The Revolutionary War is the most honorable war our country has ever fought. It was the determination of the people for America to be its own country. Having an ancestor who fought in this war is a great honor. If you’re like me and have a Revolutionary War patriot you probably want to know about their military service.
I remember how excited I became upon learning that an ancestor of mine had fought in the war. I immediately began my research with only the words of my relatives and Google to assist me. After joining Ancestry, several years later, I found that collecting records was much easier. As I searched records I found a treasure trove of information such as: occupation, residency, marriages, and much more. The only piece of information that was missing was my ancestor’s military records. This would remain a mystery for me to solve. A few years ago, after researching the National Society Son of the American Revolution, and liking what the organization stood for I decided to join. I contacted our state’s registrar regarding membership. During the phone call, I gave him my information and within minutes, he found almost everything about my Revolutionary War ancestor. I was shocked. I asked him, “How do you know all this?” He said, “I pulled up your ancestor’s pension records on Fold3.” This website would unlock a lot of genealogical doors for me.
Fold3 is a website dedicated to the collection of historical military records from the Revolutionary War to recent wars. To access all of the premium content you will need a paid subscription. You will begin by searching by name or war. When searching enter all known information but, be sure the information is accurate. By doing this, it will be easy to eliminate search results. You will often find results of multiple service members with the same name in the same state! This is where you have to dig into the records to rule out possibilities and find your ancestor. The types of records that you will be searching for are: Enlistment records, Pension records, and Final Payment Vouchers.
Enlistment records provides your ancestor’s name, and the state they served in during the war. Most service members who were enlisted to fight in the war should have this record. Pension records will give very specific details regarding a soldier’s experience in the war. It will generally list battles and the commanding officer. It may also list details of personal life such as place and time of residency or an approved or denied pension status.
Pension records provides all information regarding the ancestor’s service records. Each pension record is assigned a file number. This file number contains a letter and series of numbers for example S3678. The letter represents the three types of pensions; (S) Service, (R) Rejected, and (W) Widows. Keep in mind the letters assigned to the pension application only reflects the last judgement made for a pension claim.
Knowing how to read a pension record is important. For example, my ancestor’s pension number begins with “R” which means “Rejected.” I was puzzled and questioned this since the files indicated he received a pension but I found the answer in his wife’s claim for a spouse’s pension. When she filed her claim was denied based on the Act of 1838 that set guidelines for a spousal pension payment. This act disqualified her from receiving a pension because her husband died before the act was passed. My patriot’s pension file was labeled “R” for rejected because his wife’s claim was the last claim filed not because he didn’t receive a pension.
Final Payment Vouchers provides the date of the last pension payment, the recipient/pensioner and the pensioner’s state of residency. The final payment voucher, also known as a GAO record is kept at the general accounting office of the war department. If an asterisk appears above the name it indicates that there are other records pertaining to the patriot that are not included in the war department’s files. These records are housed at the national archives and at times have provided lists of relatives such as spouses and children. This can be vitally important and a special gift if you are trying to prove lineage. You will need this information if you decide to join a lineage society as I did.
My hope is that this article will serve as a guide as you search through your ancestor’s military records. I highly recommend a Fold3 membership because of the vast amount of records that it provides you access to. The discovery of your ancestor’s military records can be very thrilling. You can learn about their lives and the obstacles they encountered. These men were fighting for what they believed in; freedom and liberty. All of us living today owe these brave men a debt that we can never repay. We can, however, honor them for the sacrifices they made in giving us the United States of America.