Last night’s notebook “assignment” was to transcribe the Civil War Pension file that I have for Andrew J. Stephens and to organize the different Pension Index Cards and Compiled Service Record print outs so that I can have the right records with the correct Andrew. The Pension File was only 8 pages long, so that went pretty quickly.

I have Index Cards for 3 different units, but they only apply to 2 different men.  The records for these 2 men were mixed and led to several mistakes in the pension process, so that is the knot I’m trying to untangle.

I had noticed in the past that the Index Cards that I see on Ancestry are slightly different from the ones I got from Fold3.  If you don’t know that there’s a difference, it’s easy to assume you have all of the information you’ll ever get from looking at one card only.

So last night, I did some research to see how the cards are different and I thought I’d share what I found. I got the information from the comments section to Fold3’s Index Cards and from a FamilySearch Wiki. First, the names of the databases are different.

Both online databases are digitized NARA files. Ancestry’s database is the “Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934”.
Fold3’s database is the “Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900”.  There is also a 3rd database found at NARA called “Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860-1934”.

I tried to research WHY each set of cards was created.  After all, they are so similar, it really seems like a waste of time and money to create both sets. I could not find anything on the original intent for each project, but here’s what I’ve discovered about each database:

Ancestry’s:

  • Arranged alphabetically by soldier’s name
  • Includes the unit the soldier served in
  • Gives application and certificate number for invalid, widow and minor filings
  • Could contain more than one card and can include the name of the widow or minor child
  • Has a section for “remarks”
  • If cards were too dark (mainly Navy related) they were not digitized
  • Available at Ancestry.com and NARA

Fold3’s:

  • Arranged by military unit within regiments for each state
  • Includes the unit the soldier served in
  • Gives application and certificate number for invalid, widow and minor filings
  • Has a blank for date of death
  • Has a section for “additional service” and “other remarks”
  • Available at Fold3.com and NARA
  • Will reference at FamilySearch.org, but clicking the image takes you to Fold3

NARA’s:

  • Arranged by Pension number
  • Contains the information for every pension for that number – soldier application, soldier certificate, widow application and widow certificate (This part confuses me as it appears that one index number could refer to several different people that don’t appear to be related.  So I BELIEVE this means that the 4 different types of records have duplicated numbers.)
  • Only available on microfilm in Washington DC

Either digital card might contain a death date, but it seems to be more common on the Fold3 cards.  The Fold3 cards have the word “DEAD” stamped on the upper right corner if the death date is included. On my cards, there are remarks on the Ancestry cards that do not appear on the Fold3 cards.  For one of my veterans, there is a note to see another man’s file for additional information. The other man was the first husband of the veteran’s current wife. When she filled in her paperwork for a widow’s pension, she gave information on both men.  That is something I would not have known to look for if I’d only looked at the Fold3 card.  A new numbering system was also put into place in the 1920’s by the Veteran’s administration. These new numbers were apparently used some of the Ancestry cards so you may need to see both cards to be able to request the correct file. (I don’t have that issue, so I’m not sure what that looks like.)

Here’s an example of what I’m looking at for one of the Andrew J. Stephens.

Stephens, Andrew J Co C 13 Ky Cav – Fold3


Stephens, Andrew J Co C 13 Ky Cav – Ancestry

Again, the differences aren’t huge, but the extra note on the Fold3 card gave me information that I wouldn’t have had by using Ancestry only.

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