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The Revolutionary War began April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord, MA between the local militia and British troops and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

There are many records on the approximately 250,000 military participants and several million wives and descendants of these veterans. Basically, there are three types of records: Service records, Pension records, and Bounty-land Warrants.

SERVICE RECORDS: Most of the original service records and the earliest pension records of the Revolutionary War were destroyed in fires in 1800 and 1814. However, substitute records were used to make the compiled service records, which are now part of Record Group 93 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Service records document a person's involvement with the military and can provide the unit to which he belonged. This information will make it easier to find and identify your ancestor in the pension records. There often are several men with the same or similar names in military records. Service records seldom provide genealogical information about the soldier or his family.

If your ancestor served in a military unit, he should appear on muster/attendance rolls. This will give his name, date and place of enlistment and muster. Some records may show his age, physical description, marital status, occupation, even place of birth or residence.

The federal government has compiled military service records for soldiers serving in volunteer units in wars since 1775. These records, on cards, have abstracts of information taken from unmicrofilmed original records at National Archives, such as muster rolls, pay lists, hospital records, record books, orders and correspondence found in Record group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917. A card was made for each soldier and put in an envelope along with some original documents. These files are arranged by state, military unit, then alphabetically by the soldier's name.

In addition to federal records, each state or colony kept service records for its own militia and volunteer regiments. These records are usually available at state archives, state historical societies or state adjutant general's offices. If a state unit was mustered into federal service, then the federal government might have sent copies of records to the office of the state adjutant general. Therefore it is usually necessary to search both federal and state records.

Check the following:
General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers (National Archives M860, 58 rolls); also available at the Family History Library (FHL films 882,841-98). This alphabetical index includes soldiers, sailors, members of Army staff departments and civilian employees of the Army and Navy (such as teamsters, carpenters and cooks). For each soldier or civilian, the index gives name, rank, unit and profession or office.

Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (National Archives M881, 1,096 rolls); also available at the Family History Library -- FHLC computer number 432762).

PENSION RECORDS - The federal government and some state governments granted pensions to officers, disabled veterans, needy veterans, widows or orphans of veterans and veterans who served a certain length of time. Pension records usually contain more genealogical information than service records. However, not all of our veteran ancestors applied for or received a pension.

Pension files for 1775 to 1916 are available at the National Archives in Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, and only those for the Revolutionary War have been microfilmed. Lists of federal and state military pensioners have been published for the years 1792 to 1795, 1813, 1817, 1818, 1820, 1823, 1828, 1831, 1835, and 1840. These are most likely ones to contain information about a Revolutionary War ancestor and most of these lists can be found in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set available at federal repository libraries and many university libraries. Some have been reprinted and can be found in genealogical collections at many libraries.

The federal government and some states offered land to those who would serve in the military during the Revolutionary War. Bounty land could be claimed by veterans or their heirs. The federal government and some states reserved tracts of land in the public domain for this purpose.

A veteran requested bounty land by filing an application, usually at the local courthouse. The application papers and supporting documents were placed in bounty land files kept by the federal or state agency. These files contain information similar to pension files. If the application was approved, the individual was given either a WARRANT to receive the land or SCRIPT which could be exchanged for a warrant. Later laws allowed for the sale or exchange of warrants. Actually, few soldiers received title to bounty land or settled on it as most of them sold or exchanged their warrants.

Federal bounty land applications and warrants for the Revolutionary War have been microfilmed. They are available at the National Archives, its regional branches, and the Family History Library. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900; (National Archives M804).

Write to General Reference Branch (NNRG), National Archives and Records Administration, 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20408 and request several free copies of Form NATF-80. You also can request this form by:

Fill out the forms as completely as possible for the search of either Service (military), Pension, and Bounty-land Warrants or all three. Each search will cost about $10. if files are found. Military (service) records will provide you with information about the unit(s) in which an individual served, battles in which he/she fought, and other details. However, it is the pension records that are the most valuable genealogically but not all veterans received a pension, and not all of their records have survived. Bounty-land Warrants should also be searched.

Be sure to also check the state militia records at the state archives of the state in which your ancestor lived.

Your library may have references on the Revolutionary War such as the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Patriot Indexes or the Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications (published by the National Genealogical Society in 1980); Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files (three volumes) by Virgil D. White [Waynesboro, TN, National Historical Publishing Co., 1990-92]; Rider's American Genealogical-Biographical Index. While the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) indexes are valuable they are not complete. Your ancestor may have served and not be mentioned in these references. If you find your ancestor is mentioned as a patriot in their records, it means that someone has joined the DAR on this person. You may obtain a photocopy of an application paper of related members by writing to: Office of the Organizing Secretary General, NSDAR, 1776 D Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006. Cost is $5 per record and the order must include: Date of request, your name and address, name of ancestor and page number in the DAR Patriot Index; The Centennial Edition of the Patriot Index (1994) is the most recently published and is in three volumes.

If you do not find a records of military service in the Revolutionary War for your ancestor, your ancestor may have been a member of a pacifist church, such as the Society of Friends (Quakers); they may have been ministers; they may have been German mercenaries or they may have been Tories or Loyalists. It is estimated that one-third of the Colonial population were Loyalists. A Loyalist was one who actively participated in the war to aid the cause of Crown, usually in British uniform. Tories were sympathetic to Great Britain and they were sometimes punished if they refused to take an oath of allegiance. Their property was not usually confiscated, and they were not generally charged with treason, as were the Loyalists. About 15,000 Loyalist militiamen organized themselves and chose their own officers during the British occupation of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York and Maine. In many places Loyalists were harassed, expelled and/or their property confiscated. Approximately 100,000 Loyalists left America; but some of them eventually returned, and some switched sides during the war.

In addition to Canada and Florida, many Loyalists and Tories went to the West Indies, especially Jamaica, and some returned to Britain. About four-fifths of Upper Canada's (now Ontario) settlers came from the American colonies. There are many printed sources pertaining to Loyalists. See Val Greenwood's book The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy and the index to "American & British Genealogy & Heraldry: A Selected List of Books," (Third Edition) compiled by P. William Filby (both available in many public libraries).

German mercenaries (about 30,000) fought with the British and participated in every major battle campaign. More than 5,000 of them deserted to remain in this country, while others received permission after the war to stay here. Although this group is loosely referred to as Hessians they actually came from several different areas of Germany. See Genealogical & Local History Books in Print: General Reference & World Resources Volume (5th edition) compiled by Marian Hoffman.

If your ancestor was a minister, see Soldiers of God: The Chaplains of the Revolutionary War by E. F. Williams and J. T. Headley's The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution.

If you are searching for African-Americans see Black Courage, 1775-1783: Documentation of Black Participation in the American Revolution by Robert Ewell Greene. It was published by National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1984.

Visit the web page of the Reference Branch, The U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA 17013 at
. Its staff will not do genealogical research, but will locate historical material about a military unit and loan books to your local library on interlibrary loan.

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