Preserve the Pensions

A project to digitize the War of 1812 Pension Files

The Mission

In 2008, the staff at the National Archives approached the Federation of Genealogical Societies (now NGS) about spearheading a large, consequential preservation and access project. They reported that the War of 1812 pension files were the heaviest requested materials of all the record sets that had never been microfilmed. With that level of use, these valuable records, available in no other format, were in danger of grave deterioration.

On April 27, 2010, the Federation of Genealogical Societies announced a national fundraising initiative to raise over $3 million to support the monumental task of digitizing the 7.2 million pages contained in 180,000 files.

Fold3 was selected to digitize the records based on a bidding process between in-house and pre-approved contractors at NARA. Shortly after Fold3 was selected to digitize the files, (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.

Free to the Public

Throughout the fundraising phase of the project, completed images and associated indexing began being posted incrementally as digitization progressed. Genealogists, historians, teachers, patriotic societies, history buffs, and anyone interested have access to the images that have been digitized right now. Images will be offered for free at Fold3 indefinitely.


In support of this project, provided a dollar for dollar matching grant cutting the amount FGS needed to raise by half. FamilySearch also partnered with this FGS as a major donor and supporter of the fundraising efforts.

Fundraising Complete

Six years after starting the Preserve the Pensions Project, FGS announced the end of fundraising on September 1, 2016. Just as the FGS 2016 conference was getting underway, an anonymous donor from outside the genealogical community donated $500,000, which became $1 million with the match.

And that completed fundraising for this project.

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.

Project Status

While the fundraising has ended, the digitization process continues. As of February 2021 images for surnames A-Shaw were available at Fold3. That process will continue until every page of every War of 1812 pension record is added.