Posted in Research tips

War of 1812 Bounty-Land Warrant Applications

War of 1812Every genealogist has one—that ancestor that remains elusive for decades.  I have been in pursuit of the father of John Gooch for 28 years.  I wish I could report a big breakthrough on that front, but I do have a small to medium-sized breakthrough that made my heart beat a little faster this week.

In the pursuit of John Gooch’s father, I have looked under just about every rock I could find—twice.  You know how that goes. Years and years of microfilm, books, land records, probate files, pension records, cemetery records, and censuses.  Pouring over each document for every clue.  And then you move on to other research goals, occasionally poking around in new indexes for that old familiar name—John Gooch. Nothing, nothing, nothing.  But this week, suddenly something. And I was just certain you would want to hear about it.

I was interested to discover a free (to Ancestry members) Ancestry Academy presentation titled, “Ancestors, Family, and Associates in the War of 1812 Records, taught by David Rencher, AG®, CG(SM), FUGA, FIGRS. I have slowly been watching it, pausing it, taking notes, and searching the resources discussed.  It’s a great presentation.  When Rencher got to the section on Bounty-Land Warrant applictions, he explained that these are textual files located at the National Archives.

Bounty Land was awarded to soldiers for service in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and wars prior to the Civil War.  However, most of the warrants were issued in later years under the Acts of 1850 and 1855. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that once upon a time I found John Gooch in an index of War of 1812 soldiers, having served with the North Carolina Militia for one month in 1815. He was 22 at the start of the war, and a likely candidate for military service.  I had checked the available pension record index at Fold3 with no luck. Up until yesterday I did not know there was a free Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index on Fold3.

Knowing that John Gooch lived until 1864, I wondered if he had applied for Bounty Land under the Acts of 1850 or 1855.  He lived in Texas at that point, and I was not aware of him obtaining Bounty Land, but I also knew that most soldiers sold or assigned their land to others.  Since John apparently had not applied for a pension, I was skeptical that he would have applied for Bounty Land, but with a free online index it was easy to check. And here is what I found:

Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index,, John Gooch entry.
Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index,, John Gooch entry.
Well, hello John Gooch! Sneaky John Gooch. I did wonder if it was really you, or some other John Gooch, so I looked up Capt. Jas. Lowery and Col. John Patten  to see if I could find out where their regiments were mustered.  I found that Captain James Lowery was part of the 10th company and 7th regiment of the North Carolina Militia that mustered out at Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina. John Gooch was born in Buncombe County, not far from Asheville.  I recognized John Patten’s name as one of John Gooch’s contemporaries in Buncombe County records. This gave me confidence going forward.

See the warrant number?  That tells me you applied for a Bounty-Land Warrant under the Act of 1855. 160 acres.  And now I have your warrant number and can order your application file!  Yessssss! So that is what I did.

Using a soldier’s name and warrant number you can order a Bounty-Land Warrant application file on the NARA website:
Click on the “Shop Online” section, and then “Order Reproductions.”  Continue on to the Military and Pension Records, and fill out the form.  A Bounty-Land Warrant application file costs $30, but considering the kind of information it can contain, it is well worth it in my opinion.  The file might have

  • Veteran’s name and signature and time served
  • Widow, heirs, marriage information
  • Residences & ages
  • Neighbor & relative affidavits
  • Unique family ephemera
  • If approved: warrant no., year of act, acreage

It is unlikely this application will include the name of John Gooch’s father, but after years and years of research and feeling like I have found out everything I can about John Gooch, the thought of a file full of new details about his life is just so exciting to me! It could fill in many of the “missing” years with places he lived and people he knew, and one of those details might provide the breakthrough I need.

When I receive the application file I will be sure to post some images of the contents.  I have requested that the file be sent in “electronic” format, so that will be handy.

If you have an ancestor who was of age for military service during any of the many wars the U.S. participated in, be sure to look for evidence of a Bounty-Land Warrant.  I have created a helpful “cheat sheet” called “Table of Wars – Ages of Servicemen” that can be used to determine who might have military records.





I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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