Monday, January 25, 2010

Anatomy of a Military Pension File, Part 9

Previously, I reported on the acquisition of my great-great-great grandfather's military pension file. The documents contained within pant a picture of a man and his family about which I knew very little. I've decided to share this 103-page treasure chest of information with you a few pages at a time.

Page 23: Examination report. This document provides the details of the physical examination for Max Baerecke. Based on the information provided at the top, this event is for a pension application in regard to the Mexican War (remember, Max was in two wars and had 2 pension applications). The examination date was 26 May 1886. Below are the key details. Handwritten answers will be in quotes.

We hereby certify that in compliance with requirements of the law we have carefully examined the applicant who states that he is suffering from the following disability incurred in the service, viz: "results of yellow fever."

Pulse rate per minute "92;" respiration, "20;" temperature, "98 1/2;" height: "5" feet "4" inches; weight, "150" pounds; age "59" years.

He makes the following statement upon which he bases his claim for "original complains of pain in head + eyes, also pain (in?) stomach, feels weak + unable to work."

Upon examination we find the following objective conditions: "We find absolutely no signs of disease of any kind, the (man?) looks well [unreadable] has a ruddy look, good muscular development. Area over ---ness over liver and spleen normal. temps + heart healthy body is well several by a----- tri---. His (gums?) are somewhat ulcerated but ---- dirty + no doubt as cause of that, some trouble with digestion. Eyesight + hearing normal, he is bright + intelligent.

From the existing condition and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is, in our judgment, _[left blank]__ probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claims, and that it has not been prolonged or aggravated by vicious habits. He is, in our opinion, entitled to a "0" rating for disability caused by "results of yellow fever" for that caused by __[blank]__."

Page 24: Secondary page of medical examination. This record include several drawings of male figures, presumably so doctors can document exactly where the pension applicant suffered injury. For example, if someone lost an arm, you could show exactly which arm and where the amputation occurred. In Max's case, his claim of yellow fever could not be documented using this form, so it is blank.

What did I learn from this document? A lot! I got some physical characteristics of my great-great-great grandfather. Based on the doctor's assessment, Max was "bright and intelligent." From other records not in this file, I know Max once owned a saloon, so he was able to work at some point. I also know he wasn't much of an actor, as his claim of yellow fever disability was denied. Now we know why is was left off his next pension application.

Coming up, Max's medical history in his own words. Stay tuned....


  1. Wow Amy, reading "Anatomy of a Military Pension File" is very interesting, I am looking forward to more on this. It has also inspired me to possibly looking into getting Military pension files on my great grandfather and even my father. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I am inspired to get the military file for my uncle.

  3. I have really enjoyed reading through your Anatomy of a Military Pension File posts.

    I have been contemplating ordering a pension file for my great great great great (that's 4 greats) grandfather, but I'm worried about spending the money and getting very little in the file. I can't even prove that the pension file is his, because the applicant was his grandson, who was born well after the war was over. I don't want to shell out $75 to get a document that says "sorry, you can't get a pension because you're his grandson." I don't know how likely this would be...but it still worries me.

    Do you have any feel for how much, or how little information might be in one of these files?

  4. Jeff, thank you for the comment on my pension file series. I don't have a solid answer for your question because this is the only pension file I have ever ordered. I had no idea it was 103 pages long when I ordered it.

    From the information I've gathered from others, it seems there are no guarantees. Each application and each issue is different. Unless you can get to the Archives to see the file for yourself (or hire someone), it's a risk to purchase sight unseen.