Posted by Paul Rawlins on July 1, 2010 in Collections


I knew that’s what the R in the top-right corner stood for when I found Captain James Frost’s file in the new Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files database on An S meant a petition had been filed by a veteran (a “survivor”); a W indicated a veteran’s widow. An R meant the claim, whoever had made it, got no love.

You can get more background on these records at the new Revolutionary War landing page, but one item in particular makes the Frost file an interesting case study. James, who died in 1815, didn’t file for a pension. Neither did his wife, Isabella Van Dyke, who passed away in 1837. This application was initiated 10 years later, in 1847, by their daughter, Rachel Britt.

Making a Case
The application was made to “obtain the benefit of the 3rd Section of the Act of Congress of the 4th July 1836,” which broadened the availability of widows’ benefits. To receive the money, a widow had to prove her husband’s Revolutionary service, that she married him before the end of the war, and that she had remained unmarried after his death. This is what the bulk of the James Frost file is about. There is no application form, but the file contains depositions from Rachel, a son-in-law, and a neighbor who attempt to prove the required facts by recounting details about James and Isabella’s lives.

Calling All Witnesses
The deponents explain how James and Isabella married about 1769 and came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania around 1775 with two sons: Ezekiel and Jonas. They settled first in either Stokes or Guilford County, relocating to Johnston County in 1795 or ’98 so James, an experienced ironworker, could work “a rich iron mine.”

He was a man of “respectability of character,” fought at Ramsour’s(?) Mill and Guilford Court House, and once, when the men chose their captain by marching across a field and lining up before the candidate they wanted to lead them—like teams picking captains instead of the other way around—the whole company lined up to follow James Frost.

The Payoff
Files can range from one page to a couple of hundred (James’s has 17), but this gives you some idea of what you might uncover in the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files: names, dates, places, moves, occupations, family members.

In the Frost file, Rachel explains that Isabella never applied for benefits because she didn’t know anything was due her, so Rachel was filing to claim the widow’s benefits her mother had been entitled to under the 1836 law.

I don’t know yet why the claim was rejected (maybe one of you has an idea?). The process went on for 10 years, and I imagine it may have cost more in paperwork than the claim would have paid out. In any case, Rachel got no money, but I say the trail she left behind was worth every penny.


  1. MikeF


    Did you neglect to talk about whether these pension files on Ancestry are equivalent to the partial files on Heritage Quest or the full and complete files on Footnote? Huge difference.

  2. Mike,

    I’m unsure just why there would be a need for Paul to talk about that.

    Do Heritage Quest and Footnote talk about comparable files when they discuss their new additions?

    The Ancestry Blog is, I believe, intended to let people know what is happening with regard to what is happening on Ancestry.

    I don’t believe it was meant to be a general blog about what is going on in the wider genealogical community.

  3. MikeF


    I used what those other two companies have done as different points on a yardstick, for purposes of reference. And Paul does need to talk about partial “selected” files vs. entire files, regardless of who did the selecting. If he wants to use it without reference to the other two companies, fine.

    However mentioning those other two companies does serve another purpose. It highlights how Ancestry has turned its “data is a commodity” meme into a self-fulfilling rationalization. Rather than choosing to duplicate what others have done, it could use its data acquisition budget, which is one-fourth of what it spends on marketing, on digitizing new data that is not already digitized somewhere. Like War of 1812 or Mexican war records.

    BTW Andy, no offense intended and I greatly appreciate your contributions, but watch out so you don’t turn into a Joan. Let Ancestry make its own excuses.


  4. Jade

    Paul’s article was just a tweak.

    The intent of was to upload the complete pension files, National Archives Micropublication M804, 2,670 rolls. No minor task, in view of hundreds of images per roll. As users view the files, we will learn more about how successful the effort has been.

    Unlike the non-indexed Revolutionary War Rolls (NARA Micropublication M246), the soldiers’ names are indexed. Unlike the installation on, the files are not every-name indexed.

    I personally am delighted to see this addition since I cannot view the installation due to technical issues.

    How about obtaining the Haldimand Papers from the British Library? A lot fewer microfilm rolls 😀

  5. Jade

    Missing from the index: my ancestor Nicholas Keltz. 🙁

    He served in the First NY Regiment (Continental) 1777-1783, including some 6 months’ captivity on a prison ship in Quebec in 1777.

  6. Paul Rawlins


    There is a ton to say about these records, really. The database includes both the “selected” and “nonselected” records from NARA, so it is the larger/full collection. If I remember right, the database description was updated with that information, but I don’t think the update has gone live yet.


    Did Nicholas apply for a pension? I know a number of early records were apparently destroyed, and some of the files don’t have much information in them because of that, but I don’t know if names of applicants were completely lost. Certainly seems possible.

  7. Jade

    Paul, your #7 — No Nicholas did not apply for pension, he died about 1808. But his Congressional Bounty Land card is there on the microfilm, and I can find it by browsing, but his name is not indexed.

    Few of us are stupid enough to complain about an ~index~ entry missing if the file or card were not there.

  8. Jade

    Some blocks of images in these files will not open. I get a blank page with broken image-file logo at upper left.

    In particular right now, images from roll 87 in the middle of the alphabetic range Atkinson, Amos – Atkison, Henry.

    Can this be fixed, please?

  9. Jade

    More images will not open:

    Roll number 1482, alphabetical range Killebrew, Kinchan – Kilty, William

  10. Paul Rawlins


    Sorry, I completely misunderstood your comment about Nicholas. I thought you were simply talking about a Revolutionary-era ancestor, but I’m on the same page now. I’ll pass the info along. Thanks.

  11. Sharon

    I know this is off the subject but has anyone had this problem. I removed a extra spouse from my tree and not only did he get removed but the whole family wife, children and all the census I had saved.
    I hate this, when I have put all the work into my tree and have this happen and have to start all over again.

  12. BEE

    Did anyone else predict that after the article in yesterday’s Parade it would be slow going on ancestry today?

  13. Bob

    This is off topic, too, but thought you should know that the family page for the family tree doesn’t seem to be able to display any stories or photos in the media gallery. It says it is loading, but 10 minutes have transpired already with no change.

  14. worshacf

    Off topic also, has anyone received ‘Recent Member Connect Activity’ about people that they don’t have in their tree?

    I received notification on my ‘Home Page’ that a public member had added all this to her tree: 2 records to an individual NOT in my tree. Also, 4 records had been added for different individual NOT in my tree, and a US census record saved to somebody else, also NOT in my tree.

    I don’t even have the last name of the people in my tree that she saved records to. So,I got curious, and went to her tree. She has a tree of 63,000 people, and not even one is a match to anyone in my tree.

    How can this happen???

  15. Mary Beth Marchant

    I did not see the article but that certainly explains why everything is so agonizingly slow right now. Every time they advertise big they have a run by newbies thinking they can just find their family history floating out there waiting for them to pick it up. I wonder just how many use the free trial and then discover it aint that easy.

  16. BEE

    Yes, besides being painfully slow, constant “sorry” messages when things wouldn’t load, a search for documents brought up totally irrelevant things.
    I cleared all history, but nothing helped.
    When I check out someone’s profile and see “Last log in: Last six months”, does that mean that person signed on for a “trial”, posted information, and then left? There never seems to be any search for documents, or at least none attached to an individual.
    The worst part is having all those new “hints” showing up, but if it brings a maiden name, the correct name of a child, or birth/death dates, it serves the purpose.
    It’s been a while since “Family Tree Maintenance” – maybe we’re due.

  17. Sharon

    worshacf I have had exactly the same problem in the recent member activity.
    Now I’m having so much trouble getting on the HOME page half the time I can’t get there. I guess it’s what is going on with new people but it sure is upsetting when I’m trying to work on my trees and can’t get to all the places I want to go to.
    Has anyone noticed slow movement when trying to copy and paste on ancestry or just unable to do it at all. I can go to any website and it works fine but on ancestry it won’t work right. I don’t know what is going on half the time on this site.

  18. Pat Secord

    Re: #16 worshacf and #19 Sharon – I have had that same problem as well with member activity. I thought it was just me. Also having problems with the home page. As usual, very frustrating.

  19. worshacf

    Bee, Sharon & Pat
    I think since yesterday was part of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, everyone including the newbies were searching for records, perhaps that was why the system was slow. Remember too, that on weekends and probably holidays Ancestry has limited staff working so there is nobody to call to report problems.

    Bee, regarding the ‘Last Log In’ showing that a member has not logged in for 6 months; Some members leave themselves logged in 24/7 without ever signing off. Others discontinue their paid membership for various lengths of time while on vacation or other reasons. And, as you mentioned others take the free 14 day trial and simply go dormant.

    Regarding all the other problems we have discussed, lets hope somebody at Ancestry reads these blogs and fixes the things that we’ve mentioned.

  20. Bob O'Neal

    Your pension file lists my “John Roe (Row, Rowe)” of New Jersey, and wife Susannah, with correct file number “W.5726”, but that is all!!! Just a card. I know there is a lot more in this pension file, but it is omitted – What happened??

    Thank you.

  21. Paul Rawlins


    Hmm. My short answer: I’m not sure.

    I did run into a situation where the person I was looking for had two files under two different spellings of the last name—and tied to two different states. One had only the card, and the other was pages long, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

    Have you seen a paper copy of John’s pension file? The images in this database were taken from the NARA microfilm of the files. I was wondering if we had missed some pages, but there is no break in the roll sequence on the database here (John Roe is on microfilm page 0208, which is followed by 0209, etc.). If I remember right, some records associated with the pension files were moved to other government departments somewhere along the line, but I don’t know if this would explain why a file had not been filmed at NARA. I will have to look into that a little more.

  22. My comment is this.When I look for a site or place it seems I am any where but where I should be or wish to be.I look for the Bore War regiments,what do I get? The Civil Wars etc. After this happens a few times you begin to wonder ????? Is this search game up to snuff.

    Thank You for your time.

  23. Paul Rawlins


    Without knowing the specifics of your searches, I don’t know if I can offer much help. I do limit my searches sometimes by going to the collection page and searching from there. For example, searching the Boer War casualty lists from here

    will limit your results to just those records.

    After you start a search, the Narrow by Category options that come up at the left of the screen could be helpful, if you haven’t tried those already.

  24. Andy #27, I agree; however, at the start of a global search it should be noted in RED, BOLD, ITALIC or whatever that not all databases are covered in that particular search. This is my main b*t*h.

    Don’t get me wrong. I shudder to think where my research would be if I had to do this by foot and not the internet. Ancestry has saved countless hours of research and expense (as well as the free sites and I could name a bazillion).

    The global search is misleading and wish that ancestry would do more to make this clear.

  25. Rita McGuire

    I don’t want to sound stupid, but how do you access what’s inside the file. All I can do is look at a picture of the file but not access its contents, even though the description says there are 20 pages inside.

    Thanks to anyone/everyone who can give me instructions.

  26. Paul Rawlins


    It’s a good question, actually. If you’re on the record page that shows you the results of your search, you should have a link to “View the original image.” Click that link (which you may have already done). When the image comes up, use the arrow buttons at the top right of the image screen (next to the button that says Go) to move from page to page in the file.

    If this isn’t clear, let me know. I work on a Mac, and my screen sometimes displays a bit differently.

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