I have been dabbling in genealogy for quite some time and have connected with various relatives and researched many of my ancestors. I have quite a bit of knowledge and am looking forward to organizing what I have. Learning where I come from has been important to me and while I love all of the stories about those that came before me I am most interested in learning about ancestors that lived during the time of the Revolutionary War. So I have decided to begin a project to find each of my wife and I’s Revolutionary War Ancestors and tell their story.
Where To Begin
To begin this project I will need to start the same way I would start any family research project. Below I outline the steps that I will be taking:
- Name all of my great-grandparents and fill out their vital information.
- Take one surname and begin working my way back.
- Stop researching each surname the moment I find my immigrant ancestor.
While I am interested in each of my ancestors I want to focus on those that fought in the Revolutionary War so I will move on from a line once I see that they did not participate in the Revolutionary War.
What Was The Revolutionary War
When looking for an ancestor that fought in the American Revolution it is important to understand the parameters of the event. If I don’t understand anything about the Revolutionary War, then I won’t be able to recognize an Revolutionary War ancestor when I find them.
So what should I know about the Revolutionary War? Well, for right now just the basics and I can dig deeper after I locate the ancestor.
I need to know three things about the war to be able to locate a possible ancestor:
- When the war was fought
- Where it was fought
- Who fought in it
These are simple questions that need to be answered before beginning any research. Knowing the answers will ensure that I don’t become entangled in family folklore. So let me go through these questions and answer them.
- The American Revolution was fought 1775 – 1783. Most of the conflict ended in 1781.
- The American Revolution was fought in America in each of its 13 colonies and the frontier.
- The was was initially between the British and the Americans, but by the end of the war there were Hessian Mercenaries, French Soldiers and Sailors, and Native Americans that fought. Also many Americans were divided in their loyalties to the crown. Even if I find an ancestor that fits the description of a soldier I need to check to see if he was a loyalist.
I do know from prior research that Revolutionary War ancestors are well documented so when I find one it should be easy to confirm.
Tools I Will Be Using
The world of genealogy has changed since the emergence of the Internet and the change has been for the better! Census reports, Pension reports, military records, newspapers, and many public records have been digitized for easier access. These tools provide a great foundation and will point me into the right direction to find further documentation. Each of the following links are affiliate links:
Ancestry.com – Ancestry is the largest online database for genealogy. You can do free research, but from my experience I have found that you will eventually end up using Ancestry at some point. There is a free trial and then a monthly or annual fee depending on the subscription.
Fold3 – As the name suggests Fold3 is an excellent database for military records. Service records, pension reports, and other relevant military information is available in digital form.
Newspapers.com – To better understand the context of my ancestors it is important to be able to read newspapers during that time period and even scour them for mentions of my ancestors. Anything such as obituaries, ads, and other announcements may help me piece together my ancestor’s life.
I find that these resources work better when used progressively. I will first start with Ancestry and try to locate my ancestor and find him in census reports. Ancestry also has military records available that will give me a description, but fold3 will allow me to dig deeper into the actual military record. Finally, I will try to find mentions of my ancestor, his family, or his military unit in the local newspapers. Finding a newspaper article with an ancestor listed is like finding gold in family research. It names those closest to them and allows me to peek into the life around him.
Until Next Time
Alright I know where to begin my research so my next article will show you the process I use in naming my ancestors and then moving backwards in order to locate a Revolutionary War ancestor.