Weekly Genealogist reader Jacob Sievers of Somerville, Massachusetts, emailed me with a link to a remarkable collection of 220 illustrated family records that are part of the National Archives’ Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application files. Beginning last July, the National Archives began to contribute tens of thousands of files to Wikimedia Commons, and these images are among them. These family records were submitted as part of the documentation required for a veteran or a veteran’s family member to receive a pension, and then became permanently attached to the veteran’s file.
View the collection.
I was fascinated by the beauty and variety of these records. I saw illustrated family records, birth, baptismal, and memorial certificates — in English and German, hand-drawn and pre-printed. I looked at examples from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. And I thought about the people whose names were listed so carefully on the certificates and I wondered if they understood when they mailed them away that they weren’t going to be getting them back. Perhaps for years afterward people thought wistfully about the family papers they’d sent to Washington. But sending them to Washington also had the positive effect of preserving them and making them widely available today.