I took a few minutes today to look up the Veteran’s Administration Pension Payment Cards for my great-grandmother, Abigail Titus Canfield Hinchey Goff, found at FamilySearch.org. Abigail was awarded a pension twice, once when my great-grandfather, Henry Canfield, died in March of 1866, and again, after her last husband, David Goff, died – this time in 1908.
She didn’t get the pension for long either time. The first time it was for $17 a month from 11 Mar 1866 until September 18, 1869 when she remarried to Hawley Hinchey. Hinchey deserted her, and she remarried to David Goff, not bothering to get a divorce until 1908 when she wanted to get a pension following Goff’s death. According to papers found in her extensive pension file at the National Archives, the US government looked down on folks that were “living in sin.” They gave her a bad time upon reapplying for the pension. However, after getting a legal divorce, she got her pension again – still $17 a month. The pension commenced on 21 July 1908, and lasted until her death on December 4, 1910.
The pension payment cards are not indexed as such – but they are in alphabetical order on 2539 rolls of digitized microfilm. 1,801,973 images are involved in the online database. The images I looked at had two cards on each image. The surname range of each imaged roll is clickable – allowing the researcher to quickly find cards for any ancestor who received a pension between 1907 and 1933.
The following is from the FamilySearch.org website:
In 1907 the Bureau of Pensions and Veterans Administration began recording payments of pension with a card system. Pensions were granted to army invalids, army widows, navy invalids and navy widows. The nearly 2 million 5×8 cards are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the veteran or widow. In 1923 payments were changed from monthly to quarterly. Payments that extended through this period were recorded on a second card.
A pension card was created for every veteran or veteran’s widow who received a pension. There were four types of cards kept which are referred to as:
- Army invalids
- Army widows
- Navy invalids
- Navy widows
The form for the four types of cards is practically identical. On the front of the cards for invalid veterans are recorded the name of veteran, his certificate number, his unit or arm of Service, the disability for which pensioned, the law or laws under which pensioned, the class of pension or certificate, the rate of pension, the effective date of pension, the date of the certificate, any fees paid, the name of the pension agency or group transferred from (if applicable), the date of death, the date the Bureau was notified, the former roll number, and ‘home.’ On the reverse side of the form appears the name of the veteran, his certificate number, and the record of the individual payments. The army and navy widow’s cards are similar to the invalids’ cards with the addition of the widow’s name and occasionally information regarding payments made to minors, but they do not indicate if the veteran had a disability.
Key genealogical facts found in the collection are listed below:
- Name of veteran
- Veteran’s Unit or arm of service
- Date of pension
- Veteran’s death date
- Veteran’s “home”
- Veteran’s disability (not included in widows cards)
- Name of widow (only on widows cards)