Last week we celebrated Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. This action by the members of Congress set off a series of events which resulted in a number of records for genealogists. Records that can be found related to this fight for freedom are: Military Records, Pensions Records, Bounty-Land Warrants and Lineage Society Applications.
Military Service Records from the Revolutionary War begin in 1775 and end in 1783. These records are housed at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C. The information for the compiled military service records were taken from abstracted enlistment papers, muster rolls, payrolls. These records are rarely personal in nature and usually do not have dates of service. Some of the information found in the compiled military service records are rank, military unit, state from which the soldier served, and the dates the soldier’’s name appears on the various rolls. They are used mostly to prove military service. Copies can be obtained by writing to the National Archives using NATF Form 86. The fee is $17.00.
If a Revolutionary War soldier served in a unit that was not called up for federal service, then there would not be records for that soldier at the National Archives. Most states have kept the militia records and they can be found at individual state archives.
Pension records generally contain much more genealogical information than military records. Pension applications contain name, age, residence, military organization, and dates of military service. These files often contain summaries of the soldier’’s military service, his date and place of birth, movements after the war, names and relationships of others who served with him, and, sometimes, even copies of original records such a marriage certificate. The Widow Pension Applications often contains even more genealogical information on both the soldier and his heirs. Copies can be ordered from the National Archives using NATF Form 85. The fee is $37.00.
Bounty-land warrants were given by the Federal government to veterans or their survivors for military service during the Revolutionary War. These files, which are also at the National Archives, contain much of the same information as the Pension Files. There were many more veterans that applied for Bounty-land than applied for Pensions since the bounty-land was often in lieu of wages owed that the government could not pay. Some of the veterans who applied for Bounty-land sold their claims to other parties. Most of the bounty-land was in the Military District of Ohio and many veterans did not wish to move. Bounty-land records can be ordered from NARA with NATF Form 85. The fee is $17.25.
In addition to the Federal bounty-land, some state governments gave bounty-land for Revolutionary War service also. These records can be found at the individual state archives.
The Military, Pension and Bounty-Land records and their indexes have been microfilmed and are available at the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region. There is a guide available which makes searching in these records easier. Ask the volunteer on duty for help.
Another source that should not be overlooked when researching this time period are lineage society applications. Examples of these societies are two of the oldest lineage societies, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). Membership in these societies require proof that a direct ancestor served in the military during the Revolutionary War. Qualification to join can also be granted to those whose ancestors served in other patriotic ways such as a government official. The societies keep track of members both present and past and their applications.
The DAR and SAR have both published patriot indexes. After a patriot is found in one the indexes, a request for the application associated with that patriot can be made. I sent for an application on my husband’s Nutt family line from the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. Some of the information on the application I already knew. But I did find some additional facts and sources that helped to further my research. Both organizations have Web sites where you can obtain additional information at http://www.dar.org and http://www.sar.org.
Many genealogists descend from patriots that helped free the American colonies from English control. They can use these records to learn more about their ancestor and also how that ancestor participated in making the history of our country.