1883 Pension Roll Online

The 1883 pension roll identifies thousands of living Union Civil War veterans, like the ones memorialized at Gettysburg National Memorial Park.
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The 1883 Pension Roll is a valuable genealogical resource for identifying pensioners from all American wars still living in 1883, along with the address of their residence at the time the list was created. The listing for each pensioner includes his name, the pension certificate number, the reason why the pensioner was granted the pension, his post office address, the monthly pension amount, and the date of the original pension allowance.

Why the 1883 Pension Roll Was Created

On December 8, 1882, the United States Senate required the Secretary of Interior to submit a list of pensioners on the roll as of January 1, 1883.​

...And the Commissioner is further instructed, without delaying the information called for above, to transmit to the Senate, as soon as practicable, a list of names of all persons borne on the pension rolls, classified according to their post-office addresses by States and counties, the amount paid annually to each, and the disability for which the pension was granted, giving the date when they were placed on the roll....1

The Secretary of Interior submitted the completed list to the Senate on March 1, 1883, a list published later that year in five volumes as "List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883." Union Civil War pensioners made up the majority of those recorded, but the list also includes pensioners from other wars, including the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. Confederate soldiers weren't eligible for federal pension records until well after 1883, so don't expect to find them here.

Why the 1883 Pension Roll Is Valuable for Family History Research

The 1883 pension roll is a valuable resource for identifying pensioners from all American wars still living in 1883. It also identifies where they were living at that time, whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Identification of an individual on this roll can lead to a variety of pre-1883 military pension records including veteran disability pension records, pension records of individuals who served in the U.S. Army or Navy, or records of pensions granted to war widows and orphans.

Military pension files are often an especially valuable resource for genealogists because, in the late 19th century, widows and dependent children had to prove their connection to a deceased veteran by sending the government evidence of their relationship to prove they were eligible for pensions. This evidence included everything from photographs and love letters to diaries and marriage certificates.

1883 Pension Roll Online

You can find view the published 1883 Pension Roll volumes online for free on Google Books:

  • Volume 1 (Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont)
  • Volume 2 (New York, Pennsylvania)
  • Volume 3 (Illinois, Iowa, Ohio)
  • Volume 4 (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Dakota Territory (North Dakota, South Dakota), Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming)
  • Volume 5 (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and "Countries of the World," which included Hawaii, listed as the "Sandwich Islands")

The 5-volume set is also available as a subscription database on Ancestry.com.

Searches for both database sets may not provide complete results, so for a thorough search take time to browse the appropriate volume page-by-page for the localities in which you are interested.

What's Next? Once You Identify an Ancestor on the 1883 Pension Roll

Once you have identified an individual of interest on the 1883 roll of pensioners, next steps might include:

  • comparing the pensioner's identified location in 1883 with the 1880 federal census and the 1900 federal census (if the veteran is still living). If available, also the 1885 state census.
  • search military pension indexes to locate information needed to access the full military pension file. Some military pension records have also been digitized and can be accessed in full online, including War of 1812 pension application files on Fold3.

Sources: 1. U.S. Congress, Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 47th Congress, 2nd session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1882), 47.