Many of us with New England roots have ancestors who served in the
Revolutionary War. In order to help you locate your Revolutionary War ancestor,
this article provides a brief introduction to resources located in New England
including examples and web addresses. Some key records are also identified. When
you visit or contact the locations discussed, don’t forget that the helpful and
knowledgeable people you meet are the best resource of all.
The key records for Revolutionary War research are service records, pension
records, and bounty-land (both federal and state) warrants. Other sources to
examine include local and family histories, cemetery transcriptions, and
Begin your search at the US National Archives & Records Administration
(NARA), the primary repository for service records, pension records, and federal
bounty-land warrants. The two NARA facilities in New England are located in
Pittsfield and Waltham, Massachusetts. (Find directions and contact information
at their website.)
Extensive records are available at each site and the staff is very helpful. If
you live at a distance, you will find detailed information on NARA’s holdings as
well as online order forms at their website.
I recommend starting with the General Index to Compiled Military
Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers (National Archives M860, 58
rolls). 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. Once you have located an
ancestor in the index, you can then move on to the records themselves. Comprised
of 1,096 rolls of film, the Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who Served
in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (National Archives M881)
are arranged first by state, then by regiment, and finally, by surname. In
addition to the information given in the index, the record usually provides
dates of entry into the service and indicates if a soldier was discharged or
separated by desertion or death. It may also show the soldier's age, place of
birth, and residence at the time of enlistment.
After you have copied the information contained in your ancestor’s service
record, the next step is to determine whether he or his heirs have a pension
file. Pension files for federal and state military pensioners have been
published for the years 1792 to 1795, 1813, 1817, 1818, 1820, 1823, 1828, 1831,
1835, and 1840. Application files often contain supporting documents such as
discharge papers, affidavits, depositions of witnesses, narratives of events
during service, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, pages
from family Bibles, and other supporting papers.
The Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files,
1800-1906 (National Archives M804), consists of over two thousand rolls of
microfilm, arranged alphabetically by name of veteran. The index is also in book
form as Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National
Archives, which can be found at many libraries and Family History Centers.
You may also wish to check Virgil D. White’s Genealogical Abstracts of
Revolutionary War Pension Files (4 vols. 1990-92, NEHGS call number, R.Rm.
REF E255/W55/1990) and Revolutionary War Period: Bible, Family & Marriage
Records Gleaned from Pension Applications (Helen Lu, John Sobieski, Joel
Chan. Edmondson, Diedre Dagner, 20 vols, 1980-2002, NEHGS call number CS68/L8
Most Federal bounty land applications and warrants for the Revolutionary War
– and their indexes - are found in the same microfilm as the pension files
(M804). These records contain documents similar to those found in pension files.
Family History Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Family History Centers provide remote access and guidance to the extensive
genealogical collections of the Family History Library. These centers are
located throughout the United States. To locate one near you or to find more
information about the holdings of the FHL, visit their website.
You can order applicable records on microfilm for your use at the Family
History Centers. Examples include:
When performing any genealogical research in New England, an outstanding
resource is the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.
Their collection includes many books, manuscripts, and records covering the
Revolutionary War in New England and beyond. Several titles focus on soldiers
from specific locations, from An alphabetical index of Revolutionary
pensioners living in Maine to Revolutionary soldiers of Hillsdale Co.,
Michigan: their lives and lineages, to “City of Boston: military record and
burial location of Revolutionary War veterans.” Other titles found in
the NEHGS online catalog
These and many other resources are also available through the Circulating Library. Search
the online catalog at the NewEnglandAncestors.org website for additional
The following CDs are available for use at the NEHGS Library or for sale
through the NEHGS Online Store:
Historical And Genealogical Societies
Local historical and genealogical societies are good places to look for
newspapers, cemetery records and local/family histories. Many have libraries
with online catalogs so you may locate records before you visit. Do not overlook
the manuscript collections of these societies, as they often contain valuable
items such as diaries, correspondence, orderly books, and other papers, which
offer insights and details of the war from the participants themselves.
Remember that all of the state societies may have records for surrounding
states. For example, the New Hampshire Historical Society has "An alphabetical
index of Revolutionary pensioners living in Maine."
I have listed only statewide societies here. An excellent source for locating
local societies is the Society Hill United States Historical Societies Directory.
The Connecticut Historical
Society in Hartford has a strong collection of genealogy and history titles
in their library (more than 100,000 volumes and nearly three million
manuscripts) including military lists. Their extensive Connecticut American
Revolution Collection includes journals, diaries, and letters of participants.
The Connecticut Society of
Genealogists publishes a newsletter and The Connecticut Nutmegger.
Historical Society in Boston has millions of documents on Massachusetts and
American history. Examples of available documents are "American artillery
regiments in the revolutionary war" and "Barefooted, bare leg'd, bare breech’d:
the Revolutionary War service of the Massachusetts Continental Line."
The Maine Historical
Society in Portland has a very good library including many military records.
Genealogical Society publishes both the Maine Genealogist and the
Maine Genealogical Society Newsletter.
The New Hampshire Historical
Society in Concord has over 550 applicable records such as "The New
Hampshire continental regiments in the Revolutionary Army." The New Hampshire Society of Genealogists
publishes the New Hampshire Genealogical Record and the New Hampshire
Society of Genealogists Newsletter.
The Rhode Island Historical
Society in Providence has an extensive collection titled Revolutionary War
Military Records, which includes original muster rolls, clothing reports, and
more. The Society’s website includes inventories of this collection and other important holdings of
the RIHS manuscript department. The Rhode Island
Genealogical Society publishes Rhode Island Roots.
The Vermont Historical
Society Library in Barre has family histories, cemetery inscriptions, town
histories, and published military records. One such record is "a graves register
of soldiers buried in Vermont." The Genealogical Society of Vermont publishes books on Vermont
genealogy and publishes a quarterly journal, Vermont Genealogy.
State Archives and Libraries
Records of value for this topic located in state archives and libraries vary
from state to state. If you are interested in a particular state, you should
contact that state's archives or library.
The Connecticut State Library,
located in Hartford, is an excellent resource for our Revolutionary War
research. Their records relating to the Revolutionary War are described in the
“Research Guide to
Revolutionary War Sources at the Connecticut State Library.” The Connecticut State
Archives are also located at the state library.
The Massachusetts State
Library and Massachusetts State Archives are both in Boston. They both have
many colonial and revolutionary era documents.
The Maine State Library
and Archives are in
Augusta. Among the materials available are pension lists, military rosters, and
regimental histories. The library also has state, county, and town histories and
The State of New
Hampshire Division of Archives and Records Management in Concord has muster
and pension rolls. The New Hampshire State Library, also in Concord, has town and
county histories, newspapers on microfilm, and military indexes.
The Rhode Island State
Archives and Public Records Administration and the State Library are
in the city of Providence. Among the interesting items in the State Library’s
Rhode Island Collection are the “Diary of Colonel Israel Angell commanding the
Second Rhode Island continental regiment during the American revolution,
1778-1781;” “Letter book of Esek Hopkins, commander-in-chief of the United
States navy, 1775-1777;” and “Revolutionary defences in Rhode Island: an
historical account of the fortifications and beacons erected during the American
revolution, with muster rolls of the companies stationed along the shores of
The Vermont State
Archives and state Department
of Libraries are in Montpelier. These institutions have some useful records,
such as Revolutionary War pay rolls and tables, pay orders and receipts, and
adjutant and Inspector General's Office records, which include surviving early
militia and Vermont National Guard records. Most of the latter items were
destroyed by fire many years ago
What Else Is There?
This brief article is a summary of the most valuable resources for
researching a New England Revolutionary War veteran. As you can see, there are
many New England resources for the person looking for their Revolutionary War
ancestor. I recommend starting with facilities close to home and with NEHGS.
However, this is certainly not a complete resource list. Other potentially
valuable resources include battlefield museums (fifty-nine battles were fought
in New England), graveyards, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and