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- Free to the Public: As these valuable historical documents are digitized, they will be made available to all at no cost, and the original pension files can be retired to much less active use.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 firstname.lastname@example.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.