In the theoretical genealogical world, one gets a copy of everything and cost is no object.
Unfortunately most of us do not live in the theoretical world.
I’ve started working on a family that I’ve not worked on in some time and discovered that one of the sons-in-law of the ancestor in question (Andrew Trask, born around 1813 probably in Massachusetts and died in the 1880s in Mercer County, Illinois) served in the Civil War.
The question: do I need the son-in-laws’s pension?
One school of thought is that I need it because I should track all the relatively closely related people down as much as possible. The problem is obtaining a copy of the pension will cost me money–which is how most offline records are acquired.
I need to think about what the pension likely contains and what my research goals are.
I want to document Andrew as much as possible and do the same for his children. I also want to determine the names of his parents.
The son-in-law in question outlived his wife–who was the daughter of Andrew Trask. As a result there will be no widow’s pension which typically provides some detail about the wife, her marriage to the soldier, and (in some cases, her life before and after marriage to the soldier).
There will just be the soldier’s application for a pension in which he will typically have to document:
- his service
- his eligibility for a pension
- service-related injuries and subsequent medical challenges arising from those injuries
That’s probably not going to provide details about the wife or her family. The veteran is not going to have to prove his marriage, etc. If the veteran was a pensioner in 1890s there was a survey sent that asked about their marriage and children. Those questions were asked so that the information could be compared to what any subsequent widow may claim. I already have the date and place of marriage for the soldier and the same for his children.
At this point, the chance is small that there is something in the Civil War pension file on this son-in-law that helps me meet my research goals for the wife and her family.
If she had outlived her husband, then it would have been a different story.