One of the oldest records that I’ve found for an ancestor is a pension file for my fourth great-grandfather George Cook.
Finding the record didn’t take a whole lot of effort. I talked my mom into giving me a subscription to Fold3, and I searched for his name. It was an exciting find, though, because it included a document that modern veterans would call their DD-214. It’s a discharge paper with basic information about his service.
This tiny slip of digitized paper is the earliest record for his age that I’ve found. It was issued in 1817 and gives his age as 28, from which we can extrapolate that he was born in 1789. It says he was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina, and lists his occupation before enlistment as farmer. It describes him as 5’8″ tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair.
George enlisted in the U.S. Army 208 years ago this month, for a term of five years. I should try to find out if there’s a record of his service. It would be interesting to know what role he played in the War of 1812.
Knowing that he was born in 1789 in Lancaster County, South Carolina, also provides a possible clue about his parentage. There is just one Cook listed as living in Lancaster County in the 1790 Census, and the record shows said William Cook had three children under the age of 16. Of course, George could be wrong about where he was born, or maybe the family moved just before the census, or maybe his parents avoided the census taker.
More genealogical work to do!