Confederate Pensions Databases

At the first of six sessions of my Intermediate Online Genealogy class, my students and I covered military records: why they’re important in genealogy, and where they can be found, both off- and online.

Most researchers know that if they have a Union Civil War ancestor, chances are he, his widow, his elderly parents, or the guardian of his orphaned child(ren) applied for a pension in his name; and that copies of these pension applications are available for a fee of $75 from the National Archives. Unlike military service records, pension records are chock-full of genealogical information, as the applicants had to prove there was no one in the family that could support them, or–in the case of widows, parents and orphans–that they were related to the deceased veteran.

What researchers often don’t realize is that many Confederate veterans were also eligible for pensions; no, not from the Federal Government–the government against which they had waged war–but from a former Confederate state. The veteran had to apply to the state in which he currently resided after the war…not necessarily the state from which he served. Obviously, then, if the veteran resided in a Union state after the war, or a location that saw statehood after 1865, he would not have been eligible for a pension. Our family’s only Confederate ancestor, my husband’s 2nd-great-grandfather, Charles Anderson Midkiff, served in the Texas Cavalry and would not have received a pension. He lived in Colorado and California in his later years: a Union state and former territory, respectively.

One of my students requested some extra help in researching her Civil War ancestors. I helped her order her Union ancestor’s pension record online at the NARA site, and then we searched the Texas Confederate Pension database online for her Confederate ancestor (no luck). I realized that there should be a list online somewhere that would have all the links for any online Confederate Pension databases, and I was right. Joe Beine had a list of where to order pension records (Union and Confederate) among all his great online military records links. I also found a list of where to order Confederate pension records with descriptive information on Troy Grove’s Terry’s Texas Rangers website. The descriptions include when pensions begin and who was eligible (the veteran only, widows, etc.). Each list has a few things the other didn’t, and as often happens, some of the links were obsolete (neither Joe’s nor Troy’s fault; government websites are notorious for changing their pages’ URLs, I’ve noticed). NARA also has a descriptive list and includes mail, phone and e-mail information for each archive office for the states that granted Confederate pensions. Again, some of their links are obsolete.

I decided to put together my own list of online Confederate veterans pension application databases, shown below. Once you find your ancestor in the database, there is information on each website to help you order a copy of his pension application and record.

Alabama – The archives do not have an online pension application database. They do have a database of those who served from Alabama here, as well as those individuals who were exempted from service or who served in the militia or home guard. This database includes only those men whose surnames begin with the letters A through T. Contact information for the archives can be found on the bottom of the home page here.

Arkansashttp://www.ark-ives.com/documenting/confed_pensions.asp

Floridahttp://www.floridamemory.com/Collections/PensionFiles/

Georgiahttp://content.sos.state.ga.us/cdm4/pension.php – a partial list from the state archive site; Georgia State University is also putting together a database, which currently has more counties than the state archives. Instructions on how to use the GSU database, along with a link to it, can be found here: http://docuweb.gsu.edu/civilwar.htm

Louisianahttp://www400.sos.louisiana.gov/archives/gen/cpa-alpha.htm – this is a fairly new link to the pension applications index. A form to request a copy of the pension application can be downloaded here.

Mississippi – The pension applications are not online. Research requests information can be found here.

North Carolina – I was not successful in finding online pension application indices, even though this document states they are available here. Information on the military collection can be found here.

South Carolinahttp://www.archivesindex.sc.gov/Archives/search/default.asp (regular) or http://167.7.33.100/onlinearchives/search.aspx (beta test) – I got different results using the same search terms on each. Online request forms can be accessed here. Be sure to list that your request is for a pension application record, or you may be sent a military service record instead.

Tennesseehttp://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/history/military/pension.htm

Texashttp://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/pensions/

Virginiahttp://www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/mil/ – this page includes a link not just to the pension rolls, but to the electronic card index, the disability applications and receipts, and applications for admission to the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home, as well as other Civil War military links. There are military links for many other wars, too.

Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma granted pensions to its Confederate veterans after the war. Oklahoma was known as Indian Territory during the war, and its tribal governments supported the Confederacy. Kentucky and Missouri both had populations with strong Southern sympathies, rump (rival) governments, were admitted to the Confederacy, and had volunteer units which served in the Confederate Army. However, they were never under complete Confederate control and their Confederate governments ended up in exile.

Kentuckythis online form can be used to request copies of pension applications, which are not indexed online.

Missourithis link provides descriptive information only and is not a pension database. Pension applications and applications to admission to the Confederate Home are available onsite; information on having research done and copies made can be found on this page.

Oklahomahttp://www.odl.state.ok.us/oar/docs/pension.pdf – this index is in .pdf format, and you will need to use the “Find” feature or scroll through 164 pages to find your ancestor! Contact information for ordering copies of the pension applications can be found in the left-hand menu here.
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In the event that you’re reading this post long after I’ve written it, and you discover an obsolete link, do as I did: go to Google and enter the search term:

“nameofstate state archives”

Please use the actual name of the state (Georgia, Texas, etc.) in place of nameofstate! Then use the archives website’s site map or search engine to find confederate pensions. If that’s no help, return to Google and enter the following term:

“confederate pension” site:http://statearchiveURL.gov


Of course, you’ll enter the actual address of the state archive’s website in place of http://statearchiveURL.gov! Just make sure to have the word site and the colon (:) directly in front of the address, with no spaces in between. This should help you find an updated link to the pension database just in case, as I said, the link becomes obsolete in the future.

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4 Responses

  1. Miriam,

    This is an interesting post; for an unusual reason.

    There’s controversy over whether African ancestored freemen or slaves ever served in the Confederate army as soldiers.

    Additionally, if they served – but not as gun toting soldiers – would they be included in the pension files?

    This would be one instance that could certainly prove if blacks served in the Confederate army.

    Peace,
    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  2. George, as I read through the various state archives websites, I specifically remember one of them had information on black Confederate veterans. But which one? I don’t recall. I’ll have to go through them and see what I can find.

    I had not realized that there is a controversy over whether African descendants served in the Confederate Army; I had always heard that there were blacks that served both sides. Since the war was not waged over slavery (several Union states were slave states, as I’m sure you know), but over states’ rights, blacks in the South perhaps would not have seen the irony of fighting for the Confederacy.

    I’ll get back to you as soon as I can find out where I saw that information.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. George, here’s what I could find:

    Arkansas:
    “The collection also contains applications from several dozen African Americans who saw various kinds of service during the Civil War…”

    Tennessee
    “The Board maintained three separate rolls: soldiers’ roll, widows’ roll, and African-American soldiers’ roll. The index following, to the soldiers’, widows’, and African-Americans’ pensions, is arranged alphabetically, and includes the pension file number, county of residence at time of application, and soldier’s unit. All units are regiments unless otherwise designated. If a unit was known by more than one name or number, the official designation is used in the index. If an applicant’s unit could not be ascertained, it is listed as “undetermined”. “Unassigned” denotes an applicant who was not in a field unit but was assigned a job necessary to the war effort– tailor, mechanic, carpenter, smith, etc.”

  4. Information about North Carolina Civil War Pensions are online. You have to access the North Carolina State Archives “MARS catalog,” http://www.ncarchives.dcr.state.nc.us/?site=raleigh … this is also accessible from the main North Carolina Archives home page, http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/archives/default.htm

    If you then search on 1901 Pension — this should do the trick — the catalog is down as I do this and so I can’t verify the exact phrasing.

    And, I’d be happy to verify it if you run into continued issues.

    Diane Richard
    Mosaic RPM
    dianelrichard@mosaicrpm.com

    (Don’t have a google account and don’t have the time to set one up now)

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