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Support for Preserve the Pensions

Imagine, if you will, 1,812 miles.

That’s roughly the distance from, say, New York City to Breckenridge, Colorado.

It’s roughly the distance from, say, San Francisco to Topeka, Kansas.

It’s roughly the distance from, say, Detroit to Lordsburg, New Mexico.

In other words, it is one humongous distance.

Now imagine, if you will, walking, running, biking or swimming every last one of those 1,812 miles.

And imagine doing it to raise funds for one of the best causes ever to raise its head in genealogy: to preserve, forever, in digital format, some of the most valuable records ever created in the United States.


The War of 1812 pension files at the National Archives are rich in details of military service, chock full of original records evidencing births, marriages and deaths, and among the best genealogical treasures that our National Archives has to offer.

In part because of their age, in part because they are so often requested by researchers, however, the millions of pages of War of 1812 pension files are also among the most fragile genealogical treasures that our National Archives has to offer — and in desperate need of permanent preservation.

Raising money for this effort is a thankless task… organized under the umbrella of Preserve the Pensions, spearheaded by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. It’s a long-haul proposition that involves extraordinary efforts by many people.

And in this particular instance, it involves one man — walking, running, biking or swimming 1,812 miles.

Michael J. Hall of FamilySearch did just that — and, yesterday, just about 12:45 p.m., he ran the last quarter-mile of those 1812 miles.

His last quarter-mile brought him into the Conference Center of the New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse, New York, where he was greeted with cheers and applause.

And with cold hard cash.

The Legal Genealogist, together with you — the readers — and so many others, had backed Mike’s decision to do these grueling 1,812 miles by pledging at least a dollar a mile to sponsor him.

A dollar a mile.

$1,812 total.

That’s what we hoped for when we began.

Here’s where we ended up:

• By noon yesterday, at the Preserve the Pensions website, some $3,316 had been contributed by people who said they were doing it in honor of Mike Hall.

• By noon yesterday, readers of this blog had contributed by PayPal another more than $2,000 — and since I can’t tolerate odd numbers, I added a few more of my own to present Mike and the Preserve the Pensions fund with a check for $2,500.

A total of $5,816 — a little more than $3.20 a mile. More than three times what we were hoping for.

And then the New York State Family History Conference decided to let everyone here get into the act. The conference let us throw down a challenge to everyone who attended the lunch yesterday: could we get it up to $4 a mile?

Last night, at the banquet, I was privileged to announce the final numbers:

When we began the day, we had raised $5,816 for the Preserve the Pensions campaign.

At lunch, we added another $2,375.25 for a grand total of $8,191.25. (I’m delighted to report that even included two cash contributions from Canadians — in Canadian bills!)

That grand total is matched by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and becomes $16,382.50.

And that is matched by Ancestry, and becomes $32,765.

And that means that this effort made it possible to digitize and preserve forever — free to all — some 72,804 pages of pension files from the War of 1812.

Well-played, genealogists! Well-played.

Thanks to all — and especially to Mike Hall.

So… what’s our next idea for fundraising for this campaign?

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