Given my recent focus on Civil War pensions, I was asked how I figure out who served and who received pensions. For me, preparing to research Civil War pensions at the National Archives is two step process. The first step is to identify the people served in the Civil War and who received a pension, whether it was the soldier, his widow, or his minor children. The second step is to assemble a list of soldiers who received pensions and identify which pensions I wish to pull for this trip.
To identify the men who served in the Civil War I start by running one of these reports found by navigating to:
- Reports by Task
- What information should I research?
- Possible military service
- Who served, did not or may have served in this war? OR Who may have served in this war?
I prefer to use the “Who served, did not or may have served in this war?” report as it takes into account the research I have already conducted. If someone has a check in the Served column I’ve already identified their service. Since I am looking for additional people who may have a pension, I only need to conduct searches for men with a check in the May Have column (may have served).
After working through the list of men to identify (and record) additional service, I export my GEDCOM file again and re-analyze it in GenDetective. When I record the initial service/unit information in my family tree, if I have found a pension card for the soldier or his dependents I add a prefix of PENS: to the unit information.
The next step is to identify the pensions I wish to pull at the National Archives. I can do this by using the “Who served in this conflict?” report:
- Reports by Task
- Tell me about my family
- Military service
- Who served in this conflict?
Run the “Who served in this conflict?” report targeting the Civil War provides the list of Civil War veterans who I have identified served. Working from this report I can quickly identify the soldiers who received pensions, and then which pensions I wish to pull at the National Archives.
Scanning the list for the PENS: prefix I can quickly scan the report to identify the soldiers who have a pension that I have not yet pulled. Once I have the list of soldiers with pensions, I focus on the soldiers from families I am most interested in at the moment. After my research trip to the NARA I remove the prefix from the Military Service entry when I am recording the pension information. This little trick allows me to speed my trip planning.
May this series of posts on Civil War pensions encourage you to pull your own families Civil War pensions from the National Archives or locate a genealogist to pull the records for you. If you wish to locate a professional genealogist, I recommend using the Association of Professional Genealogists website to find a genealogist in the Washington, DC area who will pull Civil War pensions for you. Happy researching ..