Compiled by Flora L. VerStraten

First, search for the Revolutionary War pension, service, and bounty land records. They can be a MAJOR source of family history research information.† They can provide information on the veteran, his parentage, siblings, wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws, cousins and their families as well.


Assemble all the information about the veteran, which you have or can obtain from your relatives and all other known sources.† Try to determine the state from which he served, his branch of service, the unit in which he served, his rank, dates and places of birth and death, the name of his spouse, minor children, and pension or bounty land warrant file number.†† If you donít find your ancestor, search again using all possible spelling variations of his name.

UNIT INFORMATION - More records exist for officers than for enlisted men.† You will probably find more records at the national level than at the local or state levels on your soldier.†

SOURCES - Many of these records are available on microfilm.† They can be viewed at the National Archives in Washington, at their regional centers, at your local LDS Family History Center, or at your local public library.† You can rent films from the LDS-FHC that is not on hand at the local level.† Here are some of the best sources for finding information on your Revolutionary War ancestor:

Pension Records - They contain the most personal information and therefore the best family history information.† When the pension was filed the veteran or the widow had to ďjustifyĒ the application.† He had to list his unit, when and where, lists if he was an officer, his rank, outlined his service record, and sometimes even included battles in which he participated.† These files may give veteranís date and place of birth, and those of his spouse and children.† Some files include discharge papers, marriage certificates, and pages from family Bibles.† Some included property to qualify for financial support. Not all veterans qualified for pension. Those who were disabled or their widows initially qualified for a pension. I would suggest that you study the laws concerning the qualifications for pension because there were many changes up until the final change in 1853 when all widows became eligible for pensions regardless of marriage date.†

Compiled Service Records - These records were compiled over 100 years after the war by abstracting information from original records such as muster rolls, order books, and other documents.† That information was entered on cards, which have been microfilmed.†† Service records were NOT compiled for men who served in state units or local militia.†† A search for any existing service records starts with the National Archivesí General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, Microfilm Publication. This is the MOST comprehensive index of names of men who served in the Revolution.†††† Virgil D. White has also published this index in Index to Revolutionary War Service Records.† Using the records of the officers to track down where they lived may reveal where your ancestor lived.† Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April 1775 to December 1783 by Francis B. Heitman also includes officers of the state units and the militia. After determining your ancestorís unit from the indexes, the next stop is to find his service record in Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served During the Revolutionary War.†This information is organized by unit.† Records with incomplete names or information are at the end of each unitís records. Donít forget to check the end of the microfilm reel or file record.

Fires and Files - Most of us have heard the disheartening news from a clerk, ďWe donít have any records before 18--,Ē when the records or repository burned.† Some records were burned in 1800 and more when the British burned Washington in 1814.† For many veterans there is an index card in lieu of the records and sometimes these cards and other records survive.† To order copies of any of these files from the National Archives, go to their web site for information about how to obtain the correct forms and what the copies will cost.† Many records, except for the Final Pension Payment Voucher File, will be copies they send you and will be printed from the microfilm.† So if you can view these records yourself on microfilm, you could print the ones you want and save on copying costs and repeated pages.†††

Resources- Donít forget to check State Records and Cemetery Records.† Once you have identified the state from which your ancestor served, you should look for records created by or preserved in that state.† The state may have indexes, records on local units or individuals, and books about the stateís contribution to the Revolution.† Cemeteries of our ancestors hold many a illegible tombstone.† However, many Patriotsí graves are marked with legible tombstones. The DAR or SAR has marked many graves as well.