Correspondence relating to certificates of Revolutionary War service, 1818-1881 (bulk 1843-1847)

Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State


0.7 cubic ft. (2 doc. boxes).
Arranged chiefly chronologically.
A federal act of June 7, 1832 provided Revolutionary War veterans who had served at least two years a pension for life. Those who had served less than two years, but not less than six months, were eligible for partial pensions. Applicants did not need to demonstrate need, and money due from the last payment until the date of death of a pensioner could be collected by the widow or children. The act required applicants to produce an official certificate confirming service. As custodian of the state's Revolutionary War records, the Massachusetts state secretary and his clerks were responsible for searching muster rolls and other records and issuing certificates. Series consists of incoming correspondence relating to certificates and confirmation of military service information needed for federal pension applications, -- primarily received during the administrations of secretaries John A. Bolles (1843-1844) and John G. Palfrey (1844-1848), but also those of secretaries Alden Bradford (1812-1824), Edward D. Bangs (1824-1836), and John P. Bigelow (1836-1843). Correspondents are frequently agents, attorneys, or other representatives of veterans or their widows, many from other states. Letters include queries about the status of applications, state payments of bounties or Maine land, and War of 1812 pension applications. The incoming correspondence generally contains details of the veteran's service and his circumstances. Occasionally included are copies of the secretary's replies, as well as drafts and notes from office staff describing their search for appropriate records, the extent of demand for records, and efforts to thwart false claims. Some examples of printed application forms, pension regulations, and certificates are included. For corresponding volumes listing actual certificates issued, see: Registers of certificates given for Revolutionary War service, 1832-1885 ((M-Ar)2572X). Also included is 1835-1839 correspondence related to the half pay benefit given to officers.
Records of a more administrative nature include ongoing correspondence from the Pension Office in Washington relating to the sharing of records, application procedures, and information on specific cases. There is a copy of the official list of records loaned to the federal pension office in 1836 and returned to Massachusetts in 1843. The state secretary's role as record holder is reflected in correspondence including queries about the indexing and completeness of the records, and correspondence regarding records to be donated or made available for copying, as per various resolves. (See: Muster rolls of the Revolutionary War ((M-Ar)57X)). Series also contains various lists, manuscript copies of original Revolutionary War records, 1775-1782, used in pension research.
This is one of a set of record series relating to Massachusetts Revolutionary War and other early military pension and bounty payments. For a complete list see: Massachusetts Revolutionary War pension/bounty records.
Additional background materials relating to such records are pending at the repository website, including list of records as noted above, lists of documents in Revolutionary War muster rolls and Eastern Lands papers, list of Massachusetts Revolutionary War pension/bounty laws, and Federal pension law timeline. There is also an onsite collection of these and other documents at the Archives reference desk.
As early as the seventeenth century, the Massachusetts legislature provided pensions to soldiers wounded or disabled while in military service. Throughout the Revolutionary War, pensions continued to be issued at the state level to members of the Continental Army, as authorized by the Continental Congress. In addition, Massachusetts also provided post-war bonuses (bounties) in the form of monetary payment or a grant of land in Maine to veterans meeting certain requirements. Because so few individuals were disabled in service or qualified for bounties, the state granted pensions or bounties to only several hundred individuals. From 1789 pensions were funded by the federal government, from 1792 new pensions were administered by it, and from 1806 veterans of state troops and militia were also eligible. From 1818, Congress expanded pension eligibility for Revolutionary War service beyond invalidism, adding thousands to the rolls. However, to qualify, veterans often needed to obtain certificates of service from the state.
Agency history record (CStRLIN)MASVAH0029-A/(OCoLC)145429236 describes the history and functions of the Office of the Secretary of State.

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