This information is no longer updated as I no longer offer pension look-ups.
Online pension records and pension finding aids are listed below. Use these links to ensure you have identified all relevant information about the pension you want.
Revolutionary War pensions are available in their entirity on Fold3. If you found a Revolutionary War pension through HeritageQuest you only accessed the "select" records. We do not offer Revolutionary War pension look-ups as we will be refered by NARA staff to Fold3.
War of 1812 pensions are being scanned through donations made to the Federation of Genealogical Societies "Save the Pensions" program. The files are available online at Fold3 for free (and will remain free) and are currently being scanned in alphabetical order. You can donate to the project here to help the pensions get scanned faster.
Files will not be available at NARA if they are currently being scanned. We do not know the time frame from a file being pulled from the stacks to appearing online. Once the file is online NARA will not pull it, this applies to any NARA textual records.
War of 1812 pension files include the bounty land warrant application file for the same solider if it exists.
An online index is available on FamilySearch.org.
You can learn more about bounty-land warrants on our blog.
Union Civil War pensions are our most popular request. Widow's pensions are being scanned and placed on Fold3 but these only represent a small portion of the pensions. Widow's pensions are being scanned by widow's certificate number starting with the lowest number. You can read about the progress here. As with War of 1812 pensions, when they are being scanned they will not be available onsite at NARA (and NARA will not pull them once they are online). There are also pensions still held by the Veterans Administration that are not at NARA. You must request these directly from the V.A. These will have a "C" or "XC" number listed at the bottom of the "alphabetical" index card. This is the index found at Ancestry.com or NARA microfilm T288 (also available for free at FamilySearch.org as browsable images). Just because a pension has a C or XC number does not mean it is at the V.A. You can read an article about this issue here. Below is an example of an index card with a C number.
In addition to T288, there is also an "organizational" index, T289 available at Fold3 (text only database FamilySearch.org). This index may include the soldier's death date. Checking both indexes is best as copying errors may occur or one card may be easier to read than the other. It also insures you have not overlooked any pertinent information. Occasionally you may only be able to find one index card or the other due to online indexing issues.
There is a third index previously only available on microfilm (A1158), the "numerical index." Fold3 has just started putting this index online (5% complete as of 24 April 2013). You can use this index when you cannot read one of the digits in one of the pension numbers listed on a card from the other two indexes.
World War I or later service. NARA does not have these files and therefore we cannot provide a look-up. Learn about what military records NARA does have, here.
Other wars. FamilySearch.org has recently made five other indexes available online in a browse-only format. This is the same as using microfilm to find the index card but you can do it from home, for free, whenever you like. These collections are
Old War Pension Index, 1815-1926, T316
Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926, T317
Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926, T318
Remarried Widows Index to Pension Applications, 1887-1942, M1784 and M1785
Click the appropriate link above to learn more about the collection and what service it covers.
Don't forget to use other collections at FamilySearch.org to access indexes for other NARA records. These are accessible by selecting United States records and then "United States" from the list of states.
Finally, many local genealogy and history collections (whether at your local library, historical society, or Family History Center) will have the published (book form) pension indexes for some of the pensions listed above. A comprehensive book index to Civil War pensions does not exist due to the number of pensions. Published indexes to some of the files may exist. Local collections may also have copies of the microfilm should you have issues accessing the online indexes.