Updated: Feb 4, 2019
Did you know you can find a wealth of information in The Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files for FREE?
Yes, if you subscribe to Ancestry.com you can probably find an index, but last time I checked, they didn't allow you to view the actual files. If you don't have a subscription to Ancestry, you could visit your local library, which may allow you to use their computers to search Ancestry's site, but genealogy searches take hours and your time at the library may be limited.
One of the happiest days of my life was the day I discovered HeritageQuest. It was listed under "Online resources" on my local library's website. When I clicked the HeritageQuest link (from my home), it asked for my library card number. Having recently moved to the area, I didn't have one but you can bet I was down there the next day to get one. Once I had it in my hand, I went home and went back to the library's website and clicked the HeritageQuest button again. I entered the digits and gained access to a wealth of free data including U.S. Census Records, land records, historical books, directories, and last but not least The Revolutionary War Pension files!
I never even knew I had any ancestors who fought in the Revolution, so you can imagine my surprise when I found several. At least four of my forefathers fought for the Union and other relatives fought and died for the cause, which made me wish I had paid better attention in history class. Suddenly, I was studying American history and my level of patriotism increased tenfold.
The information kept in the pension files is astounding! Not only does it contain handwritten accounts, often written by the soldier himself, giving details of his rank and any battles he fought in, but it also included personal details such as birth, marriage, and death dates. The elusive maiden name of his wife is also commonly supplied. Some include the names and birth dates of children and if you're lucky, who they married and/or when they died. Friends and neighbors often supplied testimony, validating the pensioners identification and service. These can provide more clues! As if that's not enough, you might even get to see his signature!
Visit your local library's website to see if you have access to HeritageQuest. If you don't have a library card, simply go get one! They are usually free and while you're there, you could ask what else they might have to help you in your family tree search.
See more great places to find paper trails of your ancestors on the "Genealogy Links" page. There I list all the special places I have discovered and found to be most useful, with items that aren't available on the standard genealogy sites.