Old Soldiers’ Home Records

Retirement locations for many of America’s military veterans were either with family members in private residences or in a public facility known as the Old Soldiers’ Home. The earliest such federal government sponsored veterans; home was the U. S. Naval Home in Philadelphia, PA, which opened in 1834. It was in 1851 that one for U. S. Army veterans was established in Washington, D. C. on 250 acres and named the Old Soldiers’ Home.

Many individual states also set up their own retirement homes for soldiers and sailors in their state. Not just for military veterans, these state homes could serve for the widows and orphans of veterans. After the Civil War in 1865 as the veterans aged, it was organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans that encouraged states and the federal government to create these needed retirement institutions for veterans. Large numbers of homes were built in the 1880s for the aging veterans across the country. An example is the Michigan Veterans Home (for soldiers and sailors) constructed just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1886. It continues to remain in operation. No matter what name was selected they were always referred to as the Old Soldiers’ Home. Eventually many of the state created facilities were taken over and run by the U. S. Federal government. Many of these facilities also had a nearby cemetery where the old soldiers were eventually buried.

Numerous online sites offer information on the veterans’ homes. With FamilySearch.org, they have a complete list with links to some of the databases having names of those soldiers and sailors who were in the Soldiers Home System. A reminder, it would not be just those veterans from the Civil War (Union and Confederate), but also those who were involved in the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War and World War I or who served anytime after 1850 in the military. You might not have located a certain ancestor, including a widow of a veteran and instead they were living at an Old Soldiers’ Home.

Finding which home a veteran lived in might be difficult. Start with which state they were last known living in, not necessarily where they were born. From there check neighboring states plus any states where their children were living at the time. Using state archives and individual homes’ records you can request copies of their records on an individual, which could hold a wealth of information.

The online site of Ancestry.com has a database titled U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers,

1866-1938” which covers facilities in New York, Ohio, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, Virginia, California and Oregon. These were run by the federal government, rather than the state institutions.

If you have not checked into the old soldiers’ home records, these various sources would be a good start.

Photo:  The Old Soldiers Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1886.

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