United States, Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files, 1861-1934
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
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Flag of the United States at the outbreak of the civil war
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Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Pension Files
Record Group RG 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Collection years 1861-1934
National Archives Identifier 300020
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in This Collection?

This database on FamilySearch.org is a copy of an index provided by www.fold3.com. The index is to images in pension application files uploaded to the fold3 site. The index on FamilySearch.org is only to the files that have been uploaded. These files can be viewed only on the fold3 site.

Since the FamilySearch database is strictly an index to material on another site, the citation format given below is incorrect.  Only this index can be cited from this site. Fold3.com provides complete citation information for the actual files, when a researcher accesses that site to view the documents.

The FamilySearch copy of the fold3.com index to the collection will eventually encompass applications for pension beginning from 1861 to 1934.

This collection consists of approved pension case files of widows and other dependents of soldiers submitted between 1861 and 1934 and sailors between 1910 and 1934. Some files may be for service in the War with Spain. The files are arranged numerically by certificate number. Original files are located at the National Archives in Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration. Index courtesy of Fold3.com (previously Footnote.com). Additional records will be added to this collection as they become available.

From the onset of the Civil War, the US government granted pensions to widows of men who died in service to the Union Army. Then the Pension Dependent Act of 1890 extended benefits to those who could prove that they were the widows of honorably discharged veterans serving the Union for at least ninety days during the Civil War. A widow also had to provide proof of the soldier’s death, unless it resulted from his military service. An applicant could not have any means of support other than her day labor, and her marriage to the soldier had to occur before 17 June 1890, the date of the act.

These records are generally accurate. However, some soldiers used aliases and some lied about their names and ages.

To Browse This Collection

What Can These Records Tell Me?

The following information may be found in these records:


  • Soldier's full name
  • Name of widow
  • Rank
  • Company
  • Regiment
  • Infantry unit
  • When soldier was commissioned
  • Where soldier was commissioned
  • Amount of pension
  • Date pension started
  • Miscellaneous information about the soldier such as death date and cause of death

Collection Content

Sample of indexed information:

John H Smith United States Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files
Name John H Smith
Event Type Pension
Relationship to Veteran Minor Child
Veteran's Name Pleasant Smith
Veteran's Military Unit 80 Indiana Infantry

How Do I Search This Collection?

To begin your search you need to know:

  • The name of the soldier
  • The name of the widow
  • The age and birth place of the solider
  • The military unit in which your soldier served
  • The state and county were your soldier lived

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Death dates may lead to death certificates, mortuary, or burial records
  • Use the names along with the residence of the widow to locate census, church, and land records
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct
  • This index is to widow’s pensions, but you will still need some information on the soldier
  • This index is for widows whose husbands died during the war. It does not include widows whose husbands died after the war
  • Indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned
  • Your ancestor may have used a nickname or an alias. In addition, ages may have been altered to allow men to serve who were not of the appropriate age

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor

Research Helps

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the United States.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation
"United States Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files, 1861-1934." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. From "Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans, ca. 1861- ca. 1934." Database. Fold3.com. http://www.fold3.com : 2008. Citing NARA NAID 300020. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.

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