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GREAT news about 1812 pensions

Yeah, The Legal Genealogist is late with the news, but this news is so good, it’s worth repeating even if you’ve already heard it.

The project is back.

Back on track.

Back digitizing records.

And not just plain old ordinary records1 but records of inestimable genealogical value.

The project to Preserve the Pensions — the pensions of the War of 1812 — is back.

Preserve the Pensions project resumes

Now… some history.

More than a decade ago, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) launched an initiative to crowd-source the funding to digitize the entirety of the War of 1812 pensions held at the National Archives. Called Preserve the Pensions, it had the goal of raising the many millions that it would take to protect the records documenting more than 180,000 pension records for War of 1812 soldiers and their families.2

These oh-so-fragile documents are among the most heavily requested documents at the National Archives and, because of their use, their age and their fragile nature, they are in grave danger of deterioration. They really need to be digitized to protect them forever.

In 2010, the project was officially launched:

“On April 27, 2010, the Federation announced a national fundraising initiative to raise over $3 million to digitize 7.2 million pages contained in 180,000 files. Fold3 was selected to digitize the records and (parent company of Fold3) agreed to match every dollar raised for the project, cutting the amount of funding to raise by the community in half. FamilySearch also partnered with the Federation as a major donor and supporter of the fundraising efforts.”3

We all pitched in. Huge support came from Ancestry and FamilySearch. Readers of this blog were among the major contributors — through individual donations and through a crazy scheme that by itself raised more than $56,000 and had me and two other genealogists walking the streets of San Antonio, Texas, in the middle of the night. 4 And by 2016, we had done it — the fund-raising had gone over the top.5

Digitization began, it moved along steadily, with gorgeous full-color scans made available — forever free, no subscription required — on Fold3… and then came the glitches.

There was a security issue with the digitization effort that shut down the project for a time. And then came Covid. In the midst of all that, FGS merged with the National Genealogical Society (NGS). New contracts had to be negotiated. Yadda yadda yadda. You know the drill.

Which left the digitization project stuck. First we had only the pensions for surnames up through part of the letter M. Then we crept up to the letter S. And there we stayed… and stayed… and stayed…

Then came the announcement from NGS President Kathryn Doyle:

“NGS has signed a new contract with Ancestry and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to resume the digitization of the War of 1812 pensions.

As some of you may remember, the initial work on this project began in 2010. It has been both an important and a monumental task spanning 7.2 million pages contained in 180,000 files. In 2020, as COVID-19 forced the closure of NARA, the project was put on hold. We are pleased to announce the next phase—digitization of surnames starting with the letters Sj to U—begins again this month. Our target is to complete this phase in one year.

NARA first sought partners on this project back in 2008. On 27 April 2010, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced a national fundraising initiative to raise over $3 million to support the project. Fold3 was selected to digitize the records, and agreed to match every dollar raised for the project. The digitized records would be, and indeed have been, made available to the public for free.

When FGS merged with NGS, we agreed to uphold our commitment and see this project through to the end. Today, we are fulfilling our promise and moving forward on the next phase.”6

So now we’re back on track.

For all of us who descend from Stewarts and Stoddards and Thompsons and Underwoods… the news couldn’t be better: the digital cameras are rolling again. And we can hope for smooth sailing for folks who descend from Vinings and Wilsons and Worthingtons and Youngs and through to William Zuver who served in the Pennsylvania Militia.

Keep your fingers crossed…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “PTP finally!!!,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 9 May 2023).


  1. If there is such a thing to a genealogist…
  2. See generally “Preserve The Pensions: Digitizing the War of 1812 Pension Files,” National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 9 May 2023).
  3. Ibid.
  4. Well, okay, before dawn, but that’s the same thing to me. See Judy G. Russell, “We did it!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 30 Aug 2014 ( : accessed 9 May 2023).
  5. See ibid., “Over the top!!!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 1 Sep 2016.
  6. Kathryn Doyle, “The War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Project Continues,” UpFront with NGS, posted 26 Apr 2023 ( : accessed 9 May 2023).
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