I’ve been doing some research on an ancestor who served in the Civil War and I was  happy to find Pension Index Cards for this individual on 3 different sites – but that wasn’t the bonus. The bonus was that the two cards were not the same!


Fold3 and FamilySearch



The top card was from Fold3 and it matched the card found on FamilySearch. The bottom card was from Ancestry, but it had the added information of the wife’s name and the date in which the Widow’s Pension aplication was filed – which has helped me to narrow down the date of death significantly. I think in the back of my mind, I knew there were different versions of the card, but I’ve been so focus on Revolutionary War times, I have to get my brain back in gear!

I’ve done some research on the subject and some excellent information can be found on the LegacyTree Genealogists web page. Click here to read their article. But the outline of the information is this:

  • At some point in the process of accounting for all the soldiers who applied and received Civil War pensions, two series of cards were created – each with a slightly different purpose and organizational strategy.
  • The set on Fold3 (NARA T289) is organized by geographic and military units. (You can click through the cards to see everyone who served in a specific unit.)
  • Lisa’s note – the cards on FamilySearch are the same as the cards on Fold3, but they are arranged alphabetically.
  • The Fold3 cards will often (though not always) contain the soldier’s death date at the bottom.
  • The set on Ancestry (NARA T288) is organized alphabetically by the soldier’s last name.
  • The Ancestry card will frequently include the name of the soldier’s widow or other dependents as well as the state from which the applications were filed.

But did you also know that there’s an additional index which can be helpful if you can’t clearly read the numbers on these cards? NARA A1158 has the pensions indexed by number for the Army or Navy service in the Civil War and later. This can be found on Fold3 here.  At this time, it is only 20% complete but the ones that have been completed are indexed by name. When you look at the application and certificate numbers, you can currently find some cards for numbers between 1-276585. If you think a number that you are looking at is between those two numbers, you might be able to confirm the number using this index. Isaac’s numbers are not in this range so here’s another example.



This is an Index Card found on Fold3 for Elias Smith. Perhaps I don’t know that this is the correct Elias because the name was pretty common in the area and no wife is mentioned. (Although in this case, the note about Andrew Stephens is a good clue!) Let’s see what Ancestry has.





The card on Ancestry does contain the name of the widow – Victoria (Coffey) Smith, my great-great grandmother! For this example, the numbers are pretty clear, but let’s say I wanted to confirm a number. Using the Numerical Index on Fold3, I’ve found a card for 226845 – the widow’s certificate. Notice that the number is found in the upper, left corner, but there are 4 names on this card. (Some cards contain up to 32 names because of the number of wars these cards refer to!)



Numerical Index on Fold3

On this card, I see that there is an invalid application (orig.) #226845 for Joseph Showman (along with the certificate number), an invalid certificate #226845 for Henry Rasenbrauck, a dependant application (M could mean “mother” or “minor”) #226845 for Amos Treat and finally, a dependent (W means “widow) certificate #226845 for Elias Smith. This shows me that the number I’m trying to decipher is correct.

A couple of abbreviations I’ve discovered in my research for this index: C = “child”, F = “father”, M = “mother” or “minor” and S = “sisters”. Orig is the application and Ctf is the certificate.

I found this card by click through the number breakdown supplied on the Fold3 site, but I did notice that while the numbers are in a range, they are not all in numerical order, so don’t give up – make sure you look through the entire list for that range. I’d suggest doing a name search first. The problem with name searches is that names may not be spelled the way you expect, so think through your options there.

Finally, one more index to consider! The Index to Pension Application Files of Remarried Widows (NARA M1785) can be found on Ancestry here. When I did a search for “Victoria” with a spouse named Elias Smith (you can also do a search with just the veteran’s name, leaving the spouse blank), I found this (bottom left):


One more way to find that application or certificate number. I also noticed that the filing date on this card is quite a bit after the dates given on the Pension Index cards, so something else to dig in to.

If you have a Civil War pension index for an ancestor, you might want to check to see if you have found all the information that can be found! You just might receive some bonuses as well!