Sunday, May 20, 2007
Examining the full Revolutionary Pension Files at Footnote.com
Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) in partnership with with the U.S. National Archives, is digitizing the Revolutionary War Pension Files to post online. These are the complete pension files taken from the National Archives microfilm publication M804, which includes an estimated 80,000 pension and bounty-land warrant application files. These pension records give full details about each veteran's history and service, as well as information about his family, state of health, and life after the war. Many of these pension files can contain upwards to 80 pages.
To locate a Revolutionary War soldier, you can use the browse menu if you know the state where the soldier served,. You can also use the Footnote search engine but you have to be very aware that there were many surname spelling variations during the 18th century.
I used the browse menu to look for my Revolutionary War ancestor, but since the digitization of the pensions is about 10% complete, my ancestor's records are not yet online. However, I did find my 5th great grand uncle, Harmon Aughe of Chester County, Pennsylvania.
His pension file begins with his affidavit of his duties as a soldier. He says he was drafted while living in Pikeland township, Chester Co.. Pennsylvania and that he was involved in building breastworks. He describes his movements "thence to Chadd's Ford on the Brandywine where the battle was fought...thence to Chestnut Hill and Germantown, where the battle was fought, thence to winter quarters in Valley Forge, Chester Co. Pa.
In these few words, I realized how the history of my country and the history of my family were intertwined. He was present at two early battles we lost to the British, and also wintered at Valley Forge. Valley Forge is the story of suffering, sacrifice and ultimate survival against terrible odds, against hunger, disease, and the cold and became our symbol of the will to prevail.
Further down in his affidavit, Aughey states he knew General George Washington, General Lee and General Wayne.
His affidavit give a lot of genealogy information.. He tells that his date and place of birth is written in the family bible which is now owned by his sister's daughter who lives in another state. He tells of his migration from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Ohio to Indiana. He gives the names of his children and the states where they live.
Unfortunately for Harmon, he also states he lost his discharge papers as he pioneered to Indiana and no one in Indiana can substantiate his affidavit. Because of that and also because part of his war duties were wagon service to carry supplies, his pension claim was disallowed .
At the end of his file is a letter written to NARA during the 1930's inquiring about his war service. The letter doesn't say why the inquiry was made, but I assume it was either for genealogy reasons or to obtain documentation to join the DAR. If so, this letter give the names other descendants of the soldier, possible distant cousins, along his address.
All the names in his pension file are annotated and indexed for easy reference and searching.
I was glad to find the genealogy information, but learning that he survived the winter at Valley Forge and knew George Washington and Mad Anthony Wayne was the most exciting to learn.
If you want to view these fascinating Revolutionary War pensions to read about history as our ancestors lived it, Start Your Free Trial with Footnote.com.