Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reading Civil War Pension Cards

Civil War pension cards can provide a lot of information. But they can also provide a lot of confusion. Here are a few tips to help you glean every bit of help you can get from that index card.

This card tells us the soldier's name: John W. James. No rank is listed but we know he served in Co. M of the 22nd Regiment Pennsylvania Cavalry. He enlisted 26 February 1864 and was transferred. He filed for an invalid pension (application # 446.074) and received that pension on 12 April 1882 (pension # 1.028.379). He also received an old age pension on 14 April 1907. Trooper James also served in Co. M of the 3rd Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry, no doubt that explains his transfer.

And here is his pension card filed under the 3rd PA Provisional Cavalry. We know it is the same man because the application and pension numbers match up, and there is the note that he served in Co. M of the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Sometimes a pension card provides a whole different set of problems. Perry Clayberg served in Co. G of the 11th Regiment Illinois Cavalry. He received an invalid pension on 21 September 1898 (certificate #996.963) and his widow received a widow's pension on 22 March 1909 (certificate #688.311). Clayberg also served in Co. C of the 11th Illinois Cavalry. We also can compare the death date (1 February 1909) with the records we have to verify this is the same man.

But it is the "remarks" section that causes us to pause. "See WC 24236 Chas Moran A 55 Ill Inf." What does that mean?

"WC" stands for "Widow's Claim," specifically #24.236. The soldier for that claim was Charles Moran who served in Co. A of the 55th Regiment Illinois Infantry.

A quick search turns up Charles Moran's pension card. We know that this is the right man for several reasons. First, he served in Co. A of the 55th Regiment Illinois Infantry. The widow's pension number is the same: 24.236. And in the remarks we see a reference to the widow's claim for Perry Clayberg of Co. G if the unreadable Illinois Cavalry.

We would need to acquire the pension records for both men to determine the whole story, but one of two things happened here. Either the Widow Moran was collecting her pension (illegally) for Charles while married to Perry, or the government officials are merely cross referencing the two to explain why the Widow Moran stopped receiving that pension but is now receiving a new pension.

Pension cards can be a lot of help in tracking down the details of your ancestor's life. Read carefully, follow the clues, and you may find unexpected stories in your family.

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