Finding Your Revolutionary War Ancestor, 1775–1783
The Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts. Men between the ages of 16 and 60 may have served sometime during the war in either the Continental Army, State Line Troops, or local militia mustered to help the Continental Troops. Those who supported the rebellion may be mentioned in records as a rebel or patriot. Loyalists or Tories were those who opposed the rebellion.
Search Service records to find your ancestor's military unit
Military service records may give name, rank, dates of service, age, place of residence prior to enlistment, physical description, and date and place of discharge or death.
If you are at the Family History Library, this National Archives index is available on microfilm on the second floor. Indexes have also been copied into books located on the U.S. and Canada floors.
- Microfilm Index. To find the film numbers, go to the Family History Library Catalog on computer. Using the Film/Fiche Numbers Search, type in the number 882841, which is the first film in this collection. Scroll down until you find the film number that would contain the last name of your ancestor. The microfilm index will provide the soldier’s name, rank, company, and unit of service. Record the microfilm number on your Research Log.
- Book Index. Use FHL Book 973 M22wv At various libraries (WorldCat), Index to Revolutionary War Service Records, 4 vols. Virgil D. White. ed. Waynesboro, Tenn.: National Historical Publishing, 1995.
- Search the Index to Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. This collection can also be searched on microfilm at the Family History Library. To find the film number for your ancestor, go to the Library Catalog on computer and use the Film/Fiche Numbers search and enter film number 882841. Click on the title Compiled Service Records..., and then scroll past the index until you find the military unit your ancestor served with. After finding the military unit, look alphabetically for your ancestor's name.
- Make a copy of the documents, and record the results of the search on your Research Log.
Search for your ancestor’s pension and bounty land records
Pension records may give information about a veteran’s military service, wife and children, and place of residence. The federal government issued pensions or bounty land to veteran’s who met eligibility requirements or to their widows. Pension and bounty land files are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.
- These National Archives films are available at the Family History Library and are arranged alphabetically by the veteran’s name. They are also available for a fee at www.fold3.com. Fold3 is free at the Family History Library. To locate film numbers, go to the Family History Library Catalog on computer. Using the Film/Fiche Numbers Search, type in film number 970001, which is the first film in this collection. Click on the title and scroll through the last names until you find the film number for your ancestor’s last name.
- Another small microfilm collection containing 13 films, Pension Files, Service Records, Land Warrants, 1775-1913, lists records for some Revolutionary War soldiers. The first film in the collection is 833170. Surnames are listed for each microfilm number.
- Make copies of the documents, and record the results of the search on your Research Log.
Tips: Many soldiers fought for only a few days or weeks. Those with limited service may not have been eligible for a pension or bounty land, even though they may have fought in several battles.
Search other sources.
- Consult the U.S. Military Records Research Outline (34118) pages 12-18 for further help in Revolutionary War records. If you have access to the Internet, read additional information on the FamilySearch Research Wiki United States Military Records page.
- Consult the military records section of the research outline for the state in which your ancestor enlisted for additional state records of Revolutionary war service.
- For information on Revolutionary ancestors compiled by lineage societies, see the half sheet guide DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and SAR (Sons of the American Revolution), found in the reference areas on the U.S. and Canada floors.
- For information on Loyalists, or those who opposed the rebellion, see the half-sheet guide Loyalists in the U.S. Revolutionary War, found in the reference areas on the U.S. and Canada floors.
- Look in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the name of the state, county, and town and the topics: Military Records Military Records—Revolution, 1775–1783