Casefile Clues

02 March 2014

Civil War Pension Index Cards

There are four finding aids that may assist you in determining if your ancestor received a federal Civil War veteran's or widow's pension. This blog post will briefly discuss them.

General Index to Pension Files 1861-1934.


This is one finding aid for the federal Civil War pensions. A sample card for Leander Butler is shown in this blog post. These cards were microfilmed by the National Archives and are online free at FamilySearch. Subscribers to Ancestry.com have these cards as a part of that collection as well.

Index card for Leander Butler, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration publication T288; digital image obtained on Ancestry.com, 2014.

Unit Index

The Unit Index is an organizational index to pension files. It was created in an attempt to make it easier to cross-reference information with that contained in pension applications of men who had been in the same unit. It also made it easier for investigators to contact former living comrades of a claimant.  These cards have been microfilmed and are online at Fold3.com (users who are not subscribers can browse this database and see small versions of the cards that will at least allow the user to determine that a pension was issued).

Index card for Leander Butler, 10th Kansas Infantry, Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, National Archives and Records Administration publication T289; digital image obtained on Fold3.com, 2014.

Pension Payment Cards


These cards cover beneficiaries who received pension funds from the federal government between 1907-1933. Consequently they include many, but not all Civil War veterans (or widows) who received a pension. These cards have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M850 and are available on FamilySearch and Archive.org for free. This earlier blog post contains a short guide to using these items on Archive.org (and a link to the finding aid from the National Archives which is helpful for anyone using these cards), but using the cards on FamilySearch is acually easier.



Remarried Widows Index to Pension Applications, 1887-1942

NARA microfilm publication M1784 contains an alphabetical series of cards for women who had different last names than the veteran who actually served and under whose service the pension was received. Particularly helpful if an ancestor remarried after the veteran died and yet still qualified for a pension. These cards are online free at FamilySearch.

A tiny fraction of the actual pension are online at Fold3.com. A tiny fraction. Repeat: A tiny fraction. The originals are still housed at the National Archives. The files are a virtual goldmine of information. Don't wait until they are online to get them as you will be waiting a while.

Quick Sample


This is just one page from the file of Leander Butler whose index cards were the first two illustrations. The scans I had made were color digital images but this affidavit was black ink on white paper so the color didn't really matter. Some documents do have color on them.

We've mentioned Leander's pension before and will mention additional Civil War pensions when applicable to various projects on which I am working.

Ordering Civil War pension records can be done on the NARA site here.