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Collections Corner: Southern Revolutionary War Pensions & Rosters

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This month’s Collection Corner comes to us from Kandie Adkinson at the Kentucky Secretary of State Land Office. At a recent event at Boonesborough, Kandie shared one of her favorite secret weapons when researching Revolutionary Soldiers in connection to land records: The Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements and Rosters (http://www.revwarapps.org/). 


This volunteer site, run by Will Graves and C. Leon Harris, is a digital monument to Revolutionary Soldiers of the south. According to the site: “This site is dedicated to celebrating the lives and contributions made by the brave men and women who fought or lived in the South during the American Revolution and making their eye-witness accounts freely available in this searchable database. In addition, C. Leon Harris also has included other veterans whose applications were investigated by Special Agent W. G. Singleton as possibly involving fraud.

As of this writing, the site contains 222 Roster Transcriptions and 21,228 Pension Pension Applications or Bounty Land Claims. As Kandie pointed out, they may be transcriptions only, but there is a special addition to many of them that makes her life easier at the land office: Signatures! At the bottom of many of the transcriptions, an image of the actual applicant’s signature or seal has been inserted! While researching land warrants and claims, Kandie can use this site to pull up the signature of a pensioner and compare it to land records in her office. Plus, she adds, it is a quick and dirty way to look through some of these pensions with applicants of the same name to quickly determine whether this could be the correct person being researched.

RevWar Signature

I totally understand her excitement! This is a great gem for many other uses – especially for lineage societies or potential members. While it’s not the actual document, a transcription is easier to briefly read prior to ordering the original images – and how many times have we ordered the wrong document packet? This site can help you find the correct document number prior to ordering from the National Archives.

I also love reading the wild trails that these soldiers took after the War. Many of their accounts mention place of birth, with a following description of the various places they settled up until the time of the application interview. Sometimes a family Bible and a list of family connections are included. The witness list of those attesting to the applicant’s veracity is also an interesting feature. Sometimes this can be neighbors, which can help with your research – or even better, siblings who fought along side the applicant can be included in the list! I even noticed one application that had the widow’s account, along with HER signature!  

So far, I’ve used the browse function to investigate lines/surnames that I suspect may have fought, but according to the site, it is best to use the power of the search function. They claim that the search function can pull out your ancestor or location in the account or witness portion. The FAQ reminds us that only 1 in 6 Veterans applied for a pension. In 1818, the stigma of declaring yourself “impoverished” in order to qualify was not popular, and by 1832, when all were encouraged to receive a pension, many were already gone. As you tiptoe through this wonderful resource on a rainy day, just remember, they transcribe: “only the pension applications of soldiers who served from southern states or those from northern states who served in the South.” Luckily for us, this would include a lot of Kentucky settlers! 

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