Pension Numerical Index
Records: 5,757,270 · Complete: 100%
The Pension Numerical Index is a great cross-referencing tool when researching pension files. Officially called A1158, Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860-1934, this card index from the National Archives covers application and certificate numbers for men who fought in wars prior to, during, or after the Civil War.
While mostly comprised of Civil War and later pension numbers, the earliest cards include entries for soldiers in the Indian War, Mexican War, War of 1812, and the “Old War,” this last covering those who served from the end of the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the Civil War (1783-1861).
The cards are presented in numerical order, yet every card is indexed by name as well. The Pension Numerical Index can be used in tandem with other records on Fold3 like the Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index (T289), and pension files for Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Let’s look at a few examples.
If you find a card in T289 that’s difficult to read, like this one for a minor dependent of Conrad Geveke, you can search on his name within the Pension Numerical Index to locate a card for application number 64685 where his pension’s certificate number (62762) is also listed on the card (and the letter “C” marks it as that for a child, or minor.) Our search for Conrad Geveke yields two hits, however, and the second card is 62762, the certificate number.
Other names on card #62762 direct you to pensions for three other men. Note that Nicodemus F. Orem’s application number is 62762, but his certificate number is 81107, which we find here. If we search for Nicodemus F. Orem in T289, we won’t find him unless we use a variant spelling of his first name as Nicodemas.
Both Army and Navy certificate numbers are referenced. Search for a sailor named John C. Joyce and you’ll find the 51169 index card on which Joyce is one of five pensioners listed. The other four entries reference Army pensioners by application and certificate numbers. We also find Joyce’s pension certificate #36486 cross-referenced on the card. After locating his file within the Navy Survivors’ Certificateson Fold3, we find number 36486 indexed with his name, and it appears on many of the documents. Application “No. 51169” is noted on page 19 of Joyce’s 89-page file.
Use this index as a companion index to the Civil War Pensions Index.
Has Grandpa Gone MIA?
**The Numerical Index to Pensions is Great When Your Ancestor Was Cooperative **
by Vanessa Hyatt Farnsworth
You have looked for your great-grandfather George Casler in the pension index cards with no luck. Maybe you would have had better luck searching for Scott W. Hall or maybe George House. On second thought, maybe you should have looked for George Howe. Believe it or not these were all alias names for your great-grandfather!
The A1158 or Numerical Index to Pensions, which covers the years 1860–1934, is a great resource for trying to find your veteran ancestor. This index is arranged numerically by application and certificate numbers but can also be searched by name on Fold3.com. Also included in these records are units not limited to geographic location, such as the U.S. Colored Troops, U.S. Volunteers, and U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps.
A veteran’s pension file can have some great information to help you in your research. Their pension file can include their rank, place of residence, age or date of birth, and time of service. It could also include eye color, hair color, build, and if they were tall or short. A widow’s application can also include her place of residence, her maiden name, the date and place of marriage, the date and place of her husband’s death, and the names of children under 16. A child’s or heir’s file contains information about both the veteran and the widow, as well as the child’s place of residence, date of birth, and the date and place of the widow’s death. All this information may not be in every file.
If you are looking for a Confederate veteran it was the state that they lived in that granted those pensions. For more information about Confederate pensions, see the following reference report: Pensions for Military Service in the Army of the Confederate States of America.
While finding our ancestors on these records should be as easy as typing in their name some of our ancestors have made that a little tricky. Here are a few examples of what I have noticed while working in these records. I have seen up to five aliases on these cards. You also need to keep in mind that when these cards were indexed, only one of these names was used as there was not a field for multiple names.
The example in Figure 1 shows that James H. Kinley was also known as James Beanton and James H. Hall. Unless you have a good family story that has been passed down about your ancestor and his aliases it may be a little tricky to find this ancestor.
?In Figure 2 this veteran was William H. Cunliffe with an alias of William C. Howard. When you look at this name it makes you think that he could have possibly switched his middle and last name. This theory may not be right but it is worth a try.
In Figure 3 this veteran was Ernest A. Von Diezelski. Ernest dropped the Von from his last name and his middle initial A. and became Ernst V. Diezelski.
I have also seen the last and the first name switched. For instance, Taylor William could become William Taylor. Also, remember to look for nicknames such as Will, Willy, Bill and Billy for William.
Don’t forget to look for your female ancestors in these records. In the Civil War, there were many women who disguised themselves as men and fought on the front line. Many served in the medical units as nurses. Although it may be harder to find the ancestor who fought as a man, those who served as nurses are a little easier to find.
As you can see in Figure 4 Annie A. Gallagher is now Annie A. Bassford. This could be her maiden name and her married name or this could also be a woman’s married name and then her name when she remarried after the war due to becoming a widow.
As you can see from the examples being a little creative could help you find that elusive veteran. Once you have found your man or woman you can order their file from NARA using form NATF 86. You can download this form and mail it in or you can fill the information out online and receive the information as a download, CD, or DVD. The cost is $30. The NATF 86 form is for Army only.
For a comparison of the T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934, (found on Ancestry.com) T289, Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, (found on Fold3.com) and the A1158, Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860–1934, (found on Fold3.com) read “Family Tree Friday: Pension Indexes Examined” by katherinevollen.
 National Archives and Records Administration, “Pensions for Soldiers Who Served During the Civil War, 1861-1865,” accessed 16 Aug 2017, https://www.archives.gov/files/research/military/civil-war/pensions.pdf.
 National Archives and Records Administration, “Pensions for Military Service in the Army of the Confederate States of America,” accessed 16 Aug 2017, https://www.archives.gov/files/research/military/civil-war/confederate/confederate-pensions.pdf.
 For more information about “alias” names see Milton Rubincam’s book _Pitfalls in Genealogical Research” _pp. 40-41.
 “Female Soldiers in the Civil War,” Civil War Trust, Accessed 16 Aug 2017, https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/female-soldiers-civil-war.
 Katherinevollen, “Family Tree Friday: Pension Indexes Examined” The National Archives, NARAtions, accessed 16 Aug 2017, https://narations.blogs.archives.gov/2010/12/31/family-tree-friday-pension-indexes-examined/.
NARAtions, one of the blogs of the National Archives, published a helpful perspective on the Numerical Index to Pensions in Family Tree Friday: Pension Indexes Examined.