Match the Military Evidence for your Ancestors in Traditional Revolutionary War Records to other Genealogy Sources for Best Evidence:
More than 425,000 males aged 16-60 (some even younger who lied about their age), and some women served in the Revolutionary War (1774-1783). Over 85,000 drew pensions from the Federal Government. This means they survived the War long enough to file an application after the first full pension act was passed in 1832.
1. Personal statement of migration–85% of Revolutionary War soldiers died in a different place than born. Place of birth, residences before service and up to the payment of pension including length of residence, place of marriage, place of death. Match with census records, biographical sketches, family Bible dates.
2. Important source of birth, marriage, and death dates before official vital records are kept. Ages at dated events. One of the best sources to trace ladies: maiden surnames, names and ages of children, proof of marriage, other marriages and surnames, family origins. Match with marriage records, cemetery tombstones, family Bible records, personal diaries, biographical sketches, indigent payment lists, rosters of military dependents.
3. Interview your ancestors–1st-person narratives and stories in affidavits, applications, and personal statements. Often in the handwriting of the ancestor: “…even the color of his eyes.” Match with portraits, family traditions, biographical sketches, personal memoirs, letters written to family members, diaries, and journals.
- May include 2-5 generations of pedigree ancestors –with statements of personal knowledge of relationships. Match with compiled genealogies and pedigrees. Also compare with genealogies outlined in family histories, local heritage books, county, and local histories.
- Sworn affidavits by people who personally knew your ancestor. This is a “mini-census” approach: “I knew him for more than 20 years.” Match with tax rolls, inhabitant lists, voter’s registration, local census enumerations, lists of first settlers, and land grant lists.
- Fill in gaps when government records do not survive. The majority of military records are not kept in the courthouse. If the courthouse burns, these records do not burn with it. Match with DAR transcripts of local records–wills or deeds or court records, conscript lists, military census listings, obituaries (”Another Revolutionary Soldier Gone,”), pay, and muster rolls, official casualty lists. DAR transcripts are available for every state.
Be careful using just the printed Revolutionary War Pension transcripts easily available in most genealogy libraries. While they are good locator sources and enable you to determine which original cases to check, they may not reference and index all of the papers filed in each case. Much of the printed stuff is based on M805–Selected Records. This microfilm program filmed 10 documents selected from the case file. Most of them came from the first dozen or so documents in the file. M804–non-Selected Records –includes all the papers in the case file. I recommend that you read all of the documents on microfilm before copying those needed for your genealogy. Some of the best documents are at the end of the case file. You can also access these records on Fold 3. http://fold3.com
Checklist of Sources most often used by authors who write about Military Affairs, Battles, Soldiers, Sailors, and Wars:
__Ships log books
These are basic categories and can exist at all levels of society from officers down through all participants to local townspeople. Comparing journals written by officers, soldiers, and government commissioners can fill in a narrative of who participated and what happened. One journal alone is almost never enough. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS As you read what others have written, their notes and bibliographies can alert you to other sources that also apply to the same events and people. Add these categories to your checklist.