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Revolutionary War Pension Records Restored, Consolidated, and Explained, Part I

Editor’s Note: Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck’s groundbreaking book, Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments Prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905, identifies and recreates the Revolutionary War pension files generated prior to the disastrous fire in the War Department on November 8, 1800, and a second and even more disastrous fire on August 24, 1814 with the British invasion of Washington. Mr. Bockstruck has not only identified many of those pensioners whose files are commonly believed to have been lost, but also reconstructed in varying degrees their contents. More than 16,500 pensioners are featured in this work.

The Introduction to Mr. Bockstruck’s book explains the legislative and archival history of the Revolutionary War pension records and identifies the existing sources – primarily the pension records of the Original Thirteen States and various Congressional sources – that the author utilized in this massive attempt at evidentiary reconstruction.

This article, published in three parts, is excerpted from that Introduction. Be sure to read the next two issues of “Genealogy Pointers” or visit our blog for parts II and III:

Continue reading…

Ft. McHenry, War of 1812

The Forgotten War of 1812, Part I

Today and tomorrow, September 13-14, 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the defense of Fort McHenry and the City of Baltimore. As most of us are taught as children, it was the defense of the fort that inspired Francis Scott Key, a Washington, D.C. attorney seeking the release of an American prisoner and watching the bombardment from shipboard, to write the poem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” that years later became our national anthem. However, beyond our national anthem, many people are hard pressed to explain anything about the War of 1812.

In an article for Slate, “Happy 200th Birthday, War of 1812! A primer on America’s most bumbling, most confusing, and most forgotten conflict” James M. Lundberg, an assistant professor of history at Lake Forest College, says it so well:

Like Avogadro’s number or the rules of subjunctive verbs, the War of 1812 is one of those things that you learned about in school and promptly forgot without major consequence.

There are plenty of reasons for this. The War of 1812 has complicated origins, a confusing course, an inconclusive outcome, and demands at least a cursory understanding of Canadian geography. Moreover, it stands as the highlight of perhaps the single most ignored period of American History—one that the great historian Richard Hofstadter described as “dreary and unproductive … an age of slack and derivative culture, of fumbling and small-minded statecraft, terrible parochial wrangling, climaxed by a ludicrous and unnecessary war.”

When Congress declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812, the country was divided on whether or not to even fight it. The New England states that had been most affected by the offensive British practice of “impressment” seemed the least willing to pursue military action. In order to have the manpower, states put forth their own militias, whose records are a boon to genealogical researchers. Books like Virginia Militia in the War of 1812, Kentucky Soldiers of the War of 1812, Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812, and Muster Rolls of the Soldiers of the War of 1812 (North Carolina) each contain thousands of names often with other pertinent details like rank, dates of service and where these men served.

When it came time for these militiamen to fight, the results were mixed. Some units were filled with unruly men loath to follow orders, while other units suffered from a lack of good leadership:

No one more fully embodied the pathetic state of early American military might than General William Hull, the bloated and incompetent governor of the Michigan territory charged with the initial matter of marching into Canada. Entering present-day Ontario from Detroit at the head of an ill-trained troop of 2,000 militiamen, Hull met with little initial resistance, but his triumph ended there. Upon hearing news that the British had taken Fort Mackinac at the northern tip of Michigan, Hull panicked and pulled his men back to the American fort at Detroit. When he received a bogus document warning of a vast force of Indians on the march, Hull lost it. Barely coherent, stuffing his mouth with so much tobacco that the juice ran down his face, and crouching to avoid imaginary artillery shelling, Hull yielded Detroit without any real fire from a smaller force of British Canadians and Indians. Incursions to the east didn’t go much better that fall. The war was just a few months old, and the entire Michigan territory had fallen into British hands.

Not all of the battles went as poorly as the infamous surrender of Detroit. The Battle on the River Raisin was fought in and around Frenchtown (now Monroe), Michigan from January 18 to 23, 1812, and was one of the four principal campaigns of the War of 1812 engaged in by the Kentucky forces. Following the massacre of American forces at Frenchtown – including as many as 60 Kentucky soldiers – patriots exhorted one another with shouts of “Remember the Raisin,” which gave the new nation the “vengeance-fired impetus” to wage the remaining battles of the War of 1812. The book Remember the Raisin! is a bipartite volume containing detailed biographical and genealogical sketches of nearly 100 officers and enlisted men who served on River Raisin, and complete rosters of the Kentucky soldiers who saw action there.

Please see Part II for additional discussion on the War of 1812.

Image credit: By Dr.frog at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The Ark and The Dove Adventurers

The Ark and The Dove Adventurers

On November 22, 1633, the 358-ton “Ark” and the 26-ton “Dove” departed from the Isle of Wight carrying the founders of the Maryland colony. (The “Dove,” badly damaged in a storm, returned to England for repairs before rejoining the “Ark” several months later in the Antilles.) The two ships ultimately landed at St. Clement’s Island in southern Maryland on March 25, 1634.

The 125 passengers of the “Ark” and the “Dove” sailed at the behest of Cecil Calvert, the Catholic Lord Proprietor of Maryland, who stocked the vessels with enough food and supplies to last, hopefully, for an entire year in the wilderness. At the outset, Lord Baltimore, as the proprietor was also known, expected Maryland to become a Catholic refuge for his co-religionists. In the end, he was remarkably successful in attracting far more Protestant countrymen “by offering them free land and the customary political rights that landholders in England enjoyed. Calvert also promised real religious liberty for virtually all Christians.” In fact, it was Calvert’s Maryland–and not Roger Williams’ Rhode Island–where religious freedom and the separation of church and state first gained a foothold in the New World.

Given this heritage, nearly three centuries later, in 1910, a number of descendants of Maryland’s founding families formed The Society of The Ark and The Dove in order to perpetuate the memory of its pioneers and to promote fellowship among their descendants. Over the years, the Society has encouraged research in early Maryland history and supported a variety of commemorative institutions, such as the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation.

The book, “The Ark and The Dove Adventurers,” published under the auspices of The Society of The Ark and The Dove, is an important contribution to Maryland genealogy and history by the organization.

Edited by noted Maryland genealogists George Ely Russell and Donna Valley Russell, “The Ark and The Dove Adventurers” furnishes “documented accounts of the first settlers of Maryland in 1634, followed by compiled genealogies of their descendants, if any, extended to the fifth generation when possible.”

The first part of the book describes the family and descendants of Sir George Calvert (Cecil’s father) the first Lord Baltimore. The remainder traces the progeny of the following passengers: James Baldridge, Major Thomas Baldridge, Anam Benum, John Briscoe, William Brown, Leonard Calvert, Thomas Cornwallis, Ann Cox, William Edwin, Cuthbert Fenwick, Captain Henry Fleete, Richard Gerard, Richard Gilbert, Thomas Greene, John Hallowes, Nicholas Harvey, Richard Lowe, John Neville, Richard Nevitt, John Price, Robert Smith, Ann Smithson, Robert Vaughan, and Robert Wiseman. “The Ark and the Dove Adventurers” concludes with a list of passengers who are known not to have had descendants and some later arrivals previously and erroneously claimed as 1634 descendants.

Complete with a name index to 6,000 individuals, “The Ark and The Dove Adventurers” is the new starting point for 17th-century Maryland genealogy.

Image Credit: MIT.edu

Early settlers

Early Settlers of Pennsylvania

Because of its unique immigration policy, Pennsylvania led the way in colonial America in the ethnic diversity of its early settlers. Among early settlers of Pennsylvania, we find English, Irish, and Dutch Quakers; German and Swiss Mennonites, Anabaptists, and Pietists; and Ulster Presbyterians, the Scotch-Irish frontiersmen.

The first “ethnic migration” to be officially documented – mainly in the form of ships’ passenger lists, records of indenture, naturalization records, land records, tax lists, and sundry church records – began in southeastern Pennsylvania between the 1680s and 1720s. These early records include the earliest passenger arrivals in Philadelphia in 1683, the Swiss and Rhineland arrivals in Philadelphia and a host of other groups. Immigrants from Germany’s Rhineland area and the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland arrived in southeastern Pennsylvania by the thousands.

Looking for the most authoritative works on Pennsylvania’s German and Swiss immigration? Eshleman’s “Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and of their Remote Ancestors,” explores the background of the great sectarian movements in Germany, Switzerland and Holland, and focuses attention on the Mennonite families who later emigrated to Pennsylvania. As many as 300,000 German and Swiss immigrants and settlers have been identified in this work. In addition, all three volumes of “Pennsylvania German Church Records” can be found here, with volumes one, two and three also available individually. These records refer to approximately 91,000 individuals and include births, baptisms, marriages, and burials. They identify people and their relationships to one another–not only parents and children, husbands and wives, but witnesses and sponsors as well.

A more overarching resource on Pennsylvania’s immigration, the Family Archive CD provides a wealth of information on the earliest settlers of the Keystone State. This particular CD contains data on places of origin, dates of arrival, places of residence, ages, occupations, names of wives and children (with details of births, marriages, and deaths), and a host of other details derived from nine respected Pennsylvania reference works. This collection also contains a single electronic name index of 200,000 entries, which allows you to search all the volumes quickly and effortlessly.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, “Pioneer Settlers building Adventure Galley on the Youghiogheny.” This image is from the publication, “History of the Ordinance of 1787 and the Old Northwest Territory.”

federal census record photo

State Census Records

What first comes to mind when genealogists think of census records are the federal censuses that are constitutionally mandated and occur every ten years. The purpose of the federal census is to count the number of people living in the United States in order to apportion Congressional districts. For the first censuses, which began in 1790, getting a head count of people is really all it did. In the early years, from 1790-1840, only the head of household is listed and the number of household members in selected age groups. Beginning in 1850 and continuing through the 1940 census, details are provided for all individuals in each household, such as names of family members; their ages at that certain point in time; their state or country of birth; their parent’s birthplaces; year of immigration; marriage status; occupation(s); etc. Not all of this information is available for every person in every census, however. As years passed, the census became a way to gather even more data about the nation, such as health, housing, employment, growth, and other statistics.

State censuses, because they were taken randomly, remain a much under-utilized resource in American genealogy. State census records not only serve as a substitute for some of the missing 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1890 federal censuses, but they are also valuable population enumerations. State censuses are also important resources because some states asked different questions than the federal census and they were opened to the public faster; some state censuses taken as recently as 1945 are already available.

1905 kansas state census record

From the Census.gov website: “The Kansas State Board of Agriculture conducted a census
of the state in 1905 (questionnaire above). The census collected the names of all members of household and their age, sex, race or color, and state or country of birth. The census also collected information about members’ state or
country of origin and military service.”

 

To find out what state censuses exist, what kinds of information they contain, and importantly, where they can be found, reference Ann Lainhart’s first comprehensive list of state census records ever published. State by state, year by year, country by county and district by district, this reference publication is the definitive guide to state census records, even used as source information on the government’s census website.

 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, 1920 Census Kennedy Carr; Census.gov, State Censuses.