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Getting there for the pensions

How much is a million?

It’s awfully hard to wrap our heads around a number like that if we’re ordinary people — people who, like The Legal Genealogist, tend to think of numbers of things in terms of one, two, three, many.

We can try to analogize it in different ways.

If we’re talking about miles, well, that’s about four times as far as it is from the Earth to the moon.

If we’re talking about seconds, well, that’s about 277.76 hours — or about 11.6 days.

If we’re talking about dollars, well, that’s one heck of a lot of cash.

And when we talk about two million dollars, we’re talking about a major milestone on the way to preserving every last page of the fragile and genealogically valuable War of 1812 pension records held by the National Archives.

And that’s the milestone that the Preserve the Pensions effort hit as we brought 2015 to a close and entered 2016.

This crowdsourcing effort to protect roughly 7.2 million pages of pension records is a wonderful project, spearheaded by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. It’s a long-haul proposition that involves extraordinary efforts by many people. Out of every dollar raised, 98 cents is spent on the digitization efforts: not for overhead, not for salaries. Directly for turning these marvelous documents into digital images for us all to see.

Once a document is digitized through the Preserve the Pensions project, it gets posted online at where it is, and will always be, free for anyone to access. Free. No subscription cost at all. Right now, records for pensioners with surnames A through M are already online at Fold3, free for us all to see.

And what do we see in these records? Rich details of military service, original records evidencing births, marriages and deaths — in short, some of the most amazing genealogical treasures that our National Archives has to offer. They are so valuable genealogically that they’re among the most requested records the Archives has — and that makes them among the most fragile and the most in need of digitization and preservation.

Every dollar raised by Preserve the Pensions protects a little more than two pages of a pension file — and that dollar then gets matched by Ancestry. “We are deeply appreciative of so many within the family history community who continue to support the Preserve the Pensions project,” says D. Joshua Taylor, FGS President. “This important milestone is the start of the ‘homestretch’ and is evidence of the passion and commitment amongst genealogists to preserve records for the future.”

That passion and commitment has brought Preserve the Pensions more than halfway to the goal of protecting every single page of every single pension file.

We can pause at this moment, take a deep breath and take stock: two million dollars raised.


Now… to double down and get the rest of it done. There’s still a long way to go to get the records from N through Z finished and online for us all.

Preserve the Pensions.

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