Whether you are trying to put together the necessary documentation to join the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), or whether you want to complete the research for your own records, at some point you will probably want to start looking for information about ancestors that may have fought in the United States Revolutionary War.
The first step, of course, is to find the names of any ancestors who would have been between the ages of 17 and 44 (the age bracket for enlistment in the army) during the period between April 19, 1775 and November 26, 1783.
The question then becomes: what resources are out there? What records will you be able to find to help you learn more about your ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War?
Of particular use if you are compiling information to apply for membership in the DAR, is the Daughters of the American Revolution Patriot Index, which is a listing of all of the patriots who have had descendents apply to join the DAR. This four-volume set of books (with additional supplements) can be found in many public libraries. The DAR also hosts the free Genealogical Research System (GRS) database on their website, which allows users to search for their ancestors online.
In 1984, George K. Schweitzer published a book called Revolutionary War Genealogy, which provides in depth information on how to find records for the revolutionary war period. Some of this information is outdated (for instance, the forms used to access information from the National Archives), but many of the resources that he mentions are still as useful today as they were then.
Aside from the DAR Patriot Index, the first book mentioned is Pierce’s Register: Register of the Certificates Issued by John Pierce, Esquire, Paymaster General and Commissioner of Army Accounts for the United States, to Officers and Soldiers of the Continental Army Under Act of July 4, 1783. This book is as close to a complete listing of soldiers who fought for the Continental Army as there is, as it lists the certificates of payments owed to soldiers at the end of the war. In total, 93,298 certificates were issued. It does not include Minutemen, who were paid by their individual states, or those who fought for South Carolina, due to unusual relations between the state and the federal government. Aside from being just a list of names, Pierce’s Register is useful for identifying the state and regiment that your ancestor fought for. Pierce’s Register may be found at your local library, however it is also located online at Google Books.
The next book that Schweitzer suggested is the Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications, which was issued by the National Archives. Soldiers who had served in the army for six months or longer, and later their widows, were able to apply for pensions. Information included in these records includes the veteran’s name, rank, military or naval unit, and the period of service. It should also include his age, date of birth, place of birth, and place of residence.
If you subscribe to Ancestry.com, they provide access to the U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783. This information is searchable by name, and includes muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, pay and supply records of the military units, and the manuscript register of the series. Ancestry.com also hosts an article (“Ancestry.com – Revolutionary War Sources”) that provides additional links to other resources that will aid you in your search for information.
You will also find a lot of information on the National Archives website (http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/), including descriptions of all of the information that they have in their collections, what each record means, and the forms that you will need to submit to get copies of the records you are searching for. The form that you will need is the NATF-85 form, which allows you access to Pension and Land Warrants.
Hopefully this list of information sources will assist you in your search for your ancestors that served in the Revolutionary War.
-Daughters of the American Revolution
-The National Archives
-George K. Schweitzer, Revolutionary War Genealogy, 1984.
-John Pierce, Pierce’s Register: Register of the Certificates Issued by John Pierce, Esquire, Paymaster General and Commissioner of Army Accounts for the United States, to Officers and Soldiers of the Continental Army Under Act of July 4, 1783, 1973.