Monthly Archives: February 2013

War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Project Ahead of Schedule

Star Spangled Banner

[Editor’s NotePreserve the Pensions chair David E. Rencher gives a progress report on the digitization and fundraising efforts involved with preserving and digitizing the War of 1812 Pension File records at the National Archives.]

The Federation of Genealogical Societies is leading the effort to raise the money needed to digitize the Pension and Bounty Land files of the War of 1812. To date, nearly one-third of the money needed has been raised through the generous contributions of many individuals, society board matching gifts, non-profit and corporate sponsors. Midway through 2012, the project was able to add a second camera to accelerate the image capture.

The Federation is working in partnership with the National Archives, the Fold3 website, Ancestry.com, and FamilySearch to make these images available. Ancestry.com has generously agreed to match all donations with an equivalent number of images for each dollar. These records were a high priority project for the National Archives since they are one of most requested documents by researchers. Prior to this project, users were required to either examine the files onsite at Archives I in Washington, DC or apply for a photocopy of the file. Each photocopy request costs a researcher fifty-five dollars. Now, these images will be available for free to researchers throughout the world.

Digital camera operators at the National Archives are producing images of the War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land files at a pace faster than anticipated. The files are stored in 3,619 archival boxes and in October 2012, the digital camera operators imaged an average of 10 boxes per week, 3 boxes faster than originally projected. November saw even greater gains in production with their image capture rate increasing to an average of 13 boxes per week. To date, they have imaged 580 boxes, or roughly 16%.

These documents have already been prepared for digital camera image capture by the National Archives staff and volunteers who painstakingly unfolded, flattened, and filed the individual pensions. This preparatory work is required prior to any project and actually takes longer than the camera work itself. This work has directly led to the success of the camera operators being able to increase their overall productivity.

The already imaged documents are freely available on the Fold3 website at: http://go.fold3.com/warof1812/. The files are alphabetically arranged in the National Archives and the project started with the letter “A” and the work is systematically moving through to the end. The files are searchable by the name of the pensioner. The software available on Fold3 allows researchers to add value to the indexes by identifying other names within the pensions, indexing and submitting those names to the searchable database. This “indexing on the fly” software provides a wealth of additional data for researchers. Many of the files contain testimony by members of the unit of the pensioner stating that they had first-hand knowledge that the pensioner served in areas or battles of the War of 1812.

In addition to vital information about the pensioner, the files often contain marriage information, record of service, and occasionally Bible pages. Many researchers often overlook the wide array of valuable information in these files because they don’t believe they have a direct line ancestor that fought in the war. An important strategy to researching in these pension files is to investigate the lists of members of the unit in which the pensioner served and to read the files of these associates. With the files going online, this research will become much easier.

To learn more about the project or to donate to the capture of these images and making them freely available, go to www.preservethepensions.org . Each dollar donated to the project preserves two images. Ancestry.com has generously agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar, so in fact, each dollar preserves four images. Please add your contribution of $25, $45, $100, $250 or $500 today!

Leading the Charge to Preserve the Pensions!

War of 1812 - Battle of New Orleans

[Editor’s Note: David E. Rencher, Preserve the Pensions committee member, provides an update on recent progress with fundraising including genealogy and historical society matching programs!]

A number of genealogical societies have stepped up and offered matching grants to encourage their members to help in the Preserve the Pensions campaign to digitally image the War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Files in the National Archives. Having caught the vision, the leadership in these societies is heeding this “call to arms.”

Every dollar generously donated by their members is matched by the participating society and then again by the generous matching program offered by Ancestry.com – thus every dollar donated equals four and digitizes eight precious images!

The Multiplying Effect – Building Community

This multiplying effect was well illustrated by two genealogical societies at the forefront of the matching efforts, the Indiana State Genealogical Society and the Illinois State Genealogical Society. Both determined that they would match donations up to $10,000 by their members and both were able to achieve this lofty goal. Those donations, matched by the society to become $20,000 were then matched by Ancestry.com to total $40,000 toward our $3.2 million dollar goal. These are significant efforts and really illustrate how the grassroots campaign on the local and state level can make all the difference in reaching our goal.

ISGS President Jane Haldeman notes: “The ISGS board made a strong commitment to the preservation of the War of 1812 Pension Records when it issued the fundraising challenge earlier this year. ISGS thanks all who contributed, especially those members of the genealogy community who are not members of ISGS. Digitizing these records will benefit ALL genealogists and hopefully result in more people locating information about their ancestors.

Leaders in genealogical societies across the country are beginning to take up this challenge and committing to raise various amounts – all are a key to the success of this effort.

Societies with War of 1812 Matching Programs

These societies either have a War of 1812 matching program in progress or have completed their fundraising drive:

Name of Society Matching Amount Committed Total Raised Coupled with Ancestry.com Match Completed/
In Progress
Indiana State Genealogical Society $ 12,117 $ 24,234 $ 48,468

Completed

Illinois State Genealogical Society $ 10,000 $ 20,000 $ 40,000

Completed

Texas State Genealogical Society $ 5,000

In Progress

Fairfax (VA) Genealogical Society $ 2,500 $ 5,000 $ 10,000

Completed

Florida State Genealogical Society $ 2,000 $ 4,000 $ 8,000

Completed

Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies $ 1,000

In Progress

Williamson County, Texas Genealogical Society $ 1,000

In Progress

Donations Rolling Up

A great example of a smaller society making a real difference is the Florida Genealogical Society (Tampa) committing in 2011 and 2012 to donate $5 per member each year. This year, they supported the Florida State Genealogical Society with their contribution of $750 toward FSGS’ $2,000 matching campaign. At their annual conference over the Veteran’s Day weekend, they successfully reached their $2,000 goal. This is just another wonderful example of societies partnering with each other and working together to make great things happen for the Preserve the Pensions project!

Individual Society Contributions

A handful of societies are also working hard to raise the funds within their membership and forward those to the Federation of Genealogical Societies. These societies have all chosen various methods of raising the money – some from projects, some from a percentage of their annual conference revenues, some from passing the hat!

Some recent genealogical society donations received include:

We are also grateful for donations from a number of 1812 and American Revolution Patriotic societies:

  • Ora Fina Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (MT)
  • Tennessee Society U.S. Daughters of 1812 Chapter
  • Texas Society U.S. Daughters of 1812, James Smith Chapter #438
  • Abraham Baldwin Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (GA)
  • Chalmette Chapter (LA) Society U.S. Daughters of 1812

What Can Your Society Do?

From these examples, perhaps you can see how every society can participate in some manner:

  • Consider a matching dollar amount and challenge to your members to contribute
  • Work in conjunction with another society and add your efforts to their matching campaign
  • Choose a project or event and donate the proceeds from your society

And always remember – TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Click here for more information or email 1812@fgs.org to start your own matching campaign for Preserve the Pensions!

Welcome to the Preserve the Pensions Blog

Ft. McHenry - War of 1812

Are you ready, willing and able to help Preserve the Pensions and the Federation of Genealogical Societies save the War of 1812 Pension files? If so, read on . . . you’ve come to the right place to get the latest information on this important community project.

There are times when the genealogy and family history community can make an impact and bring to light an important record set from which all researchers can benefit. Past examples have included the Civil War Sailors and Soldiers Database and the 1940 US Census. Right now there is one vital set of documents at the National Archives in dire need of preservation and digitization: the War of 1812 Pension Files.

180,000 War of 1812 Records Available for Preservation

The National Archives reports that these War of 1812 pension files are among the heaviest requested materials. With that level of use, these valuable records, available in no other format, are in danger of grave deterioration.

  • Free to the Public: As these valuable historical documents are digitized, they will be made available to all at no cost, and the original pension files can be retired to much less active use.
  • Digitized Images Now Available: Completed images and associated indexing are posted incrementally. Genealogists, historians, teachers, patriotic societies, and history buffs all have access to the images that have been digitized right now. Images will be offered for free at Fold3 indefinitely.

Voices in the War of 1812 Pension Files

One of the myths that family history researchers hold about these records: you must have an ancestor who fought in the War of 1812 in order to get any value from the documents.

This is not true! Due to the nature of pension records in general, there are often witness statements, letters and other supporting materials from family, friends, neighbors, and others related to the War of 1812 veteran that can help genealogists make breakthroughs with their research. These names, dates and places of “the others” will be indexed as part of the digitization process.

Here is an example of what you can find in the War of 1812 Pension Records:

Daniel Smith, aged eighty years on the 7th day of March AD 1875… declared that he is married, that his first wife’s name was Margaret Kain… she died… he was married to Nancy West his present wife on the 25th day of September AD 1834…” Daniel Smith, Clermont County, Ohio

Ways You Can Get Involved and Preserve the Pensions

Battles and wars are not won through lack of involvement or waiting for someone else to take up the charge. Your help is needed now since we are in a race against time to raise the $3.7 million needed to digitize over 7.2 million pages of documents. The longer we wait, the more likely it is that many of these documents will be so damaged as to not be usable.

Your participation can take on many forms:

  • Donate now. Click here to make a donation of any amount to the Preserve the Pensions project. Each dollar you donate will digitize at least two pages of records. A $45 donation will help us save 200 pages. You can also make a donation as a memorial to a deceased friend or family member or as a tribute to a living person.
  • Join the Society of Preservation Patriots. Contribute $250 or more and you’ll automatically be enrolled in the Society of Preservation Patriots. Read the announcement here (opens in PDF).
  • Win a War of 1812 Quilt. We’ll have more news shortly, but your donation to Preserve the Pensions can get you entries in a unique fundraising opportunity with the grand prize of a one-of-a-kind War of 1812 commemorative quilt.
  • Spread the Word. If you have a blog or website or even an account on Facebook, send the link to this article to your friends and family. Also let us know if you would like to provide a short presentation to your local genealogical or historical society. More eyes and ears mean more donations which means that we can win the war against time in preserving these records!
  • Volunteer. If you have special skills especially in the areas of non-profit fundraising, marketing, community organization and social media, let us know!  Email us at 1812@fgs.org and we’ll put your skills to good use.

We Will Win This Fight . . . But Not Without Your Help

The bicentennial of what’s been called “America’s Second Revolution” began on June 18, 2012 and over the next three years, the public will turn its attention towards key anniversary events including the Burning of the White House and the Writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

What better time than now to also highlight the importance of saving the War of 1812 Pension Files? Our community has a proven track record of winning previous document preservation battles and we will win this fight.

Thankfully we have partners such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Archives, fold3 and Ancestry.com who have generously donated time, money and resources. But event with this level of support we can’t do it alone.

Stay tuned here at the Preserve the Pensions blog for updates, success stories of researchers using the War of 1812 Pension Files and more.