Revolutionary War Pension Files
By Connie Lenzen
David Clay, a soldier of the American Revolution, died in 1818 in Wilkinson County, Georgia. There are no records of his life or death in the county, perhaps because the courthouse records were destroyed at four different times.
His widow, Eve (Hardin) Clay, applied for, and received, a government pension based upon his military service during the Revolution. Eve had to provide documentation of her marriage and of David's death.
David Clay (Eva)
State of Georgia
On this 29th day of March 1855 Personally appeared before me the Subscribers a justice of the Inferior Court within and for the County aforesaid, duly authorized by law to adm. Singular oaths. Eva Clay aged about 83 years a resident of said county and state aforesaid, Who being duly sworn according to law, declares that she is the widow of David Clay deceased who was a private in the Company commanded by Capt. Kornegay in the War of the Revolution, That she does not know the precise date of her husbands entering the Service nor time of discharge but refers to Certificates of Pension granted to him by R. McClellan Secretary of the Interior, dated 21st March 1855, Numbered 11,747 9,595 & 6,325 Recorded in the Pension Office in Book D vol. 10 page 327. Book A Vol 2nd page 72 and Page 209 Vol 3rd for further proof of service, marriage, death of [illegible] & c. She further states, that she was married to the said David Clay in the County of Warren & State of Georgia, on or about the 22nd day of September 1792 by one John Hatcher a justice of the Peace, that her name before her marriage was Eva Hardin that her said husband died in Wilkinson County State of Georgia on [blank] day of August 1818, and that she is still a widow, She makes this declaration for the purpose of obtaining the bounty land to which she may be entitled under he act approved March 3rd 1855 Never having received bounty land under this or any other act nor made any other application for bounty land except this present
Eva Clay her mark
Not everyone has an ancestor who lived and died in a "burned county," but we all have elusive ancestors. Federal records, such as pension records, may have the information that we need. Pensions were to provide support for aged and disabled veterans and their wives. The promise of bounty-land was an inducement to enter and to remain in service. Bounty-land warrants were granted to veterans or their heirs.
In order to receive a pension or bounty land, a veteran or his survivor had to apply under one of the several pension laws. The first law (1776) allowed half-pay for disabled soldiers. Unfortunately, a fire in the National Archives destroyed the pension applications in 1800. The subsequent laws allowed disabled veterans to apply for a pension. In 1832, widows of deceased veterans were allowed to apply for benefits.
Pension applications and bounty-land-warrant applications may include pages from family Bibles, copies of marriage records, statements of service, testimony of the applicant and of neighbors, and payment vouchers. These approximately 80,000 Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land-warrant application files are in the National Archives and have been microfilmed on 2,670 rolls by the Veterans Administration.Thes ewere digitized by Fold3, a subscription website.
How to find a pension or bounty-land-warrant file, preferably at little cost:
First, find an index. If you live near a major library that holds Virgil White's three volume set, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, use that index. If not, the index to the United States Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications, 1800-1900, is on FamilySearch.
The "catch" to this index is that it is connected to Fold3, a fee site. As an example, John Featherly lived in New York during the American Revolution. Yes, he is indexed in FamilySearch's index, and all forty of the results link to Fold3.
On to the second step, how do we obtain a copy of his file for little cost? One option is to go to your local Family History Center where they have Fold3 on their patron computers. However, if your public library has a subscription to HeritageQuest Online, the pension files are included in the subscription. The beauty of HeritageQuest Online is that the library's subscription allows patrons to access the site on their personal computers.
Good luck in finding hidden treasures in pension files.
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