Complete for Its Purpose Not Yours

An 1881 affidavit in a War of 1812 pension case mentioned three children of the veteran and his wife. The youngest of those three was the one making out the affidavit and she referenced the dates of birth for her two older siblings.

That was necessary to backtrack into a time frame for her parents’ marriage. Information on the younger children was not necessary to establish that marriage date–so they aren’t mentioned.

The genealogist needs those names.

The pension official did not.

Always keep in mind the original purpose of any document and analyze it in that context.

Not your own.

The document may have been complete and accurate given the situation in which it was created. A lot of us don’t do more work than we need to. Our ancestors were no different.

This affidavit was analyzed in more detail in a recent issue of Casefile Clues.

There Are More War of 1812 Benefits than Pensions

To receive a  US War of 1812 pension, the veteran (or his qualifying widow) had to live until they became eligible for a pension. Not all soldiers lived that long. 

Legislation regarding US War of 1812 pensions was not really passed until the 1870s. An act in 1871 indicated that soldiers had to serve sixty days and widows had to have married the soldier before 17 February 1815. The 1878 act cut the service time down to fourteen days and eliminated the marriage requirement for widows.  It’s important to remember that these acts were enacted nearly six decades after the war ended.

That meant a lot of soldiers and their widows were dead by the time the pension legislation was enacted. It’s still beneficial to search for pensions of uncles, aunts, cousins, and family associates–just remember the time frame. Fold3 is digitizing the pensions and putting them online for free.

More War of 1812 soldiers applied for land warrants based on their service. Many of these land warrants were applied for as the result of legislation in the 1850s–when more War of 1812 veterans were living. Those warrants can be searched at the BLM website. The warrant application (effectively a pension application) would be at the National Archives.

The Census Helped me Read a Court Record

The name of the deputy clerk was not crucial to my research, but a quick search of the 1880 census gave me his likely name–just using Wood* as a search term on the first name.  J. Woods Champion was a clerk living in Rice County, Minnesota, in 1880 and is likely the man who signed this document. The name of the clerk was not crucial to my research, but a five second search located his probable name.

Don’t spend forever on searches like these, but sometimes a quick search in other online records can turn a “can’t read” into a “can figure it out.” Just make certain that the person you think it is is a logical fit.


If your ancestor is referred to as being “superannated,” it does not mean that they are Superman or Supergirl in training. It usually means to be retired with a pension. There may or may not be employment records related to their employment

The word’s not often used today, but one can easily find it in newspapers.  I found over 60,000 references to the word GenealogyBankI only found 893 references to my mother’s maiden name of Ufkes. As a reminder, you can search for keywords on by GenealogyBank by only typing that word in the last name box.

Thanks to LSP of our “Genealogy Tip of the Day” group on Facebook for this reminder.

Do You Include Analysis With the Picture?

Do you include some of your analysis as a part of the digital image you make from pictures? We’ve mentioned provenance before, but sometimes other clues may be used to date or identify the picture. While these things can be put in the “metadata” in some graphics programs, the reality is that some people don’t save the file and the metadata, they just “screenshot” the image as it appears online.

One can’t stop people from only using the image and not your analysis, but it makes it easier for those inclined to use it to use it.

The First Guy Might Not Be Your Guy

Records suggest that your ancestor who was in Kentucky in the 1830s and after was in Amherst County, Virginia, before that. Don’t just grab the first guy you find in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1820 and assume you’ve got the right one.

There could be more than one guy in Amherst County with that name–see if there are guys with that name still living in Amherst County in 1830 after your guy has left. It could be that your guy wasn’t really in Amherst County at all, but lived near the border and actually appears in adjacent counties in those records.

And it could be that your guy had already left Virginia by 1820.

1850-Era Military Benefits for War of 1812 Vets

Your War of 1812 veteran may not have lived long enough to qualify for a military pension, but he may have qualified for a land warrant based on his military service.

Many land warrants for War of 1812 military service were granted in the 1850s–either to the veteran or his widow. The names of warrantees (if the warrant generated a land patent) at the Bureau of Land Management website (

If you are unfamiliar with land warrants, make certain to have an understanding of the following terms first:

  • patentee
  • warrantee
  • patent
  • warrant

And if your ancestor received land, there are additional terms to learn. All are described on the BLM’s “Reference” page. Not knowing what something means can lead to additional brick walls.

Michael John Neill writes Casefile Clues in addition to Genealogy Tip of the Day. Learn more about Casefile Clues on our blog.

Are You Searching All Court Records?

In some jurisdictions there may have been multiple courts that heard different types of cases. The obvious court that is often separate is the probate court–the one the oversaw the settlement of estates. There may have been a court that heard criminal cases and yet another court that heard other types of cases.

Make certain you’ve gone through them all. A divorce probably won’t be heard or settled in a probate court or a criminal court. Separate courts may have used the same facilities and had the same judge.

But the records may be separate from each other with separate indexes and finding aids.

How Closely Do You Look At the Neighbors?

If your relatives are in a “new” area, your search for relatives in the area should include more than just neighbors with the same last name. Look at the first names, look at the places of birth for these neighbors. Does a neighboring family have children with many of the same first names as your ancestral family (hopefully ones that are not common)? Does that neighboring family have places of birth that suggest they could be related to yours or at least followed a similar migration path to the area where they are now living?

That’s a good way to find nearby families that are related to a family in a way other than through the father.

Sometimes it’s not the last name that’s the clue.