I found my ancestor in the War of 1812 pension records. For a long time, I was under the impression his pension application index card was “all there was.” In other words, when I saw this online…
…I assumed that was all there was. Boy, was I mistaken.
War of 1812 Pension Records: The Application Index Card
Pension application index cards for the War of 1812, or any war for that matter, are a great start. An index card is like an abstract of pertinent data from the pension application itself.
Don’t get me wrong, this index card is great. In my case, Nancy’s maiden name was on it, a marriage date and location, a death date of Hawkins, and even the death date of Nancy. This information becomes even more valuable when I tell you that no known death, probate, or marriage record exists for Hawkins and Nancy.
Finding the Pension Application Card for Your Ancestor
Though I used Ancestry.com to find my ancestor’s pension application index card, you can use FamilySearch.org to find them. Remember, FamilySearch.org is free…Ancestry is not!
Go to FamilySearch.org and sign-in or create your free account. Then, click “Search,” and choose “Records” from the pull-down options.
At the next screen, instead of typing in the name of your ancestor as would do for a general search, type in the name of the collection you would like to search in the “Collection title” box. In this case, type “United States War” and choose “United States War of 1812 Index to Pension Applications Files, 1812-1910” from the pull-down options.
At the next screen, type in your targeted ancestor by name and location of residence and click “Search.” You will be given a list of possible matches to your query. If you find your ancestor on that list, click the record to see the image of his pension application index card.
But as I said, had I stopped there and assumed the index card was “all there was, ” I would have missed so much more!
War of 1812 Pension Applications
The War of 1812 pension application is packet of several documents. There could be an application form, affidavits from friends and neighbors, marriage records, and death records in this application packet.
My ancestors application held the only known record for their marriage, the only known record of the death of both him and his widow, and a fun little tid-bit about regarding the man who prepared his body for burial and the exact location they buried his body!
Where do you find this War of 1812 pension application for your ancestor? There are two main places. You could use the information and numbers you see on the left of the card to order the application packet from the National Archives or you can see if the application has been digitized and is online.
To order the War of 1812 pension application from NARA, go to www.archives.gov and download form number 85. There is about a $30 fee to have them send you a copy. It may take up to 90 days for you to receive the information by mail.
You may be lucky enough to find the War of 1812 pension application for your ancestor online at Fold3.com. Fold3.com is a subscription website, however you may have heard about the Preserve the Pensions initiative. A community of individuals worked to earn the funds and resources to digitize the War of 1812 Pensions Files and make them available for everyone, for free, forever! They are being digitized and indexed alphabetically and they are currently up to the letter “M.” If you have an ancestor with a surname starting with “S,” “T,” or heaven forbid “Z for Zirkle,” you may need to wait or order your records from NARA! [Shout out to friend Cathy Meder-Dempsey for reminding me about the Preserve the Pension Project.]
I found my ancestor’s application on Fold3 and it was 26 pages long!
Among the pages of his application, I learned the following additional pieces of information:
- He has a calculated birth year of 1791.
- He enlisted as a substitute for the War of 1812 in Carter County, Tennessee.
- He was 5 feet, 9 inches, and dark complected.
- He died on the farm of James Brittain, where he and Nancy were living.
- Moses Middleton stated Hawkins died on 13 April 1870, and he had shaved and prepared his body for burial. He buried him under the old tree on his farm.
- His widow Nancy died on 11 Aug 1887 in Bales Mill.
Conclusion and More to Learn
I am so glad I dug a little deeper and found out what was behind that index card that was created. You can likely apply these same techniques to any military index card. Remember, where there is an index, there is usually more.
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