Berks County Pennsylvania is one of these counties where your ancestors lived a while and then moved on. If they were resident there through the American Revolution and beyond, check the military records–original signatures, troop movements, militia assignments between wars, unique identities when there is more than one person by the same name, name of local residence, excuses offered for non-attendance at muster–all of these entries can give you important details about your ancestors.
In the Pennsylvania State Division of Archives and Manuscripts, PO Box 1026, Harrisburg PA 17108-1026, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us these original military records for Berks County are on deposit:
- Associators Accounts, 1775-1777. Receipts, accounts, returns. payrolls, and muster rolls. Name rank, military unit, residence, commanding officer, enlistment and discharge dates, and assignments. These records are the equivalent of the Massachusetts Minutemen, which we learned about in grade school. No one ever told you about the Associators. You can identify your ancestors who joined at the very beginning of the revolt. Abstracts printed in Pennsylvania Archives, Vol 5. Available in many re3search libraries. See also “Use of the Published Pennsylvania Archives in Genealogical Research,” Jean S. Morris, Special Publication #1, Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society.
- Militia Accounts, 1777-1794. Receipts, operations and maneuvers, muster lists of white males ages 18-53–those who owed duty from that specific militia district. Returns of absentees list date, name, company, battalion, commanding officer, number of days mustered, and the number of days absent (so the soldier could be paid for his service or reprimanded for not showing up). Available on 3 microfilm reels, Family History Library, #1203008-10.
- Militia Accounts, 1793-1809. Muster and pay rolls, receipts, accounts and returns of absentees, exempts by name, rank, and military unit. County of origin, where given, may include adjoining counties and states! Included in 9 reels of microfilm by military divisions 1-14 through Family History Library.
Please note that these records are also available for other Pennsylvania counties. Check the Family History Library Catalog online at http://www.familysearch.org or the online catalog of the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission http://www.phmc.state.pa.us for specific titles and dates covered.
Military records are an underused resource for hard-to-find ancestors. The records listed above are not the pension files. Your ancestor may have died before pensions were awarded. These are not the service records, a category that will eventually be available online. These are usually not among the lists printed in genealogical society quarterlies or typed into online databases. Yet they can supply some of the most essential evidence to prove your ancestry and discover where you originate. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS By popular request, I am going to compile checklists and white papers I have written on Pennsylvania Genealogy into a book that, hopefully, will be available sometime in November 2010. I have completed much genealogy research for my clients and for my husband’s ancestry in Pennsylvania records. You could benefit from my experience there. Stay tuned for a table of contents and announcement that this publication is available.