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Revolutionary War Pension Files

Jonathan Libby Revolutionary War Pension JacketIf you have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, Fold3’s Revolutionary War Pension Files can be a valuable resource for finding detailed information about them and their families. With roughly 80,000 files, this collection (via the National Archives) contains applications for veterans’ pensions, widows’ pensions, and bounty land warrants, organized by state and then by veteran surname.

In addition to details of a veteran’s military service, these types of applications are a rich source of genealogical information, such as a veteran’s age or date of birth, residence, birthplace, and even information about his wife (or widow) and children. Because veterans and their widows or heirs often submitted certain documents along with their pension or bounty land applications, within the Revolutionary War Pensions you may also find commissions, discharges, military orders, muster rolls, deeds, wills, receipts, diaries, journals, letters, marriage certificates, and newspaper clippings.

Let’s look at an example of one of these application files—that of Jonathan Libby—and see what kinds of things we can learn from it.

Jonathan Libby JournalAs we skim through the pages, we quickly find that this file contains three separate widow’s pension applications submitted by Jonathan’s widow, Abigail, over the course of about seven years. As we dig deeper into the file, we discover that although Jonathan was living in Scarborough, Maine, he enlisted in the Massachusetts Line in March 1777, with Richard Maybery (or Mayberry) as his company captain and Colonel Francis—and later Colonel Tupper— his regimental commander. While serving as a sergeant, ensign, lieutenant, and then captain, we learn from the journal included in his file that he participated in the battles of Hubbardton, Saratoga, White Marsh, Monmouth, and Stony Point before being discharged on 18 March 1780.

From the file, we also learn that Jonathan and Abigail were married on January 27, 1781 (or 1784) in Scarborough, Maine, and that Abigail’s maiden name was also Libby, being a “remote relative” to Jonathan. They had 10 children together, 3 of whom predeceased their parents. Jonathan died in Maine on March 21 (or 15), 1805, at the age of 52, and his wife never remarried. Abigail, who was 74 in August 1838, applied for a widow’s pension under the acts of 1838 and 1843 and received $269.33 per year, which was then increased under the 1844 act to $334.33.

That’s quite a bit of information from one file!

Find out what you can discover about your own Revolutionary War ancestors in Fold3’s Revolutionary War Pension Files.


  1. Debbie Gahn says:

    I love Fold3. Before I would send away to the National Archives for records. This has made it so much easier in my research. Just 6 months ago I found my 4th grandfather’s Revolutionary Pension file. Awesome!! Learned he had joined Daniel Morgan’s Virginia Rifle Militia. He talked about being captured at Quebec & escaping. Which I then did research on the Militia. Oh my didn’t realize how much they were involved in the War & that Daniel Morgan was uncle to Daniel Boone!! My grandfather stayed with the Morgans. History tells about their capture & release from Quebec. So interesting for me!! Loved it!!

    Another 4th grandfather in his pension file stated how he came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone to help build Fort Boone. He was asking for Land Grant for services in the War. Again awesome for me!!

    I would just like to a thought: I know some people complain about they aren’t finding any records for their ancestor but we have to realize all the digitized records now need to be indexed. Right now 99% of Revolutionary War Pension files are & the War of 1812 only 17% are complete. So it will take time to get it all done!
    Also the fire destroy the records for WWI and WWII. I found sending away for my father-in-laws discharged papers was the best I could get. At least that information gave me when he enlisted, where he was stationed through out the war. Finally my husband learned that his father received the Bronze Star. He never knew that. Not a lot genealogy wise but better then nothing.

    I love using the site Fold3.

    • Nesa Clark says:

      Debby- I found infomation from looking up the group my father-in-law served with. If you have dates and at least the country he served in that will help. I also sought info on the name of the towns his platoon were listed as being at. You may have to be a detective. I sought out Army records and the National Archive. Fold3 was instrumental in bringing this all together. He was a POW in Germany, but at 89 had forgotten much info. I miraculously found a copy of his POW record from the Army and found the camp he was imprisoned at. Wikipedia provided info & pics. Good luck to you.

    • Nesa Clark says:

      Debby- I’m sorry, that was WW2. For the ARW, I went to the county my ancestor lived in and found copies of his hearing and applications of his pension as well. Also google was helpful. Findagrave may have additional info as well. Good luck in your search!

    • Hi Debbie,
      Have a look at my website (above) some info on Daniel Morgan which may interest you.
      Best from Belfast =Michael Higgins

  2. Nancy Nelson says:

    In your blurb you say “From the file, we also learn that Jonathan and Abigail were married on January 27, 1881 (or 1884) in Scarborough, Maine,” Don’t you mean that this Revolutionary War soldier was married in 1781 – not 1881? Especially since the veteran died in 1805.

  3. Judie Cook says:

    You have a major league typo, seen above, while describing Janathans history. You have him being discharged in 1780 and then marrying Abigail in 1881! I think you need to get a new proof reader…Does get a bit confusing!

  4. Gerald McLaughlin says:

    Same comments as above re flubbed dates.

    I prefer you finish posting war of 1812 records than spend time posting faulty info on rev war records.

  5. Adam Salisbury says:

    Back you trolls! Get back I say! Seriously though, I love fold3 and hope you guys and gals keep up the good work. Always glad to see new content. Ever consider a system where users could upload pdf’s of documents and then you can index them? I’ve got 10 or 12 civil war pension files on pdf (one is over 200 pgs) that would be worth sharing with distant cousins.

    • Debbie Gahn says:

      Adam I to would love to that. Maybe that is something Fold3 can look into you!

  6. Normally, I renew my subscription every year at the S.C. Genealogical Jamboree in Burbank, CA. However, no one from your company was there a few weeks ago.

    I would like to renew, but have not received any email from you.

    Please contact me.

    Shirley Vanderbeck

    • Diane Wilson Flynn says:

      This message is for Shirley Vanderbeck and any other members of the Southern California Genealogical Society:

      Remote access to Fold 3 is a benefit of membership in SCGS, so you do not have to renew your subscription to Fold 3!

  7. Lois Jobe says:

    I am so excited and looking forward to looking for my Revolutionary War ancesors on your web site. I am a customer of your web site already and have been for a few years.

  8. Carol-Lee Perkins says:

    I had a brick wall with regard to my gg Felix McBride. When I became a member of Fold3, I came up with approximately 100 pages of info from the civil war records. All kinds of affidavits to prove his widow’s claims. She died a year after he and her orphan children had all kinds of affidavits to prove their claims to pensions. I found his widow’s maiden name, that they were from Ireland, and all kinds of other genealogic data. I only wish I could find some info on my father, arthur Monroe Wesson, Jr, who was in the Sea Bees.

    Thank you for this service. It filled a lot of holes in my genealogy efforts.


  9. Don Libby says:

    Abigail was my 2nd cousin, six times removed. She and Jonathan did indeed marry on January 27, 1781. Jonathan was also at Valley Forge during the winter of Dec 1777 – Feb 1778 after the Battle of White Marsh. He was with the 4th Brigade, Paterson’s Regiment. 11th Massachusetts. Interestingly (to myself anyway) my 5th great- grandfather Private Azariah Libby was also at Valley Forge at this time with Capt. S Burbank’s Co. of 12th Massachusetts Continental Infantry. He was discharged in January, 1780 after having found a man to serve out his remaining time. During the war many indentured servants and apprentices were substitutes for their masters. Those that were drafted paid local constables for vagrants and other offenders to serve in their places. There were also a few British deserters and prisoners of war that found bcame substitutes in the Continental Army.

  10. I was looking for commentary and more proof of the life of John Loghrey, one of my Revolutionary soldiers when I came upon a request for information into the denial of pension to same, among several others. I copied the letter of request into the War of 1812 and further inquiry into service records in the Revolutionary War. Imagine my surprise when I came to the cover folder, only to discover another relative had also requested copies: My grandmother, 80 years earlier!!

    The folder jacket read, “1934, June 7 – Hist to Mrs. A.J. Burk – M.I.B.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised since my grandmother, Tennie Selby Burk, in addition of researching her own family roots, was also a genealogist for the S.A.R. and was living in Washington, D.C. at the time.

    I still don’t know what “M.I.B.” stood for, however. Someone’s initials?

  11. david routh says:

    was it possible for a veteran or widow to have survived long enough to the Civil War or War Between The States to receive a pension and if the veteran/widow lived in the south would they have still received the pension?