Documenting Migrations Via Pension Applications

As part of an ongoing project, the War of 1812 military pensions are available for free on As we’ve mentioned before, these pension files (actually all military pension files) can be a wonderful source for genealogical information. Lately my own use of these materials has focused on establishing micro-migration chains from one small area of the United States to another small area further west.

The image in this post (which has been reduced in size for posting) is from the widow’s application for Mary Hughes of Fulton County, Illinois. This affidavit in her application includes key details about her life, including when and where she married the soldier Taylor Hughes and when the family moved from Harford County, Maryland, to Ohio and from Ohio to Fulton County, Illinois.  Unfortunately the affidavit does not provide the specific residence within Ohio. The family’s move in 1820 to Ohio follows the move of two of her siblings there three years earlier. Her move into Illinois in 1840 precedes the move of some of her nephews and nieces to Illinois by a few years. That’s assuming her memory of the year is correct in the affidavit.

Mary (DeMoss) Hughes is a sister to my ancestor Christianna (DeMoss) Rampley and is a part of a larger chain of migrants from Harford County, Maryland, into eastern Ohio and eventually into west-central Illinois (generally Fulton, Adams, and Hancock County Counties–although these counties do not all share a common border). As part of an ongoing project, I’ve been tracking the movements of these families.

Widow’s pensions for extended family members may help the researcher in documenting a variety of aspects of the life for the person being researched. For migrations specifically, these records may:

  • specifically mention dates of migration
  • include names of witnesses who lives may have intersected with the claimant in more than one location
  • resurrect lost family members who appear to provide testimony or witness affidavits

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