Author Archives: David E. Rencher

War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Project Ahead of Schedule

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[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,, and FamilySearch to make these images available. 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: 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 . Each dollar donated to the project preserves two images. 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 – 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 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 Match Completed/
In Progress
Indiana State Genealogical Society $ 12,117 $ 24,234 $ 48,468


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


Texas State Genealogical Society $ 5,000

In Progress

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


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


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


Click here for more information or email to start your own matching campaign for Preserve the Pensions!