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Types of Records - Mexican War

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The majority of Mexican War veterans served in volunteer regiments raised by the several states, those organizations were all mustered into federal service. Therefore, both volunteer and regular service records are on file in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The federal government, not the states, awarded Mexican War veterans bounty land warrants as a reward for their service. Also, it was the federal government to which veterans had to apply for disability pensions, widows pensions, orphans pensions, and service pensions. There may be from one to three files relating to any given Mexican War veteran in the National Archives. The following is a brief description of what one might find in their research.


Military Service Files usually contain one or more cards stating the name of the soldier, his rank, the identifying letter, number, or name of the military organization to which he belonged and the date and place where he was mustered into service. The file may also reveal whether he was killed or wounded, died in service, or was discharged for disability or some other reason. Sometimes there a physical description of the soldier  and his place of birth might also be stated. Some soldiers were offered a cash bounty for enlisting. Payment of the bounty may be recorded in the service file as well as payments for clothing, etc. The primary importance of this file lies in establishing that the man was indeed a veteran. The National Archives has produced an alphabetical index of Mexican War volunteer on microfilm as well as microfilm of the regular army enlistments, and marine corps and naval enlistments. Mexican-American War Compiled Military Service Record Sample Image


Veterans of the Mexican War were eligible, upon discharge, to receive a federal bounty land warrant redeemable for 160 acres of land anywhere in the United States. All the veteran had to do was send a request to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., along with some proof of service, such as a discharge certificate. Unscrupulous land speculators preyed on young, uneducated veterans who probably did not realize the true worth of these warrants, purchasing them for as little as $25 or no money at all. A number of these speculators did business in New Orleans, where many regiments were mustered out of service. Copies of papers in the bounty land file should reveal whether or not the veteran sold his warrant or redeemed it. If the latter, the redeemed warrant may be among the papers in the file. The discharge certificate is also likely to be there. Both documents should be of interest to genealogists since the former will show where the veteran settled after the war and the latter not only gives a physical description of the soldier but also states his age and place of birth, information not always given in the service file. Unfortunately, there is no alphabetical index to these files available to researchers in the form of either microfilm or print.


Veterans who were disabled by illness, war wounds or service-connected injuries were eligible for a federal pension of half-pay (for a private this amounted to $3.50 per month) from the day they were discharged. Widows of men who were killed or died in service were also eligible. Children of deceased veterans could apply for an orphan's pension.

Service pensions were granted by an act of Congress approved January 29, 1887. Both veterans and widows were eligible for an $8 per month pension. After the turn of the century these were increased to $12, then $20 per month. It appears the majority of recipients applied within the first three years of the pension's availability. Applications were accepted until 1926.

Papers found in pension files are probably the most valuable documents in establishing relationships. Each applicant not only had to fill out a lengthy application but also had to back up his or her claim with affidavits from witnesses. Date and place of marriage, date and place of death, and former or present places of residence might be among the information these papers provide.



Once you've found your ancestor's name in one of the military service or pension indexes (or if you want to learn whether or not he applied for a bounty land warrant) you'll want to request copies of the papers which may be in the appropriate file or files in the National Archives.

The Mexican-American War compiled Military service records (sample above) and some land records can be order online at the National Archives site here

To order by mail, Effective November 2000, one of two specific forms must be used, depending upon which records you seek.

For copies of a veteran's military record, you will need NATF Form 86. The letters NATF stand for "National Archives Trust Fund." Your local genealogical library may have copies of these forms available. If not, you'll need to order them direct from the National Archives. A separate NATF Form 86 must be completed for each veteran.

To order copies of bounty land and and pension records, you will need NATF Form 85. If ordering both bounty land AND pension record copies, you will need two of these forms.

To request forms, write to:

National Archives and Records Service
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20408-0001

Alternatively, you can request forms by e-mail:

Whether requesting forms by mail or by email, be sure to include:

It may take three or four weeks for your request to be processed. Upon receipt, be sure to fill out each form according to the attached instructions. Include as much information as you can. When asking for copies of the pension file, include any pension certificate or application number you may have found in the index. Minimum information required is the veteran's name, state from which he served or from which he enlisted, branch of service, and the name of the war or period during which he served. Mail the completed form(s) to the address given in the instructions. It may be different from the address given above.

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