Footnote has begun digitizing all 2,670 rolls of microfilm that contain approximately 80,000 pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant (BLW) applications submitted by American military, naval and marine officers and enlisted men who fought during the Revolutionary War. Pensions for the men or their families were designed to encourage enlistment and to discourage desertion and resignation.
Three types of pensions were provided by the U.S. government - disability or invalid, service, and widow's pensions. The cover sheet of each application now contains the letters "S" for survivor (the veteran) or "W" for widow. Benefits and qualifications varied by time period. Some applications that were initially rejected were later allowed, and some that had originally been accepted then rejected were later restored. The length of time a pension could be collected also varied with different acts. Pensions took the form of money; Land-Bounty-Warrants were, of course, land. While states also granted bounty land, the records in this publication pertain only to bounty-land warrants available through the U.S. government. If the file is for a Bounty-Land Warrant application, the letters "BLWt" will appear on the envelope, along with the warrant number and the number of acres that were granted. If the Warrant was issued pursuant to the Bounty Land Act of 1855, the number "55" will also be written beside the other 2 numbers.
When a person applied for a pension, he/she had to appear in a court in the state where they resided to describe under oath the service for which a pension was claimed. Widows had to provide information about their marriage. Documentation could include marriage certificates, property schedules, letters, pages from family Bibles, diaries, journals, or witnesses' affidavits. A pension application could be accepted, denied or held for further proof. If an application was denied, the letter on the application was "R" for rejected. "No Papers" on the envelope indicates that the original application was filed before the fire of 1800 and no longer exist.
For more detailed information on this publication, read the Descriptive Pamphlet provided by the National Archives and Records Administration.
A typical file (or envelope) contains about 30 pages of documentation, including evidence, papers showing action taken by the government, and later letters from genealogists, or summary cards. Each file is based on the service of one veteran, and his name is on the front of the file, along with his widow's name (which would be her new married name if she remarried). All applications based on a veteran's service are together under that veteran's name. Alternate spellings of the veteran's name are also given, and any aliases he may have used (these are not always for purposes of disguise - he may have gone by his first name at times and his middle name at other times). Names with variant spellings are cross-referenced. Also on the front of the file is the branch of service - usually a state but often it will be the Continental Army (and the state where he was stationed).
Survivors' and disability applications filed prior to November 1800 are missing because of a fire. Others may be missing because the original material was returned to applicants. Historical documents submitted with applications were removed and returned to other departments or agencies of the U.S. government. These documents include muster rolls, pay rolls, returns etc. Cross-reference cards are provided to indicate the type of material that was removed and where it was sent.
These records contain historical information as well as information useful to genealogists. Application statements and substantiating documents can reveal information on troop movement, organization of military units, details of battles and campaigns, civil events and conditions. Genealogists are interested in marriage certificates, family relationships, ages, and dates and places of births and deaths.