Once you have identified, documented and evaluated a potential American Revolutionary War participant, you can begin searching the records associated with the War. Fortunately, the records are extensive and there are numerous indexes. The first place to start is on Ancestry.com and on the Ancestry.com owned website called Fold3.com. But if you want to understand the full scope of the national level documents available, you should take some time reading and studying on the U.S. National Archives pages on the Revolutionary War.
Remember that researching an ancestral link to the American Revolutionary War is best done by careful and systematic research conducted as broadly as possible into all possible categories of records. Genealogy is genealogy and just because you are searching for military or related records, the procedures and methodology are exactly the same as any other record types.
You might start your investigations of the documents available with the National Archives page entitled, "Military Resources: American Revolution." Interestingly, the National Archives sends you directly to Fold3.com. The reason for this is that the National Archives itself has only a very few of its vast holdings digitized and online. Any serious research into the documents still has to be done in person at the main National Archives repository in Washington, D.C. or in Virginia. There are a large number of publications that contain information about the participants in the Revolutionary War. Here is a sample of the type of books and other publications that may be found in larger libraries across the United States. To find additional records, you can use WorldCat.org.
Evans-Hatch & Associates, United States, National Park Service, and Southeast Regional Office. Southern Campaigns of the Revolutionary War. Final Report for National Park Service, Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia Phase II, Phase II,. Atlanta: National Park Service, Southeast Region, 2003.
———. Southern Campaigns of the Revolutionary War. Final Report for the National Park Service, Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia Phase III, Phase III,. Atlanta: National Park Service, Southeast Region, 2005.
Graves, Donald E. Guide to Canadian Sources Related to Southern Revolutionary War National Parks. Carleton Place, Ont.; Leesburg, VA: Ensign Heritage Consulting ; REEP Inc., 2001.
Ham, Debra Newman. List of Black Servicemen Compiled from The “special Index” of the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records. Washington, 1973.
———. List of Black Servicemen Developed from the Index to the Compiled Military Service Records of the Revolutionary War. Washington, 1973.
———. List of Black Servicemen in the Revolutionary War Compiled from the Troop Rosters of the Numbered Record Books. Washington, 1973.
Murray, Suzanne, National Genealogical Society, and Education Department. Revolutionary War Compiled Military Service Records, Pension Application Files, and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Arlington, VA: Education Dept., National Genealogical Society, 1994.
Scott, Craig Roberts. Understanding Revolutionary War and Invalid Pension Ledgers, 1818-1872 and the Pension Payment Vouchers They Represent, 2014.
United States, and National Archives and Records Service. Selected Records from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application Files. Washington: National Archives and Records Service, 1969.
United States, National Archives and Records Service, United States, and War Department. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, 1976.
United States, Veterans Administration, United States, and National Archives and Records Service. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Washington: National Archives and Records Service, 1969.
The individuals who participated in the Revolutionary War were organized on a local as well as a national level. Subsequently, many of the records of the War are maintained by local libraries and by the states that were formed from the original 13 colonies. Here are some additional books and publications that illustrate more local records.
Andrews, John L. South Carolina Revolutionary War Indents: A Schedule. Columbia, S.C.: SCMAR, 2001.
Arnold, H. Ross, and H. Clifton Burnham. Georgia Revolutionary War Soldiers’ Graves. Athens, GA: Iberian Pub. Co., 1993.
Blacks in the American Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2003.
Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905, 2011.
Brumbaugh, Gaius Marcus. Revolutionary War Records: Virginia Army and Navy Forces with Bounty Land Warrants for Virginia Military District of Ohio and Virginia Military Script, from Federal and State Archives. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1995.
Gould, Suzanne, A. Monroe Freeman, United States, National Archives and Records Administration, and Georgia Genealogical Society. Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Georgia. Washington, DC: Georgia Genealogical Society and National Archives and Records Administration, 1993.
Lu, Helen M, Gwen B Neumann, and Chan Edmondson. Revolutionary War Period: Bible, Family & Marriage Records Gleaned from Pension Applications. Dallas, Tex.: Lu, 1980.
Neagles, James C, and Lila Lee Neagles. Locating Your Revolutionary War Ancestor: A Guide to the Military Records. Logan, Utah (P.O. Box 368, Logan 84321): Everton Publishers, 1983.
Saffell, W. T. R, and J. T McAllister. Records of the Revolutionary War. Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield, 2002.
Salley, A. S. Records of the Regiments of the South Carolina Line in the Revolutionary War. Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Co., 2003.
Sipe, C. Hale. The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania: An Account of the Indian Events, in Pennsylvania, of the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s War, Lord Dunmore’s War, the Revolutionary War and the Indian Uprising from 1789 to 1795 ; Tragedies of the Pennsylvania Frontier, Based Primarily on the Penna. Archives and Colonial Records. Lewisburg, Pa.: Wennawoods Pub., 1998.
United States, National Archives and Records Service, and National Archives Trust Fund Board. Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1976.
White, Virgil D. Index to Revolutionary War Service Records. Waynesboro, Tenn.: National Historical Pub. Co., 1995.
Worrell, Anne Lowry. Early Marriages, Wills, and Some Revolutionary War Records, Botetourt County, Virginia. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1996.
Because of the breadth of the types of records that might contain information tying an ancestor to service during the Revolutionary War, any list of records will be incomplete. The records of your ancestor may be found in the National Archives or in a family Bible or personal diary. Here are some websites that list and link to different types of records. Remember that the websites and records of both the Genealogical Research System of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution websites have extensive resources. There are also extensive listings on both Cyndi's List and the Olive Tree Genealogy websites. There is also an extensive introduction to the Revolutionary War records in the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki.
- Online Revolutionary War Indexes and Records, A Genealogy Guide
- American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750 to 1789
- The American Revolution
Be sure and use all of the large online database programs. If you need to gain access to some of the subscription services visit one of the nearly 5000 Family History Centers worldwide and use the programs available for free through the FamilySearch Portal.
Stay tuned for the next installment.