While the Internet offers many ways to search for sites of interest,
it is important to remember that the general search engines, such as Google.com, cannot always
find results contained within databases. Many of the compiled datasets
that find their way onto the Internet are contained so that the
researcher must visit the individual website, often becoming a member of
some sort, to access the database in question. This does not mean that
everything available requires some monetary subscription for access.
What it does mean is that when a search is done using a general search
engine, the researcher is not necessarily seeing all that is available.
It is good to run searches through the general search engine, but the
researcher should not assume that if an ancestor is not found that
there is nothing that exists on the Internet about that individual.
One of the first places that a researcher is likely to establish a
connection to the American Revolution is through a compiled pedigree
database. Sites such as WorldConnect at RootsWeb offer a place for those
willing to share their databases. Unlike earlier lineage-linked
databases such as Ancestral File at FamilySearch.org,
the newer breed includes more than just the names, dates, and places.
The newer lineage-linked databases often include notes and elaborate
biographies on some of the individuals included in the database.
These biographies are sometimes the first clue that an ancestor was
involved in the American Revolution. Once a researcher has made such a
discovery though, it is vital to conduct additional research to verify
the information. If the biography was thorough, then it should indicate
when the individual was in the American Revolution, perhaps even
supplying regiment information.
Another freely available compiled site that includes information on
those early soldiers and volunteers is the Military
Records/Rosters database at the RootsWeb site. This database is a
compilation of information abstracted from many different military
records including some records from the American Revolution.
If the research to date has not revealed a soldier from the
Revolutionary War, it is possible that additional research is necessary
on those lines that have as yet not been taken back into the 1700s. In
conducting such research, it is a good idea to incorporate a study of
the history of the area where the families lived. This could help to
explain why a given individual did not appear to be a soldier. The town
or region in question may have consisted primarily of Quakers who did
not fight, but offered aid in other ways. As such they would not appear
in databases of military rosters and may have not been included in lists
of those who fought from a given area.
Actually, the USGenWeb
pages are a good place to look for both history and soldiers. A
volunteer project (which means not every site is created equal) the
USGenWeb Project pages contain some state, county, and for New England,
town pages. Some of their pages offer links to useful sites on the
Internet but many also have databases of their own. Such databases
seldom show up when searching for an ancestor in a general search
engine. Instead it becomes necessary for the researcher to visit the
individual USGenWeb Project pages and use whatever search options they
What a general search engine will offer is the chance to search for
general history about a region, state, or county during the American
Revolution. It may also be possible to find a cousin or someone else
who is willing to share information on those who fought during this war.
One such site is the American Revolution War Soldiers & Their Descendants
site, which contains an alphabetical listing of soldiers and contact
information for the submitter of the name. Each individual in the list
is identified by surname and given name, and the state where the
individual enlisted or fought is also included. The name of the
submitter appears next to the name of the soldier along with either a
link to the submitter’s e-mail address or to a web page devoted to the
activities of the soldier.
One of the ways in which researchers hinder their own research is to
apply a rigid standard to what is expected on the Internet. Searches
done at general search engines are often stymied by the very limitations
placed on the search by the researcher. Once the list of possible hits
is displayed the researcher may not always stop to look closely at the
results. While the page that fit the search criteria may not offer
exactly what is wanted, useful information might be found elsewhere on
One perfect example of this is the following search. At Google.com a
search was done for the phrase American Revolution, plus the
additional term soldiers. The subsequent list of hits was not
exactly what was hoped for, but the first few sites were examined. One
interesting page was "The
Revolution's Black Soldiers" by Robert A. Selig. While this site did
not supply lists of soldiers to aid in identifying a possible
Revolutionary War soldier, the article offers other valuable things.
First, it is an informative article about the services that African
Americans offered during the Revolutionary War, a subject that many do
not even begin to consider, assuming that the only patriots to fight
Second, at the end of the article, there are many additional links to
more information about the African American involvement. There is a
link to an abstracted pension file for Jeffery Brace, an African
American soldier in the 6th Connecticut Regiment. Further
investigation on a link from this page revealed a digitized
version of William C. Nell's Colored Patriots of the American
Revolution (Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855), which has been made
available on the University of North Carolina website.
Third, the researcher should recognize that the URL might offer more
than just information about African American soldiers. The main page
welcomes visitors to AmericanRevolution.org, the self-proclaimed “Internet
Gateway to the American War of Independence.” Once inside, there is
information about all aspects of the war with many links to pages all
over the Internet. Of particular interest at this site are the links to
sites that contain information relevant to genealogy. One that may
surprise some researchers is a link to the Revolutionary War Soldiers in Alabama. Of course these
individuals have ties to those original thirteen colonies and the
information found for each soldier may include the soldier's name, years
of birth and death, biography of service (including identification of
units), and pension information.
While it does not offer searchable databases, one website that should
not be overlooked is that of the National
Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which features
a searchable catalog containing the holdings of their impressive
library in Washington, DC. In addition to searching for specific books,
one of the biggest strengths of the online catalog is the ability to
search for surnames within family histories or genealogies in their
collection. The library staff makes the effort to identify major
families in all family histories and genealogies and then adds the names
to the catalog. A search of the Ayer surname here revealed a
listing of the Ayer family in Mary Lovering Holman's Ancestry of
Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury, and a chart
compiled by Eva Budd Bodens about Robert Ayers, Revolutionary Patriot,
born July 4, 1754. Knowing what may exist enables the researcher to
check libraries that more convenient or accessible for the resource.
Members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society have many
databases at their disposal on the NewEnglandAncestors.org
website, including military records such as the Massachusetts
Pensioners' Receipts, 1799-1807
and lists of soldiers, as in the Massachusetts
Militia Companies and Officers in the Lexington Alarm database.
The ability to search past issues of the Register
offers another way to identify an ancestor's possible involvement in the
American Revolution. Some of the more recent database releases
including those detailing tombstone inscriptions may also hold clues to
the identity of an individual as a soldier during America's fight for
Most commercial sites will also have some databases devoted to the
soldiers of the late 1700s. Remember to consider the source of any
compiled database whether available for free or through a commercial
site. Consider how the information came to be online and what the
potential is for error and remember that such databases may require
creative searches in order to find the right names. Too often such
databases have typos that prevent the researcher from identifying their
ancestor because the surname or given name is not spelled correctly.
These are but just a few of the places to turn to in search of
information about those brave men and women who fought and sometimes
sacrificed. There are many websites available and more coming online
every day. If a search does not produce success one day, good
researchers know to try again the next.