Thursday, April 26, 2007

Accessing Union Civil War Service & Pension files

Accessing Union Civil War Service & Pension files

From: John Burnett
I am having trouble finding info on one of my ancestors, one Frank (Francis Burnett) Burnett. I believe he was from Canada, but came to the States ( Vermont) to join the Union Army. Seven days prior to his enlistment he married one Elisa Martin. I'm not sure if she was from Vt. or Canada. At the time of his death, 1913, Charlestown VT, he appears to be married to one Calista Burnett, who filed to receive his veteran benefits. Frank and Calista had a son, Francis William Burnett (1862-1939) Frank's parents were from Canada. The father's name was Francis and the wife was Zoah or Zewa Balba or Balla.


Unfortunately all the Canadian Border Crossings are too late to document your ancestor's migration from Canada to Vermont. You have completed some research on your Union Civil War ancestor, but Ol' Myrt recommends the following:

Obtain a copy of his COMPLETE (not selected) Union pension file. Among the information requested on the pension applications throughout the years, each serviceman must detail:
-- where and when he was born
-- where and when (and to whom) he married
-- whether that marriage ended in divorce or death of the spouse
-- list all children by name and birth date

To obtain photocopies of Frank (Francis) Burnett's original file the National Archives and Records Administration must be contacted, as only the selected records are on microfilm. For more information, see: If you live near Washington, DC, you can view the file in person. You will need identifying information such as his unit name and period of service in order to distinguish him from other Frank or Francis Burnetts who served.

From this website we read " Most Union army soldiers or their widows or minor children later applied for a pension. In some cases, a dependent father or mother applied for a pension. The pension files are indexed by NARA microfilm publication T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (544 rolls) which is also available online at (for a fee)."

CIVIL WAR SERVICE RECORDS I found the following individuals in's database:

Frank Burnett D 25 N. Y. Cavalry. Private Private Union
Frank Burnett E 16 Illinois Infantry. Private Private Union
Frank Burnett A 64 U. S. Col'd Infantry. Private Union
Frank F. Burnett E 13 N. Y. Cavalry. Private Private Union
Frank J. Burnett H 2 Wisconsin Infantry. Private Private Union
Frank M. Burnett H 4 Ohio Cavalry. Corporal Private Union
****Francis Burnett C 5 Vermont Infantry. Private Private Union
NOTE: Could this be your ancestor?

Francis Burnett 1 Ind. Batt'y, N. Y. Lt. Art'y. Private Private Union
Francis Burnett C 178 N. Y. Infantry. Private Private Union
Francis Burnett L 3 N. Y. Provisional Cavalry. Private Private Union
Francis Burnett M 2 N. Y. Mounted Rifles. Private Private Union
Francis G. Burnett I 30 Illinois Infantry. 2 Lieutenant Captain Union
Francis J. Burnett 13 Indpt. Batt'y, Michigan Light Art'y. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett J 2 Arkansas Cavalry. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett D 30 Kentucky Infantry. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett A 9 Missouri Cavalry. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett F 18 Missouri Infantry. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett H 26 Missouri Infantry. Private Private Union
Francis M. Burnett B 27 Missouri Mtd. Infantry. Private Private Union
Francis T. Burnett 13 Indpt. Batt'y, Michigan L. Art'y. Private Private Union

CIVIL WAR PENSION FILE INDEX - I found the following individual in's database:

****Frank Burnett Celista A. Burnett North Carolina
NOTE: This looks like your ancestor,
since it lists his wife Celista as you've determined from other sources. Did you know that the North Carolina was the state where his widow filed for benefits and not Vermont? Ol' Myrt has reproduced the index card, which you will need to reference when ordering up your Francis Burnett's file at the National Archives.

"You may do research in Civil War military service and pension files in person at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001. Begin your research in Room 400, the Microfilm Reading Room. Staff is available there to answer your questions. [...] Requests for records that have not been microfilmed, such as the pension files and most Union CMSRs, must be submitted on appropriate forms between 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. The request forms and the microfilmed indexes are all available in Room 400. Pension files and other original records are not "pulled" from the stacks after 3:30 p.m. or on Saturday, but can be viewed during all regular research hours if the pull request was submitted during the weekday hours noted in the previous sentence."

If you require paper copies of the Frank's US Civil War Union pension file, see: Please be aware that prices for this are going up in late spring, so there is probably quite a backlog from individuals who wish to beat the price-hike deadline.

PLACE OF ORIGIN. The main reason you are looking at Frank's pension file is to find his birth date and birth place. Once you determine the place of origin, study the history of the town in question to locate surviving records. Hopefully essential records are available on microfilm through your local LDS Family History Center. Consult the FHLC Family History Library Catalog online at:

CANADIAN RECORDS. When looking at a record collection for the first time, it will be necessary for you to become familiar with the scope and limitations of those records. Be sure to read the Family History Library's Canada Research Outline, located on the web at:
From this you will learn about record keeping practices and availability of records.

Realize that the Family History Library has also published research outlines for individual provinces in Canada, with specifics about record collection availability and peculiarities about record groups in the province, whether or not the FHL holds the records in question. To find these online, go to: and then click the appropriate letter of the alphabet for the province you wish to learn more about. Then scroll down the list until you find an interesting title, and click to open the research outline. I like to print these out wherever possible. Ol' Myrt still prefers to underline and highlight important points in any guidebook when studying a new locality for research.

CANADIAN CENSUS. Be sure to read the Family History Library's "Census Records Before 1871" research help.

1851 CENSUS (Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia)
-- "The digital images within this database are copies of the original microfilm records held by Library and Archives Canada."
-- "This tool allows researchers to search by geographic location only. As this is not a nominally-indexed database, it is not searchable by family name."
-- " Please note, parts of the 1851 census did not survive and therefore no digital images exist." (subscription required) Searchable by name
-- 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia 1,487,802
-- Wellington County, Ontario Canada 1851 Census 17,349 individuals
-- Addington County, Ontario Canada 1851 Census 12,038 individuals
-- Lennox County, Ontario Canada 1851 Census 6,999 individuals
-- 1861 Durham County, Ontario Census 38,922 individuals
-- 1861 Brighton, Ontario Census 3,713 individuals

-- Canada GenWeb
- specify Canada
-- Burnett Surname Mailing List -
-- Burnett in Canada Surname Mailing List -

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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