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

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: United States, Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files .

Collection Time Period

These records date from the beginning of the civil war to the end of the Civil War 1861–1865.

Record Description

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. Orginal 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.

Record Content

The key genealogical facts of these records may include:

Civil War Federal Soldiers' Widows Claims DGS 4591908 2.jpg
  • 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

How to Use the Record

To search for your ancestors in the index you will need to know the name of the widow and the soldier.

If you are having difficulty finding your ancestor, look for variations in the spelling of the name. If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names. Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. This information will often lead you to other records.

For example:

  • 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.

Record History

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.

Why the Record Was Created

This index was created to provide a quick access to the pension records. Pension records were created to determine eligibility benefits.

Record Reliability

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

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Example of a Source Citation for a Record Found in This Collection

"United States, Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files: index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 30 September 2011). entry for Betsey Johnson Green widow of Charles M Green; citing Civil War Records, application WC4193; Adjuntant General's Office, NARA, Washington, D.C., United States.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

“United States, Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files.” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org). NARA Record Group15, ARC 300020, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. FHL digital images, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Index courtesy of Fold 3, Orem, Utah.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.