Revolutionary War, 1775 to 1783
Research a Revolutionary War Ancestor (Daughters of the American Revolution suggestions for research)
The Revolutionary War began with the confrontation between British troops and local militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775. Throughout the war, state troops and local militias supplemented the Continental (Federal) Army. The total number of men who served is not known.
- Beutrich, Mabel E., and Howard N. Wehmann. War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records. Revised edition. PI 144. Washington, D.C.: 1970.
Service records document an individual’s involvement with the military. Specific records could include enlistment or compiled service records. Often these records provide your ancestor’s unit or organization. This information makes it easier to search the pension records. Service records seldom provide information about other members of a soldier’s family.
For further information about service records see Service Records
For further information about available records see Revolutionary War Service Records
Please Note: Most of the records of the American Army from the Revolutionary War era that were in the custody of the War Department were destroyed by fire in 1800 or in 1814.
The first pension law in 1776 granted half-pay for life to soldiers disabled in the service and unable to earn a living. The first pension law based on service was passed in 1818, but it was later amended to make eligible only those soldiers unable to earn a living. The pension act of 1832 allowed pensions again based on service and made widows of veterans also eligible to receive pension benefits. Fires in 1800 destroyed the earliest Revolutionary War pension application records. As a result, pension application papers on file at the National Archives begin after 1800. Certain pension records predating 1800 survive in the form of Congressional reports and other legislation. Reports available are arranged by state; they give name, rank, regiment, description of wounds, and disability; they also give information regarding pension, place of residence, and physical fitness. (FHL film 0944495.)
See more general information about Bounty Land Warrants.
See more infomation about available records for Bounty Land Warrants and Pension Records.
Revolutionary War Pension Files with Index and supporting file images to particiation in the Revolutionary War are available online through three commercial websites:
- Ancestry, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library [complete file]
- Footnote, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library [complete file]
- Heritage Quest, a paid subscription site available in the Family History Library and the Family History Centers [select records in each file]
The 1835 Pension Roll (covers 27 states and one district) is available online at various websites. A WeRelate source page leads researchers to various editions of this resource.
Knowing the history of your ancestor’s military unit can help you find a place of residence at the time of enlistment or help you find a death place. The following sources are helpful in identifying Revolutionary War regiments:
- Berg, Fred Anderson. Encyclopedia of Continental Army Units, Battalions, Regiments, and Independent Corps. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1972. (FHL book 973 M2be.) Provides a brief organizational sketch of each unit in the Continental Army and lists the commanding officers.
- Wright, Robert K. The Continental Army. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1983. (FHL book 973 M2wr.) Includes extensive bibliographies, maps, and brief histories of every permanent unit in the Continental Army.
The 1840 Federal Census requested information on all surviving Revolutionary War veterans. If your ancestor is of the right age to possibly have served in the Revolutionary War, and he was still living in 1840, check the 1840 census to see if he was marked as being a Revolutionary War veteran.
The following source lists living pensioners of the Revolutionary War and other military service:
- Federal Population Decennial Census Schedule: Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. National Archives Microfilm Publication M704. (FHL 580 films.)
These names are published in the following:
- A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Service. . . . 1841. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967. (FHL book 973 X2pc 1967; film 816370; fiche 6046771.) It lists the name, age, and residence of the pensioner and the name of the head of household with whom the pensioner lived.
The following is an index to the above source:
- The Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A General Index to a Census of Pensioners For Revolutionary or Military Service. 1840. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1965. (FHL book 973 X2pc index 1965; film 0899835; fiche 6046771.) The index lists alphabetically both the veteran and the head of the family with whom the pensioner resided. Names with asterisks are heads of families. Page numbers refer to the published list.
Cemetery records can aid in locating information about a Revolutionary War ancestor. Societies such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution have compiled lists and indexes of known Revolutionary War soldiers. State organizattions and local histories often make note of Revolutionary War veterans buried in their locality. For more information on these records see Revolutionary War Cemetery Records.
Researchers who trace their family line to a Revolutionary War veteran, often submit their information to a lineage society. These lineages are usually required to have extensive documentation. Societies such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution have published indexes to their membership linages. The Society of the Cincinnati is another lineage society with Revolutionary War veteran information. For furhter information on these societies see Revolutionary War Veterans' and Lineage Society Records.
An estimated one-third of the people of the American colonies remained loyal to Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. As many as 50,000 fled their homes and moved to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and England. Records of these individuals include name lists, muster rolls, and histories. Many filed claims and petitions to the British government for compensation for losses of real and personal property.
To find records of Loyalists do a Subject Search in the Family History Library Catalog for:
- AMERICAN LOYALISTS
- UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS
Or, do a search at https://www.familysearch.org/#form=catalog Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog for:
- Place where ancestor lived
- On the Topic List, choose:
- Other subject headings which look feasible
- On the Topic List, choose:
See the Wiki articles for the states and provinces where your Loyalist ancestor lived. The outlines often list published works concerning Loyalists of that state.
- The National Archives of Canada (395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A ON3)
- The Archives of Ontario (77 Grenville Street, Queens Park, Toronto, ON, Canada M7A 2R9)
• An excellent guide to information on Loyalists is A Bibliography of Loyalist Source Material in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. (FHL book 973 F23bL.)
- A website (still under construction) that gives loyalist land petitions, postwar settlements, muster rolls, documents about regiments, and muster rolls can be found at www.royalprovincial.com.
Information from: Family History Library Consultants. Q & A, LAD Database, RELEASE 4.1, Jan. 2004 MJM.
The On-line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies site has a few of the Order Books on their site. Presumably all of the regiments kept Order Books however not all have been found.
Many people of different nationalities were involved in the Revolutionary War. The following sources may be helpful:
|Ethnic Group||Source||FHL Call Number|
|English||A Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and Their Records (1640-WWI) In Search of the "Forlorn Hope" (regiments and where stationed)||BRITISH 942 M2kj (2 vols.)|
|French||List of French soldiers: Les Combattants Français de la Guerre Américaine, 1778-1783 (has names)|| INTL 944 M2cf (Ref & reg stacks)|
US Q 944 M2cf (High Density)
|Hessians||Index: Hessische Truppen im Amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg (HETRINA)...(has names, birthdates, places, etc.)|| |
US book 943 M2mg, 6 vol.
v. 1-2, US Film 1320516 Items 6-7
v. 3-5, US Film 1320542 Items 5-6
Several other British colonies existed on the North American continent, but remained loyal to the King. They were:
Upper Canada (now Ontario)
Lower Canada (now Quebec)
Nova Scotia (which included present-day New Brunswick)
Rupert's Land (Hudson Bay drainage basin)
West Florida (captured by Spain (ally of the United States) in 1781)
Many Loyalists migrated from the thirteen colonies and settled in Canadian colonies during and after the Revolution, or in British (later Spanish) Florida, or Jamaica.
- Military Records: Revolutionary War (34 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, 2010.
- Foulk, Beth. Revolutionary War Genealogy Research. (23 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, and Mid-Continent Public Library, Midwest Genealogy Center, 2010.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have gathered and preserved many records and many lineages related to people who served in the Revolutionary War:
- http://www.dar.org/natsociety/pi_lookup.cfm is the site for Patriot Index Lookup Service.
- http://www.dar.org/library/onlinlib.cfm is the DAR library site and online catalog.
- http://grc.dar.org/dar/darnet/grc/grc.cfm?Action=overview Some of the Genealogical Records Committee Reports of the DAR is searchable online in the GRC National Index. Not all states have been indexed yet, but presently the online index contains more than 18 million names and is continually growing. Once names of interest have been found in the index, you can order copies of the pages from the DAR Library’s Search Service.
- www.colonialhall.com This site has biographies of the founding fathers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and some of their wives.
- http://genealogy.about.com/cs/revolution/ht/Military_Record.htm Article on how to get copies of your Revolutionary War patriot's military records.
- http://www.archives.gov/ Site of the National Archives and Records Administration and home to many military records.
- http://www.rootsweb.com/~ars/index.htm These pages contain the email and/or URL addresses of descendants or persons who can give you some background on the revolutionary soldier that is listed with each email address.
- Rootsweb DAR Message Board
- http://www.dar.org/natsociety/pi_lookup.cfm is the site for Patriot Index Lookup Service where you can find your ancestor in the DAR archives.