Tag Archives: Research

Neighbors, Neighbors, Neighbors: More Research Opportunities in the War of 1812 Pensions

Researching the War of 1812 generation can be a challenge.  Few records survive, and some, such as birth and death certificates, were never created.  Genealogists have encouraged us over and over again to seek the neighbors.[1]  The technique known as “cluster genealogy” is a way to find our ancestors among their friends, relatives, and community.  If your ancestor did not make a record that leads to the answer you are seeking, one of his neighbors may have done:  in a deed, will, diary, family history, or court record.

Here are a few samples of how the newly digitized War of 1812 pension records are helping to fill in those gaps:

  • Although only age thirteen at the beginning of the war, Samuel Dorris attested in 1879 to witnessing the 1820 wedding of Roxena Davis and Daniel McBride. On this document is his signature, which can be compared with other documents, but he also swore to his own birthdate and the birthdates of the bride and groom.  In addition, he provided evidence of his own move from Livingston County, New York to upstate in Erie County between those years.[2]   This was my ancestor, and I had never heard of any relationship to the Davis or McBride families before.
  • To help local resident, Ira Fancher, obtain his pension benefits, seventy-five men in the community signed an affidavit in 1839 that said “We the undersigners being personly acquainted with Ira Fancher (an aplicant for a pension) for many years past are fuley of the belief that the said Ira Fancher is a man of truth under Oath” [original spelling preserved].[3] All of the signatures appear to be original and some even indicate the signer’s occupation. What an opportunity to find not only a whole community but their original signatures as well!
  • Silas Chatfield of the New York Militia Riflemen under Capt. John Richardson, who mustered out of Cayuga County, had an eighty-five page pension file that was unprecedented. Not only did he also have a signed document of many of his neighbors’ original signatures, attesting to his service and injuries – he had four!  Four separate lists of neighbors, friends, and fellow soldiers with original signatures from his new home in McHenry County, Illinois (circa 1843-1846).[4]   If anyone is researching any family in the McHenry County area, this pension is a goldmine.
Chatfield Pension file, page 45.

Chatfield Pension file, page 45.

For most of these soldiers and their families, the money provided by these government pensions was the difference between survival and destitution.  To us, they are a delicious peek into the families and communities that made up our ancestors’ world.  Capt. Chatfield entreated the Office of the Pensions,  “It is only to a grateful Cuntry and the ministers of its law that the wounded and other were disable Soldier and the intrepid defenders of its rights and honor can look for recompence of Valor and the reward of patriotism” [spelling preserved].  We can’t say any better than that.

These records are available for FREE forever on Fold3.com, thanks to continued contributions from our community. Make a donation today towards this effort to digitally preserve this incredibly valuable collection of American history.


[1] For a sample of cluster genealogy research, see: Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage  

(https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-11-identity-problems-fan-principle : accessed 9 Jan 2016).

[2] Samuel Dorris affidavit, Daniel McBride (Pvt., Capt. Cook’s Co., NY Militia, War of 1812), widow Roxena McBride, WO 33726, WC 23130; digital images, fold3.com (www.fold3.com : accessed 9 Jan 2016), referencing Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files,  Records of the Veteran’s Administration, RG 15; National Archives (NARA), Washington, D.C.

[3] Ira Fancher (Pvt., Capt. Eli P Robinson NY Mil., War of 1812), SO 14847, SC 9382, BLW 86140-40, widow Anna Fancher, WO 10712, WC 11036, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Records of the Veteran’s Administration, RG 15; National Archives, Washington DC; marriage certification, Baltimore County; digital images, fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/311362386/ : accessed 9 Jan 2016).

[4] Silas Chatfield (Capt., Capt. John Richardson NY Mil., War of 1812), SO 24112, SC 3136, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Records of the Veteran’s Administration, RG 15; National Archives, Washington DC; marriage certification, Baltimore County; digital images, fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/304386935: accessed 9 Jan 2016); for the four separate lists of community members, see: https://www.fold3.com/image/304387082, https://www.fold3.com/image/304386993 , https://www.fold3.com/image/304387010 ,and https://www.fold3.com/image/304387022.


Trouble with Surname Spellings? Tips for searching multiple names in the War of 1812 Pensions at fold3.com!

Like many websites, to search for your ancestor properly, you need to change the surname spelling for every search you make. Fold3 is one of those, but there is a work-around you may not be aware of. When searching for a name with multiple spellings, try this trick. For this example, we will be using the surname “Clements.”

  • At Fold3, click on the tab “War of 1812” under the heading “Browse US Military Records by War.” When you do, a box will show up to the right about War of 1812 records available in the site. Now click on the dark blue words “Browse all War of 1812 Titles.”
  • Now your screen will show two columns. Go to the second column titled “Publication,” and scroll down to click on “War of 1812 Pension Files.”
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Layout on Fold3.com

  • A new column will show up on the right side, titles “State Organization.” Click on the state where your ancestor served. For this example, we will use Maryland.
  • The next column that now shows on the right is “Surname Starts With.” Here we click “C” for Clements.
  • Now another column shows to the right alongside the surname list. If we scroll through those names we find three surname spellings in the Maryland records only that may be variants of the Clements name: Clemans, Clements, Clemmer. Clicking on each of these will give the name of the soldiers who applied for pensions (or pensions applied for by widows under their husbands’ names).
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Surname searching on Fold3.com

Using this search technique, you may find surname spellings for your ancestor that you had not considered.  Don’t forget to search for your ancestor’s name (with each possible spelling) in the regular search – he may be listed in someone else’s pension, too.

Happy Researching!

Remember that records are made available online – FREE forever – by donations from people like you. Help us preserve the War of 1812 pension files and make a donation today!



Lineage Societies and War of 1812 Pensions

When a person applies to join a lineage society, that application involves proving their direct ancestry from themselves up to the ancestor involved in a specific part of history.  Groups such as the Colonial Dames, Mayflower Society, The Founders and Patriots of America, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), The General Society War of 1812, National Society U.S. Daughters War of 1812, and others all maintain this requirement for membership.

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Daughters of the War of 1812, photographed in 1922

Of those listed here, they all have something in common:  the lineages they must prove all go through or to the War of 1812 generation, which is generally thought of as one of the more difficult generations to connect.  The Preserve the Pensions Project to digitize and conserve the War of 1812 pension records at the National Archives is a key to researching in this time period.



The pension and bounty land record of my fifth Great-grandfather, Cyril Call of Vermont, found online at Fold3 shows a number of facts that helps me connect to him and to other generations:

  • Name of his unit and rank
  • Residence at the time of his draft into the Vermont Militia
  • His age
  • His signature, which may help distinguish him from other men of the same name
  • His wife’s name (maiden) and the date and place of their marriage
  • His loyalty during the “late rebellion” (the Civil War)
  • Residence out West in 1871 at the time of his application
  • Names of witnesses, some who share his surname
  • The fact that he received bounty land, but has since sold it.

These facts become significant when researching; they help place him in a specific time and location in order to be connected with other relatives in those locations.  Indications of a pioneering move to the Western States helps distinguish him from other men of that name who may have stayed back in Vermont.  Cyril’s father, Joseph Call, was a Revolutionary War Veteran also from Vermont.  A copy of an old Sons of the American Revolution membership application (at Ancestry.com) further gives evidence of other family records that can be useful to my research and own lineage applications.

The War of 1812 pensions and historic society membership applications have a symbiotic relationship.  Together they represent the marriage of original records and family stories that bring a fuller picture of our ancestors’ patriotic service to light.

Do your part today to save these historic documents; for researcher’s of all interests. Donate today to save the War of 1812 Pension files!