Many of us who had Civil War ancestors have ordered their pension records from the National Archives. When a man applied for a pension he had to provide "witnesses", persons who attested to having served with him, or known him before or after his service. At the very least witnesses were friends who thought highly enough of the soldier that they took time to go before a justice or judge to make a statement that would assist in receiving the pension. Often these witnesses turn out to be relatives by blood or marriage.
I've wanted to create a witness project for a long time due to my own positive experiences in tracking down the pension witnesses of my so-far 7 direct line Civil War gg- or ggg-grandparents. Some of the men and women turned out to be unknown in-laws, siblings and cousins, who I started following down through the years. A widow's witness turned out to be an unknown brother living in another area; by tracing him I was able to take my own ggg-gf's line back another 70 years. Serendipitously, through another researcher's pension record, I found a gg-gf who'd deserted his wife and taken off for parts unknown. Armed with the dates of his witnessing, I hired a professional researcher to comb through out-of-state city directories. She found him hiding for over a decade during and after the missing 1890 census year, a period during which he was not making applications of his own. Those are only some of the productive results of my tracing my guys' witnesses. From my own family's pension records I've also had the pleasure of being able to provide two other researchers with copies of accounts of their own ancestors' witnessing, with their signature or mark. From there they ordered their own soldier's records.
Men applied for pensions at any point after their service. Disabled veterans and immediate widows applied right after their service, in the 1860s. Others waited until infirmities caught up with them or they found a sympathetic doctor, or many years later, after passage of the law that gave all veterans and widows (and some mothers) the right to receive a pension. Over the years pensioners or their widows applied for a raise in benefits as their health declined. As a witness had to state their residence, these applications are especially useful in filling in locations of residence during the long gap between the 1880 and 1900 censuses.
Your own ancestor's record could hold the clue to another researcher's ancestor's service or residence (or being alive), and what goes around comes around. Wouldn't you like to know who some of your ancestor's associates were? Maybe another researcher knows. We welcome all contributions of names of witnesses from pensions of men who at some point were Wayne County residents. The first contribution lists the witnesses for Alanson Youngs, who lived in Wayne County for the first 25 years of his life. Although Alanson served in another state, perhaps some of his witnesses also originally hailed from NY State or Wayne County. Contributions in the short format below can be sent to us for inclusion on this page. Be sure to put "Wayne County Pension Witnesses" in the subject line of your email.
Alanson Young's information was contributed by Dorotha Piechocki
In his "Declaration for Pension" for Civil War service, Alanson YOUNGS stated that "...he was born June 22nd, 1830, at Marion, N.Y." Alanson emigrated to Michigan in 1855, where he married Mary Austin, and served in the 25th MI Infantry, Company E. The following are various witnesses to his pension application. If you know any of Alanson's witnesses, please contact Dottie.:
Proof of Disability, Ionia, MI, 4 Jun 1892
witness William C. SIBLE, age 62, resident of Saranac, Ionia Co., MI, attests to having served with claimant in Co. E, 25th Michigan Infantry
Declaration for Invalid Pension, Ionia, MI, 25 May 1892
attest: Thomas S. WHITE [nothing further]
attest: Michael Bor____ [rest illegible]
General Affidavit, Ionia, MI, 28 Mar 1894
witness William C. SIBLE, aged 64, resident of Saranac, Ionia, MI, restates having been acquainted with Youngs for many years and having served with him, and being acquainted with him ever since
Declaration for Pension, Ionia, MI, 18 Feb 1907
witness O. H. BROWER, of Saranac, Ionia, MI, having known Alanson Youngs for 10 years;
witness A.S. DENSMORE, of Saranac, having known claimant for 13 years
Declaration for Widow's Pension, Ionia, MI, 22 Jun 1911
witness Mary E. MILLER, of Lowell, MI, having known widow Mary Jane Austin Youngs for 50 years
witness George N. GOULD, of Grand Rapids, MI, having known widow for 25 years
Wayne County Military Articles Page