family are frequently the source of these affidavits and are members of the greater family “FAN” (friends and neighbors) club.

By the end of the day my camera registered 1062 pictures across 12 pension files, 10 for myself, one for my friend Jill and one for my cousin Elisa!  No two pensions packets are identical  and the information can be widely diverse.  Jill has written about some of the gems in her pension packet here and while I work through each of my pension packets (all for uncles), I will share some of the goodies I find!

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