I'm looking at this old military pension file index.

Jeptha Tallant is listed under the heading "Old War" -- which war is it referring to? I believe he was born in 1811, so the Revolutionary War doesn't fit.

Also, what does the "Rej." heading mean, and the "Invalid" column, and why does it seem like his file is connected with the name Eleazer Bulkley?

Finally, should I expect to find any other records somewhere? I've had good luck digging up treasures in some pension applications.

2017 update: Subscribers to fold3 can view the index card -- it is from NARA A1158, Pensions indexed by number for Army or Navy service in the Civil War and later, 1860-1934.

For images of the blank cards, see Card Records in Use in the Bureau of Pensions, 1916 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1916).

  • 1
    Can you cite the source for the image please? An image without context isn't easy to interpret.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 13:07
  • Alas, I didn't save the citation. I'm trying to get better at that. But I'm pretty sure I found it on Fold3 during a 7-day trial where I was downloading images as quickly as I could. (I won't pay for them on principle, as I'm already an Ancestry customer and don't like getting nickeled and dimed by the same company for what should just be part of the same product. But I digress.) Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 5:32
  • Added a new resource to my previous answer: twelvekey.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/ngsmagazine2014-072.pdf
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 22:56
  • added link to the index card on fold3 since the link posted by @richardtallent now gives a 404 error
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 7:26

4 Answers 4


What is an invalid?

Google gives the following, citing Oxford Languages

noun: invalid; plural noun: invalids a person made weak or disabled by illness or injury. "an invalid husband"

verb: invalid; 3rd person present: invalids; past tense: invalided; past participle: invalided; gerund or present participle: invaliding remove (someone) from active service in the armed forces because of injury or illness. "he was badly wounded and invalided out of the infantry" disable (someone) by injury or illness. "an officer invalided by a chest wound"

Which War? Where did the card come from? How do I read the card?

Index cards which have a stamped number at the top, that contain the names of multiple veterans are from a Numerical cross-index created by the Pension Office, created so clerks could confirm or check file numbers when the handwritten numbers were illegible. My original answer and updates are below the line.

If you find an index card associated with a pension file, try to find the index cards for ALL the different indexes associated with the file, since one series of cards may have information on it that is not found in another series.

You can see some of the different series at FamilySearch by Searching All Published Collections for the keywords Pension and Index.

For another timeline see the table American Involvement in Wars from Colonial Times to the Present on the American History section of About.com.

I went to Fold3 to puzzle out what the source of this image might be -- as ColeValleyGirl says, it's important to have the context in order to analyze this record.

As I write this, I don't have a current Fold3 membership, so I can't see the premium images, but here's my best guess as to where this came from. Choose the timeframe "Mexican American and Early Indian Wars" and then the collection Pension Numerical Index aka Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860-1934. That collection seems to have a card format similar to the image richardtallant posted. Fold3's catalog says:

This index complements the Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index (T289), as well as other pension indexes and files, in assisting researchers in locating pension file numbers and names of Army and Navy personnel, as well as widows' pensions (marked with a w) on the card. It is a superb cross-referencing tool when deciphering illegible or missing numbers within other indexes. Both certificate numbers and application numbers are included.

Fold3's description says:

The cards give the name of the veteran or dependant who had the number as an application number or as a certificate number. Each number could be used four times for four different people. (emphasis mine) For application or original numbers, the card also shows the certificate number.

NARA's blog: Family Tree Friday: Pension Indexes Examined has an explanation of how to read the index cards. The Fold3 catalog says these cards are from NARA A1158, which was not yet online at Fold3 in December 2010 when the blog post was written, so the example cards shown for that blog post are probably from a different Numerical Index than the series we want to examine. However, the example given in the blog post says:

See what I meant about being confusing? The number appears in the upper left hand corner. Along the left side of the card, you will see “Invalid” and “Dependent,” and then “Orig” (meaning application) and “Ctf” (meaning certificate). Since we’re looking for Lazarus White’s certificate number, look under Invalid, then Ctf. Look to the right, and you will see Lazarus White’s name and unit. So now we know that the number 920,628 is correct.

Unfortunately the author of the post does not show a portion of a card which has the same legend as the "Old War" section, so there are no clues to what the "Rej." stands for, nor is there any clue as to what period "Old War" means. However, it is likely to refer to a Rejected pension application.

Now I wondered: if the records of the War Department were reorganized at some point, could "Old War" refer to a filesystem and not necessarily a specific war? Could it be a catch-all term for all the wars prior to 1812? The position on the card suggests that (at least to me).

The descriptive pamphlet for the later series of Pension Files, Microfilm Publication T288: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (see the sidebar, where it says "For more information, please see the descriptive pamphlet for Microfilm T-288." to find the link to the PDF) says:

This microfilm publication reproduces a card index to the "Old Wars" series of pension files, 1815-1926. These files relate chiefly to claims based on death or disability incurred in service in the Regular Army, Navy, or Marine Corps between the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

The entry portal for Research in Military Records led me to the Prologue article An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service. Author Trevor K. Plante writes:

The pension files in the National Archives are divided into these major series: Revolutionary War, Old Wars, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, and Civil War and later. The records in each series are arranged alphabetically by name of veteran, except those in the Civil War and later series, which are arranged numerically by application, certificate, or file number. All series of pension application files have alphabetical name indexes.

For the Civil War and later pensions, consult National Archives Microfilm Publication T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934, which is arranged alphabetically by the individual's last name. The index cards include the individual's unit(s), making it easier to decipher individuals with the same name. Once you find the application number or pension certificate number, you can request to view the pension file. Pension files (including application files) often contain valuable personal information on soldiers, sailors, and marines not found in other records. For a listing of microfilm publications to other pension indexes and pension files, consult the National Archives' Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (2000). For more information on pension records, consult chapter seven of the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (2000).

If you can find the file referred to with the number 18336 then perhaps it will become more evident exactly which war is being referred to, what the "Rej." means, and Jeptha Tallant's connection (if any) with the associated person Eleazer Bulkley.

Let's use what we've learned from the above to examine the card ColeValleyGirl found -- let's call it "card #2". [This card is from Microfilm series T316, Old War Index to Pension Files,1815-1926.] Note that it is stamped "Old War" and is for an application filed in 1851, class marked "inv" for "Invalid"? So the card richardtallant posted, card #1, is a pointer to card #2. (Clearly a pension application from 1851 cannot be for service in the Civil War, so it must be for earlier service, and as richardtallant pointed out in his question, the soldier is too young to have served in the Revolutionary War, so the service must be from somewhere in between. So the answer to the question of when he serves lies in his file, and further records might be found by deciphering the unit in the entry marked "service" on this card.)

Can we find a card for Eleazer Bulkley with a file #18336? (Researchers may not be able to find the corresponding file, because it appears that the right-hand side of that line on the card says "Missing".) Here is FamilySearch's index result for card #3:

Eleazer Buckley, "United States Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications"

  • Veteran's Name: Eleazer Bulkley
  • Pensioner's Name:
  • State: Connecticut Veteran's Military Service
  • Branch: Conn. Conn. Sea Service Pension Number: S. 18336
  • Additional Name: Eleazer, Eleazer Buckley, George Moyer, John Q Wilson, Seth Harding
  • GS Film number: 970401
  • Affiliate Publication Number: M804
  • Digital Folder Number: 004154229
  • Image Number: 00336
  • Affiliate Identifier: 12029578 "United States Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N9HR-5MG : accessed 01 Feb 2014), Eleazer Buckley, .

This is clearly from a different period of service and a different area of the country, so it seems to me that the only association between these individuals is the coincidence of their file numbers.

WorldCat has listings for where the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (2000) can be found in libraries, including a copy to view online at HathiTrust Digital Library -- see page 173, section 7.2.2 for the explanatory matter on "Old Wars" and the sections following for more records pertaining to the individual conflicts.

A search for "Old War" in the Guide also results in a hit on page 375, in the List of Microfilm Publications cited, for T316: Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1926, RG 15. 765 rolls.

For more information on NARA's index cards, see:

In the section A1158, A numerical index, Melchiori and Prechtel-Kluskens say on page 42 that this index includes many different wars:

... the cards include several different wars -- Old War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Indian War, and Navy as well as Civil War army soldiers. (Old War refers to service in the Regular Army between the 1780s an the Civil War.) This index can be useful if a published source connects a person with a common name to a pension file number without any military unit or other helpful identifying information.

NARA's guide Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners is also useful for cross-checking which NARA microfilm publications are online and where. Different sites can have wildly different image quality, so it can help to check them all if the image you find at the first site is difficult to read.

Here is one example of a blank card, from page 10 of Card Records in Use in the Bureau of Pensions, 1916., which has references to the Old War pensions and the notation Rej.

Blank Numerical Pension index card, from page 10 of Card Records in Use in the Bureau of Pensions, 1916

You don't need a subscription to either Ancestry or fold3 to read the 'about the database' information. Some of the 'overview' articles about each individual collection include sample images which can be viewed without a sub. Also, if you have a card image from FamilySearch, look at the Research Wiki to learn more about the records.

  • An Elezear Buckley appears on Fold3 (to which I don't have a subscription), having seen naval service (I think) in the Revolutionary War. I got there via: familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NS7Z-36N.
    – user104
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 15:44
  • Note that the transcriber has indicated a file number of 18135 for that record.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 15:49
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    I'm leaning more and more to the theory that the only connection between the two men is they appear on the same index card!
    – user104
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 15:50
  • The document accessed via the link I gave (which is free on Fold!) is quite interesting... a pity it's not relevant.
    – user104
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 15:52

This (http://research.archives.gov/description/1105306) seems to indicate that the "Old Wars" were "between 1783 and 1861" including "War of 1812, Mexican War, Indian wars, and in a few cases, the Civil War".

Another index card for Jeptha Tallant is viewable at: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-25481-29785-31?cc=1979425&wc=MM1Q-V7W:n2078095668 but it gives little extra info other than a rank and unit, plus date of filing (1851, which might suggest the Mexican War).

I would expect you could access the complete case file (if it still exists) via NARA.

The "Invalid" column names the disabled or deceased individual in respect of whom the pension was applied for. I suspect Rej. means rejected. However, the card is so inconsistently completed that I wonder if the row and column headings have any relevance, or whether it's just two columns of names of pensioners made using a card intended for another purpose. It would help if you provided more information about the source.

  • I deduce that the reason we see a wide variance in how much information is filled in depends on whether the application for a pension is for the veteran himself or for his dependents. If there are no dependents there won't be names to fill in on the right-hand side.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 15:47
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    @JanMurphy Are the people on the right actually dependents of the ones on the left or they the names of unrelated veterans in respect of whom dependents' pensions were paid?
    – user104
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 16:12
  • good catch -- they might be unrelated as well. Hard to tell without seeing the files.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 16:27
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    The card at FamilySearch linked above is from "Old War Pension Index" and show Jeptha to have served in "Gillespie Tenn. Mt Vols. Mex". Since there was a unit called "Regiment of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers" involved in the Mexican War from June 1846 to May 1847, it seems likely his service was in that war. His file is likely under his name in 'Case Files of Pension Applications' 1105306; see research.archives.gov/description/1105306
    – RobertShaw
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 7:19

enter image description here Here is an example of INDIAN WARS Pension filing by Widow of John Mugan.

enter image description here

Here is the card for the second request for Catherine Mugan, widow of John Mugan. This card specifically states: 'OLD WAR'. We know from the previous registration card that the OLD WAR which John Mugan participated in was INDIAN WARS. We can read further and find that he was involved with the 2nd U. S. Cavalry Dragoons.

With further research we can find what the actual location of service was, i.e. where the 2nd Cavalry Dragoons fought/which battles they were involved in.

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    Hi, welcome to FH&G.SE! I've combined both cards into the same answer so they won't get separated.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 22:21

There is a website that covers the "OLD WAR", it's: http://www.gentracer.com/usoldwar.html

The "Old War" Period (1785-1861) includes the War of 1812, the Indian Wars, the Florida War, the Mexican War, and others. We have access to the microfilmed copies of compiled service records, pension records, bounty land warrants, and hereditary societies (United States Daughters of 1812, General Society of War of 1812, etc.)

I had a Great-Grandfather that was in the Old War and Indian Wars and want to understand what the information on the cards mean.

  • 1
    Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user be sure to take the Tour to learn about our focussed Q&A format which is quite different from bulletin boards, discussion forums and other Q&A sites you may be used to. For example, every post you make is signed by your user card so signatures within posts are removed. Also, you seem to be half-asking a question in the last paragraph of your answer. All questions should be asked in the area reserved for questions.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 23:07
  • 1
    Welcome to G&FH.SE! I agree with PolyGeo -- if you have cards for your great-grandfather, please ask a new question and tell us where you found the cards, and ask what questions you have about the cards. See How do I ask a good question? for some tips.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 22:52

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