By Nancy Battick
As Veterans’ Day approaches you may be wondering if your ancestors served in the military or fought in any of this nation’s wars. This topic is too massive to cover in just one column so I’ll dedicate this one to colonial wars and the American Revolution, the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
If your family came to this country prior to the American Revolution they almost certainly fought in at least one colonial war. Early English settlers were under constant fear of attack by the particular war such as “Soldiers in King Philip’s War” by George M. Bodge.French in Canada or their Native allies. European wars spilled over to this continent as colonists of the French and English governments battled for survival. Conflicts such as King Philip’s War (1675-76) and the French and Indian War (1754-63) are just two of many.
The records of those who served in colonial conflicts will be found mainly in town records or in state archives. Some books have been published detailing lists of men who served.
The Revolutionary War records are more numerous. Since Maine was part of Massachusetts, men who served in the Revolution can be found in Massachusetts Soldiers & Sailors which is online at Ancestry.com along with many other military records.
Fold3 (www.fold3.com) which is owned by Ancestry, is a site dedicated mainly to military records. There you can find military service lists, pension applications, and prisoner of war listings among many other records. You can use the American version of Ancestry.com for free at many local libraries. Fold3 usually has fee-free weekends around Veterans and Memorial Days so keep an eye on the site for notices of free usage.
The Daughters of the American Revolution general website (dar.org) allows you to search for information on patriot ancestors of their members (start under the Genealogy tab). Not everyone who served in the Revolution will be listed but this is a great site that is free and you can order copies of the member applications (no living generation’s information will be given) for a fee if you happen to stumble upon your own ancestor.
Many Revolutionary War veterans were given bounty lands to reward service, and those records can be found at the National Archives (archives.gov) and at state levels. Pensions on the other hand were given years later to indigent surviving veterans so you may not find a pension application for your ancestor. Bounty and pension records can offer a wealth of information from marriage dates to children and their birthdates, affidavits from fellow soldiers or neighbors, and even the possessions of the veteran or surviving widow. Look for pension applications on Fold3.com or through the National Archives.
In addition, state archives and libraries often have copies of militia returns or transcribed lists of men who served. Do a general search on their online catalogs to see what appears.
In the next column I’ll take a look at the wars of the 19th century including the Civil War. And, I urge all of you to salute our veterans on November 11th.
Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.