Preserve the Pensions

Digitizing the War of 1812 Pension Files

In April 2023, NGS signed a new contract with and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to resume digitizing the War of 1812 pensions. The project had been on hiatus for several reasons, including the shutdowns caused by the pandemic. With the resumption of work, the digitization of pension files for surnames starting with the letters Sj to U should be completed in one year. The process will continue until every page of every War of 1812 pension record is added.

The Mission

In 2008, the staff at the National Archives approached the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) about spearheading the preservation of, and access to, the War of 1812 pension files. The heavily requested materials had never been microfilmed and were in danger of grave deterioration.

Fundraising and Partnerships

On April 27, 2010, the Federation announced a national fundraising initiative to raise over $3 million to digitize 7.2 million pages contained in 180,000 files. Fold3 was selected to digitize the records and (parent company of Fold3) agreed to match every dollar raised for the project, cutting the amount of funding to raise by the community in half. FamilySearch also partnered with the Federation as a major donor and supporter of the fundraising efforts.

Six years after starting the Preserve the Pensions Project, the Federation announced the end of fundraising on September 1, 2016, when an anonymous donor from outside the genealogical community donated $500,000, which became $1 million with the match. All totaled, more than 4,000 individuals and 115 genealogical, historical, and lineage societies contributed to the largest fundraising effort ever initiated for a single genealogical record set.

On 1 October 2020, FGS merged with NGS.

Free to the Public

Genealogists, historians, teachers, patriotic societies, history buffs, and anyone interested have access as digitized images and associated indexing continue to progress. Images are offered for free at Fold3 indefinitely.

Importance of the War of 1812 Pension Files

War of 1812 pensions provide information on a generation between the Revolutionary War and the 1850 census, which is the first census to provide the names of individuals in a household. The files may include an affidavit from the soldier or widow including where he enlisted, where he served, and for how long. The widow may state their date of marriage, when he died, a Bible record which may include the names and birth dates of children, and affidavits from other relatives which may help prove family relationships. Sometimes the information about the widow or an affidavit from her will disclose her maiden name.