United States, Revolutionary War, Virginia Pension Application Files - FamilySearch Historical Records

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United States Revolutionary War, Virginia Pension Application Files, 1830-1875
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
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Record Description
Record Type Pension Application Files
Record Group RG 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Collection years 1830-1875
Microfilm Publication M910. Virginia Half Pay and Other Related Revolutionary War Pension Application Files. 18 rolls.
Arrangement Alphabetically
National Archives Identifier 2601035 344
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

United States Revolutionary War, Virginia Pension Application Files, 1830–1875 record collection contains half pay pensions for Virginia soldiers and sailors based on their service in the Revolutionary War. In May of 1779 the Virginia General Assembly granted the payment of half pay pensions for life to the state's military and naval officers and others who served until the end of the war in state units within the state's borders or in the Continental Army. This collection is part of Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, and is National Archives Microfilm publication M910. A copy of the microfilm publication pamphlet can be viewed at Introduction and Coverage Table or downloaded from the NARA microfilm catalog at The National Archives by entering the microfilm publication number M910 into the search field.

After the French and Indian war ended 1773, the British Parliament imposed a series of taxes on their American colonies in an attempt to recover some of the cost of the war, to have the colonies pay for their own defense, and to assert authority over the colonies. The taxes were not well received by the colonists, who felt that as they lacked representation in the Parliament, their rights as Englishmen were being violated and the taxes were unlawful. The colonists attempted to gain representation in the British Parliament without success. When gaining representation failed each colony began to form their own parliaments or governments. These colonial government bodies would then overturn British laws that they felt were unlawful and created an undue burden. In response, Britain sent in more soldiers, and the colonies were occupied by a standing army. The already overburdened colonists were required to feed and clothe the army. This series of events lead to the outbreak of war on April 19, 1775. The colonists’ original aim was to restore their rights as Englishmen; however, by early 1776 the idea that the American Revolution was a bid for independence began to form and take root, and by July the Colonists had declared their independence from the rule of the British Empire.

In 1775, when war seemed like a possibility, a congress was formed with delegates from all 13 original colonies. This congress, the Continental Congress, was a loose confederation of the colonies soon to become states. As part of their duties, the Continental Congress formed an army originally of enlisted men of short duration, but over the course of the war became a standing army of both enlisted men and conscripts, soldiers who were drafted into service. In addition to the Continental Army formed by the Congress, states, counties, and towns formed militias who fought and protected around their local area or for with the Continental Army. Revolutionary War records are the enlistment or muster roles both for the local militias and the Continental Army, pension files, and bounty land warrants. These records may include information on leave, mustering out or separation from the army, and any pension or benefits received as part of service or upon separation from the army or the militia.

Military Rosters and Enlistment or Muster Rolls provide a record of when a soldier or sailor served, where they served, and for how long. They also provide details of who they served under, rank, promotion, leave information, and when their service ended. These records tell where a soldier or sailor lived and where the enlisted which were not always the same place.

Revolutionary War Pensions[edit | edit source]

Pension acts were passed and amended many times between 1776 and 1878. In 1776 the first pension law granted half-pay for life to soldiers disabled in the service and unable to earn a living. A pension law passed in 1818 permitted compensation for service, regardless of disability, but was later amended, making eligible only those soldiers who were unable to earn a living. The pension act of 1832 allowed pensions again based on service and enabled a veteran’s widow to receive pension benefits. The pension act of 1832 made Revolutionary War Pensions available to all veterans who served during the war for at least six months in any of the armed forces—Regular or Continental Army, state militia, navy and certain contract positions, such as teamsters—not just disabled veterans and those who had served in the Continental Army. In addition to Federal pensions, nine states, including Virginia, enacted pension laws.

A veteran or his widow seeking a pension had to appear in court in the state of his or her residence to describe under oath the service for which the pension was being claimed. A widow was required to provide information concerning the date and place of her marriage to the veteran. The application statement, deposition or “declaration” as it was usually called, was certified by the court and then forwarded, along with all supporting documents (this may have included property schedules, marriage records, and affidavits of witnesses) to a federal official, usually the Secretary of War or the Commissioner of Pensions. The applicant was then notified that the application had been approved, rejected, or set aside pending the submission of additional proof of eligibility. If an applicant was eligible, his name was placed on the pension list. Payments were usually made semiannually. A rejected applicant often reapplied when pension laws were amended and provide more information about the soldier or sailor and their families because more information was included in the file—pension files average around 50 documents. Whether rejected or approved, pension files are rich with data concerning Revolutionary War veterans and their families and provide unique records and glimpses into their lives and time.

Revolutionary War Records Case Studies[edit | edit source]

Along with the important genealogical information (name, birth date and place, marriage and death records, etc.), genealogical records can tell the story or at least part of the story of our ancestors’ lives. Researched alone or in conjunction with other Revolutionary War Records, Pension Records can provide rich details of a soldier’s service—Were they wounded? Where did they serve and with whom? Did they move? Where did they live?

Muster Rolls, rosters, and pension records also provide details on family relationships as dependents had to provide proof of relationship through marriage or birth records), and verify military service. Pension files can include signed affidavits, marriage licenses, and letters that provide personal testimonies of service. These records and letters provide a soldier or sailor’s name, rank, branch of service, dates of service. Land-Bounty-Warrants show where a soldier may have moved. Each detail provides a piece of the soldier of sailor’s life story.

The following case studies demonstrate how to search through related record collections to find information about an individual’s life story and show that by searching through related records you can find different pieces of your ancestor’s life story:

  • Follow the Money explains how pensioners received their checks and how following the process or money trail through multiple record collections can provide more details about a person’s life
  • The Rejection of Elizabeth Mason outlines the story of a Revolutionary War widow’s attempt to obtain her husband’s pension and prove his and her identity. Although her pension was denied, her file provides more information than it might otherwise have since Mrs. Mason tries to validate her claim
  • A Soldier of the Revolution Or, Will the Real Isaac Rice Please Stand Up outlines the quest to find the story of Isaac Rice and determine whether he was an actual veteran of the Revolutionary War, a fictional character, or a man who committed the 19th century version identity theft
  • Early Navy Personnel Records at the National Archives, 1776–1860 describes various military records and provides research examples
  • Revolutionary War Pension Records and Patterns of American Mobility, 1780–1830 is not a case study of showing how the identity of an individual was found or information about a known individual, but it shows how a group of individuals compare to the general population to determine if that group is representative of the population, how and why they are, and then tells us how their collective story broadens the knowledge of the people who fought and lived in the Revolutionary era

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

To Browse This Collection[edit | edit source]

You can browse through images in this collection using the waypoints on the Collection Browse Page for United States, Revolutionary War, Virginia Pension Application Files, 1830-1875.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

  • Name
  • Whether soldier or sailor
  • Dates of military service
  • Dates of pay
  • Name of regiment
  • Name of person issuing pay

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Image[edit | edit source]

Coverage Table[edit | edit source]

The United States Revolutionary War, Virginia Pension Application Files Introduction and Coverage Table lists the names of soldiers and sailors identified in this collection and matches them with their corresponding record in the microfilm publication, M804 available at United States, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications - FamilySearch Historical Records.

How Do I Search This Collection[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the person you are looking for
  • The type of military service, whether soldier or sailor

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

This collection does not have a searchable index. Only images are available. See View the Images to access them.

View the Images[edit | edit source]

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page

  1. Select Soldiers or Sailors
  2. Select the Surname Range to view the images.

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

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?[edit | edit source]

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add any new information to your records
  • Use the age or estimated birth date to determine an approximate birth date to find church and vital records such as birth, baptism, marriage and death records
  • Use the information in each record to find additional family members in the censuses
  • Use the information found in the record to find land or probate records
  • Repeat this process with additional family member’s records to find more generations of the family
  • Church records were kept years before counties began keeping records. They are a good source for finding ancestors before 1900

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby town or county
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well
  • Check the infobox above for additional FamilySearch websites and related websites that may assist you in finding similar records

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

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

Related Family History Library Holdings[edit | edit source]

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Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

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:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Image Citation:
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