Find the True Life Stories of Our Revolutionary War Ancestors

GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives have not only the stories of our Revolutionary War ancestors – but daily news reports of the war itself.

newspaper articles about the American Revolutionary War from GenealogyBank's archives

With newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection spanning the entire 1700s, you can find thousands of exclusive historical news articles about Revolutionary War battles, politics and day to day life as it was reported in the newspapers of the time. Track your ancestor as he went from battle to battle…and then through the years after the war.

Where else can you find these stories of the American Revolutionary period – recorded as our ancestors lived them?

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

Brave Women of the American Revolutionary War Era

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find stories of some brave American women and their deeds during the Revolutionary War.

When we think of the American Revolutionary War we reflect on the sacrifices and bravery exhibited by the men of the era. We tell the stories of heroes like George Washington and John Paul Jones. But what did women do during the Revolutionary War era? What were these early American women like? We tend to believe that they were “just housewives,” more “delicate” than women of a latter era. Sure, they were tough due to lack of technology, access to medical care, and the hardships they faced. But how tough were they?

Illustration: “Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane” depicts Elizabeth Zane’s legendary feat of retrieving gunpowder during the siege of Fort Henry during the American Revolutionary War

Illustration: “Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane” depicts Elizabeth Zane’s legendary feat of retrieving gunpowder during the siege of Fort Henry during the American Revolutionary War. Lithograph by Nagel and Weingaertner, 1851. Source: Library of Congress.

When we look at our Revolutionary War foremothers, in some cases they were so tough that they kicked butt and didn’t bother to take names. Yes, that’s right. Our Revolutionary War-era foremothers were TOUGH!

Hannah Gaunt

My first introduction to this was from my own family history research: the story of Hannah Gaunt of South Carolina, daughter of Israel Gaunt who was a Quaker. Now let me set the scene for you. It seems that Israel was known to have some money. During the war, three Tories decided to go over to the Gaunt house to relieve Israel of that money. After sunset, the would-be robbers rode up to Israel’s home and asked for lodging. The Gaunts refused their request. One of the men, a guy named Hubbs, rode up to the kitchen door and asked Mrs. Gaunt for some water. When Mrs. Gaunt went to get the water, Hubbs jumped into action and entered the house. Mrs. Gaunt yelled to her husband so that he could lock the other doors, preventing the other two outlaws from getting in. Suddenly Hubbs drew his pistol and aimed it at Mr. Gaunt’s chest.

Now, let’s stop there. Here is Mr. Gaunt with a pistol to his chest while his wife and daughter look on, seemingly helpless. Two other outlaws who would do them harm are outside waiting for their chance to grab the family’s money. What do you do?

Well if you are Hannah Gaunt you leap into action: you wrestle the bad guy for his gun and pin him to the ground. According to this later 1859 newspaper article recounting the episode:

…she held him with an iron gripe [sic], notwithstanding his violent struggles to release himself, and his plunging his spurs again and again into her dress and her limbs. While the Amazonian damsel thus pinned him down, her father snapped two loaded muskets at his head…

article about Hannah Gaunt, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot newspaper article 22 January 1859

Weekly Wisconsin Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin), 22 January 1859, page 3

Mary Hooks Slocumb

So was Hannah Gaunt the only woman who had a fighting spirit? Certainly not; we know that some women during the American Revolutionary War fought on the battlefields, while others protected their homes. Newspapers reported on these brave women’s exploits.

This 1851 newspaper article, a review of Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet’s 1850 three-volume book The Women of the American Revolution, recounts one of the stories from that book involving a very brave woman: Mary Hooks Slocumb. One night after having a dream where she saw her soldier husband injured from battle, she took to her horse and rode all night alone, approximately 60 miles, to reach the battle where her husband’s unit was. Although he was not one of the injured, many others were – and Mary ignored the sounds of cannon fire and tended to their needs. So that readers would not get the impression that Mary was anything but a lady, the article added:

Though Mrs. Slocumb could ride a horse, shoot a pistol, or take part in many masculine employments, she was not inattentive to many feminine duties…

article about Mary Hooks Slocumb, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 19 June 1851

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 19 June 1851, page 3

Elizabeth Zane

Women volunteered to do all sorts of tasks to help the Revolutionary War effort, often at great risk. This 1849 newspaper article recounted the story of Elizabeth Zane’s bravery during a British attack on the American Fort Henry. After two days of holding the enemy at bay, the patriots were running out of gunpowder. They needed someone to run through enemy fire to a nearby block-house and retrieve more. At first, when asked, none of the men would volunteer. Finally a boy said he would do it, which of course prompted the men to volunteer. The men then started arguing about who should go – when the sister of Colonel Silas Zane (who was in the outside block-house) volunteered. Another of her brothers was in the fort, and he didn’t want her to run the risk.

The old newspaper article reports:

Her brother thought she would flinch from the enterprise, but he was mistaken. She had the intrepidity to dare, and the fortitude to bear her up in the heroic risk of her life.

Her brother tried to talk her out of it, but Elizabeth was resolute. She ran to the block-house unharmed, and then returned to the fort with the precious extra gunpowder through a volley of enemy bullets.

article about Elizabeth Zane, Semi-weekly Eagle newspaper article 11 October 1849

Semi-weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 11 October 1849, page 1

Mrs. Porter Philbrook

The bravery and heroism of American women during the Revolution continued to be discussed long after the fighting ended. Newspaper obituaries and memoirs noted those women and their acts of valor during the Revolutionary War period. Even latter-day women who displayed strength and cunning were likened to their Revolutionary mothers, as in this case involving an 1850 home burglary that resulted in the capture of the culprit by the lady of the house, Mrs. Porter Philbrook of Wilton, New Hampshire.

In telling of her bravery in apprehending a burglar while her husband was away, this 1850 newspaper article said she performed:

“a deed of daring”…which would not be unworthy of the bravest of the “women of the Revolution.”

As Mrs. Philbrook was preparing to retire for the night, she heard a noise and found a burglar breaking in – whom she confronted and subdued.

article about Mrs. Porter Philbrook, National Aegis newspaper article 25 December 1850

National Aegis (Worcester, Massachusetts), 25 December 1850, page 2

What did your Revolutionary War-era ancestress do? Probably more than you imagine. While you might think that these women sat at home and waited, more likely they were involved in something to assist in the war effort. In some cases they were true heroines.

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Massive 1700s-1800s Newspaper Collection Added to GenealogyBank!

GenealogyBank is especially pleased to announce a major addition to its vast newspaper archives – the single largest release of newspaper titles since the launch of GenealogyBank. More than 450 historical newspapers have been added with more coming soon – all newspapers are digital so that you can easily search every word.

What has been added:

  • Over 450 historical newspaper titles
  • Covering all 50 U.S. states
  • Years of coverage: 1730-1900
  • Over 160 of the 450 historical newspapers date back to the 1700s
  • Millions of never before available obituaries, birth and marriage notices, and news stories

illustration of a newspaper boy

This example from a Hawaii newspaper documents a marriage onboard the ship Collingwood performed by the ship’s chaplain – a very unusual venue – and likely a record that would be difficult to find if not for this major new set of newspapers being added to GenealogyBank. This is just one example of the millions of new marriage records, obituaries and birth announcements that we are pouring into GenealogyBank.

wedding announcement for Thomas Lindsay and Mary Fay, Sandwich Island News newspaper article 9 September 1846

Sandwich Island News (Honolulu, Hawaii), 9 September 1846, page 3

1700s Newspapers for Colonial & Revolutionary Research

Over 160 of these 450 historical newspapers date back to the 1700s, including more than 60 newspapers from Florida, New York, North Carolina and Ohio – all with back runs dating into the Colonial/Revolutionary War period.

montage showing front pages of historical newspapers

Sample List of Our New Historical Newspapers

We have added very old newspapers from multiple states, pushing back family history documentation in these states to periods when other genealogical records can be difficult to find.

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Here are just a few examples of the new content that’s been added:

It’s a great day for genealogy!

Start searching these new additions in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see what genealogy records are now available about your ancestors that have never been this easily available online before.

Related Articles:

Linus Lounsbury, Revolutionary War Veteran

I found this obituary for Linus Lounsbury, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, by searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

obituary for Linus Lounsbury, Columbian Register newspaper article 23 July 1836

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 23 July 1836, page 3

He died on 15 July 1836.
He was a pensioner.

He was in the Siege of Fort Johns in Newfoundland, Canada – 17 September 1775 to 3 November 1775, and was in the Battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776.

Great information.

photo of a two-cent stamp depicting the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains

Image Credit: Battle of White Plains 1926 Issue 2c, U.S. Post Office, 20 February 2010

Here is the confirmation of his death, as reported in the 1838 Pensioners List on the page showing deaths of Connecticut pensioners.

photo of a Revolutionary War pension list showing that Linus Lounsbury has died

Publication: Pensioners — pension agents. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting the information required by a resolution of the House of Representatives of 26th March last, in relation to pensioners and pension agents, and the payment of pensions. June 22, 1838. — Referred to the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. June 27, 1838. — Ordered to be printed, as per resolution of the Committee herewith. Date: Wednesday, June 27, 1838. Serial Set Vol. No.331-1; Report: H.Doc. 444. Source:

Continuing my newspaper search on Linus, I found this notice from 1817 reporting that there was a letter for Linus at the post office.

list of people who have letters waiting for them at the Woodbridge, Connecticut, post office, Columbian Register newspaper article 19 July 1817

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 19 July 1817, page 1

It would be great if we had that old letter.

Re-reading his obituary, I like that last line about his character:

He truly possessed the spirit of ’76 as long as he lived.

It makes me think of the George M. Cohan chorus from “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” as found on Wikipedia:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.

Find the life story of your ancestors – search GenealogyBank today. Start your 30-day trial now!

Note: FamilySearch International ( and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at:

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

Why You Should Dig Deep into the Obituary Archives

George Foster Sawyer served in the U.S. Navy and died in La Spezia, Italy, in 1852. He was a native of Burlington, Vermont.

Hmm…so where do you look for his obituary?

Since Sawyer was a native of Vermont, you’d expect to find his obituary in a Vermont or other newspaper from New England.

I did find an obituary for him in a Vermont paper, but it was brief and to the point.

Weekly Eagle 26 July 1852 Deaths

Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 26 July 1852, page 3

I was hoping to find more information about Sawyer, so I kept on looking around in the obituary archives.

Then I found another obituary for him, this one published in a New York newspaper. It gives us more of the details of his life, like the name of the ship he served on, the date it sailed—and even the fact that his ancestors served in the American Revolutionary War.

Plattsburgh Republican 24 July 1852 George Foster Sawyer

Plattsburgh Republican (Plattsburgh, New York), 24 July 1852, page 3

It turns out his obituary was picked up by newspapers up and down the coast, each giving a little bit more information than the short Vermont obituary.

Genealogy Tip: Keep digging in the obituary archives—don’t limit your search to just the hometown area of the deceased. Obituaries can be published in newspapers you would never expect, far from where your ancestor lived or died.

Articles Related to Obituaries:

Revolutionary War Veteran’s Obituary Was Short—but Said a Lot

William Walcutt was there—a stalwart throughout the American Revolutionary War. He enlisted at Valley Forge 7 May 1778 “while yet a youth.” He was only 17 years old, having turned 17 just a month and a half earlier.

When he died at the age of 73, his one-paragraph obituary detailed his military service during the Revolutionary period.

obituary for William Walcutt, Ohio State Journal newspaper article 29 June 1833

Ohio State Journal (Columbus, Ohio), 29 June 1833, page 3

The soldier’s obituary states that he fought at the battles at Lexington and Trenton, and was later captured at the battle of Camden. It also reports the key fact that he:

…afterwards joined Morgan’s celebrated corps of grenadiers, served throughout the glorious campaign in the Southern States, and was present at the capture of Yorktown, and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.

Brigadier General Daniel Morgan’s Southern campaign was one of the decisive turning points of the war, especially the Battle of Cowpens.

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According to Wikipedia:

“Morgan chose to make his stand at Cowpens, South Carolina…As the British forces approached, the Americans, with their backs turned to the British, reloaded their muskets. When the British got too close, they turned and fired at point-blank range in their faces. In less than an hour, [British Colonel Banastre] Tarleton’s 1,076 men suffered 110 killed and 830 captured. The captives included 200 wounded. Although Tarleton escaped, the Americans captured all his supplies and equipment, including the officers’ slaves. Morgan’s cunning plan at Cowpens is widely considered to be the tactical masterpiece of the war and one of the most successfully executed double envelopments of all of modern military history.”

When William Walcutt died in Columbus, Ohio, he was honored and remembered for his service in the American Revolution with an inscription telling about it on his tombstone.

photo of the tombstone of William & Anna Macy Walcutt

Photo: tombstone of William & Anna Macy Walcutt. Source: US GenWeb, Ohio.

The inscription reads:

William Walcutt of Maryland, 1761-1833. A soldier of the Revolution. Joined the Army at Valley Forge under Gen. Morgan. Participated in all the principal battles and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

Don’t let your Revolutionary War ancestors be forgotten. Find their stories in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives, and preserve and pass them down in the family.

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

Top 7 Websites for Revolutionary War Genealogy

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena discusses—and provides links to—seven top online resources for researching your American Revolutionary War ancestors.

Do you have a Revolutionary War ancestor? Maybe you have always heard that your ancestor was a soldier or a patriot during the American Revolution. Perhaps you have a female ancestor who was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Do you have copies of your ancestor’s military records but are not sure where to go next with your family history research? It’s time to make a genealogy research plan.

Painting: surrender of British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga on 17 October 1777 to American General Horatio Gates, by John Trumbull

Painting: surrender of British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga on 17 October 1777 to American General Horatio Gates, by John Trumbull. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

When thinking about researching your Revolutionary ancestor, consider what records may be left behind that result from his military service, death, and even his legacy.* Also keep in mind where such records may be held. While it’s easy to assume that the majority of records will be found at the National Archives or a subscription-based website, there are various online repositories with historical Revolutionary-period records useful to your ancestry research.

Ask questions of each record you find and then look for documents that answer those questions. While some of the research you do will involve looking for documents that include his name, there will be general histories about events your ancestor was involved in—which don’t specifically mention him by name—that you will also want to consult to learn more about his day-to-day life in the battlefields and political developments of the time.

Not sure where to start? Begin first with an overall search of newspapers and digitized books.

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1) Newspaper Articles and Historical Books

In my previous article Tracing Your Colonial & Revolutionary Ancestry in Newspapers, I wrote about articles that can be found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for finding your Revolutionary War ancestor. Whether you are just starting your research or have been at it for years, you should begin with newspapers to see what more you can learn. Because GenealogyBank is constantly adding newspapers, searching just once is not enough—keep coming back, to search the new material. A helpful feature of GenealogyBank’s Newspaper Archives search page is that you can narrow your search to an “Added Since” date so that you are not going through the same results you viewed previously.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's Historical Newspaper Archives search page

Obviously, one of the newspaper article-types that you will hope to find is an obituary. An obituary may provide key information including family members’ names, military service, occupation, and the cemetery where he is buried.

One resource researchers might not be as familiar with is GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents & Records collection, which includes the American State Papers. These federal government documents can include mentions of Revolutionary War soldiers—and their widows—as they applied for things like pensions.

Search Tip: As you search the GenealogyBank collections, make sure to keep in mind name variations. Don’t just stop after searching one version of your ancestor’s name. Write out a list of various name combinations that take into account their initials, name abbreviations (Jno, Benj., Wm.), and nicknames—as well as possible misspellings of the first and last name.

2) Online Grave Listings

In addition to newspaper articles and historical books, there are several online resources available for lists of Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves. To read more about these resources, see the article Revolutionary War Cemetery Records on the FamilySearch Wiki.

screenshot of FamilySearch's page for American Revolutionary War records

Source: FamilySearch

3) Daughters of the American Revolution

Want to verify that your ancestor was a Revolutionary War patriot? Maybe you have a copy of a female family member’s DAR application. Looking to become a member of the DAR or the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution)? Even if you aren’t interested in joining these groups, they have a vast collection of resources that can help you with your research. According to DAR member and chapter registrar Sheri Beffort Fenley, there are two resources all non-DAR members should use.

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The first is the Genealogical Research System. According to their website, the Genealogical Research System (GRS) “is a collection of databases that provide access to the many materials amassed by the DAR since its founding in 1890.”

screenshot of the Daughters of the American Revolution's Genealogical Research System website

Source: Daughters of the American Revolution

The second resource Fenley recommends is the DAR Library.

screenshot of the Daughters of the American Revolution's Library website

Source: Daughters of the American Revolution

While you are looking at the DAR homepage, make sure to click on the Resources tab. Here you’ll find the Revolutionary Pension Card Index as well as a great eBook entitled Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies.

4) Google Books

I would also recommend using Google Books to look through books and periodicals involving the DAR and their various chapters, as well as other genealogical information from the Revolutionary War. It’s a great place to find lineages and transcriptions.

screenshot of the Google Books website

Source: Google

5) Sons of the American Revolution

The Sons of the American Revolution Genealogical Research Library in Kentucky also may be of use to your research. To learn more about their collection and their SAR Patriot Index, see their website.

screenshot of the Sons of the American Revolution's Research Library website

Source: Sons of the American Revolution

6) National Archives & Records Administration (NARA)

The National Archives holds the records of our federal government, including military records. For the Revolutionary War you can find everything from Compiled Military Service Records to pensions and bounty land records. (Please note that NARA is the caretaker for federal records; they do not have state records such as state militia records. For those records, you need to contact the appropriate state archives.) Click here to see a list of NARA Revolutionary War records. A good tutorial for learning more about obtaining military records from NARA is on their web page: Genealogy Research in Military Records.

screenshot of the National Archives and Records Administration's American Revolutionary War records website

Source: National Archives and Records Administration

7) FamilySearch Resources

There are also several Revolutionary War databases available from the free website FamilySearch, including the searchable United States Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications, 1800-1900. Most people automatically think of service records and pensions when they think of military service—but what is often missed are bounty land grants. Military Bounty Land was offered to men in return for their military service. This served as both an enticement and a reward for longer service. Your ancestor may have received much more from his service than just monetary compensation. To learn more about bounty land and how to research it, see Christine Rose’s book Military Bounty Land 1776-1855.

The United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 from FamilySearch “contains images of muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other personnel, pay, and supply records of the American Army during the Revolutionary War.” This collection is not searchable; you have to browse it, and you need to know the state your soldier fought for. Make sure to utilize the FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki to learn more about other Revolutionary War documents available from FamilySearch.

screenshot of FamilySearch's Family History Research Wiki website

Source: FamilySearch

Wherever you are in your search for your Revolutionary War ancestor, make sure to have a plan and a list of genealogy resources—and then go through each one. Using a combination of sources including newspapers, digitized books, and military records, you can start to put together the story of your Revolutionary War ancestor soldier’s life.


* Because the majority of soldiers in the Revolutionary War were men, I’m going to refer to them as “he.” However, women did fight alongside their male relatives on the battlegrounds. To learn more about the women of the Revolutionary War, see the book Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence by Carol Berkin.

Tracing Your Colonial & Revolutionary Ancestry in Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena shows how old newspapers provide a great opportunity to learn more about your Revolutionary War-era ancestors, especially considering that primary sources are hard to find for this time period.

Are you researching your family history all the way back to your Revolutionary War-era ancestors? Old newspapers are a great way to learn about your ancestry during America’s Colonial and Revolutionary periods.

painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze

Painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze (1851). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

For example, GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives date from 1690 to today. What does this mean for you? It means a great opportunity to learn more about your Revolutionary War-era ancestors even when primary sources are few and far between. Remember that newspapers can hold rich family history information that details a person’s life story from cradle to grave.

Limit Your Ancestry Search—but Not Too Much

It’s natural to want to go straight to the advanced genealogy search engine on GenealogyBank to start your newspaper research. The advanced search engine is where we can limit or narrow our search, broadening it beyond just names by adding dates, and by including or excluding keywords. The advanced search box is a vital tool for researching a common surname. When researching a Revolutionary War-era ancestor, limiting the search to those years the ancestor was alive can help you filter out search results that aren’t about your specific ancestor.

Enter Last Name

However, there is a caution: remember that the more information you add to a search engine the fewer results you will receive. Keep a log of your ancestor searches and results. Try a combination of keyword searches and note your results. One important aspect in researching Colonial newspapers is that language is much different now than in those early American newspapers. Don’t add too many “modern” words to your keyword search, as these may result in poor search results. Words associated with the cost of goods are just one example of a difference that could mean finding what you are looking for or not. It can be beneficial to take some time to read the newspaper from your ancestor’s area and time to get a sense of the layout, articles, and language.

Not sure which Colonial and Revolutionary newspapers are available on GenealogyBank? Find a list in this blog article: 27 Colonial Newspapers to Trace Your Early American Ancestry.

list of Colonial and Revolutionary newspapers available in GenealogyBank

Consider the possible articles that could exist about your 18th century ancestor in these early American Colonial newspapers!

While you won’t know what specific articles your ancestor may have been mentioned in until you do an actual search, simply reading through some of these early American newspapers can help to get a sense of what news was reported during their lifetime. When researching a Revolutionary War soldier for example, look for anything that might provide some historical context (think pension laws and battle descriptions), but would not necessarily mention him by name. Of course, with a specific search you are looking for articles like a pension list or an obituary that would mention him by name.

Revolutionary War Desertions

War is hell, and in every conflict some soldiers desert for a whole host of reasons. It makes sense that during the Revolutionary War desertions would be reported in the newspapers, so that the community could read the description and help find the missing soldier.

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In this 1777 desertion ad from a Pennsylvania newspaper, two soldiers are described. These descriptions are not limited to their physical attributes. One of the soldiers is listed as “Thomas Robinson…a stout well-made Irishman, about 35 years of age, fair complexion, and short dark hair, a little bald; he is a very great drunkard, and when sober his hands tremble as if afflicted with the palsy; he is very talkative, and speaks with his native brogue; his occupation is ditching and threshing.”

article about deserters in the American Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania Packet newspaper article 25 February 1777

Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 25 February 1777, page 1

War Pensions

Did your ancestor receive a pension? Newspapers may include lists of those receiving pensions, such as this one from a 1796 Massachusetts newspaper. Notice it includes the name and rank of the soldiers as well as the amount of each pension.

Pension Law, Western Star newspaper article 19 September 1796

Western Star (Stockbridge, Massachusetts), 19 September 1796, page 3

Stories of Your Ancestors’ Personal Lives

The newspaper isn’t just a place to find your ancestors’ names; it’s also a great place to learn more about their personal lives and the times they lived in. In this example the invalid pension law is explained, as well as when the pension is paid and the application process.

Invalid Pensioners, Salem Gazette newspaper article 16 February 1790

Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts), 16 February 1790, page 3

Don’t forget that you can narrow your newspaper search by type of article. This is a great time-saving research tool in cases when you receive numerous “hits” or are looking for something specific. To narrow your search by type of article from the results list, click on the links to the left of the list, under the heading “Newspaper Archives.”

screenshot showing the newspaper article types on GenealogyBank's search results page

Combine Original Document Finds with Newspapers

Found your ancestor’s military file or pension record? Great! Follow that up by looking for information in the newspaper.

In the case of a common name, such as my ancestor Revolutionary War soldier Benjamin Jones, a search in the newspaper may bring up numerous hits but they may not be my Benjamin Jones. For that reason, consider using what you find in original documents in conjunction with the newspaper to help you narrow your search and analyze the evidence.

What can you find in the newspaper about your Colonial and Revolutionary War ancestry? Plenty! Those genealogy records can be an important and colorful addition to your family history.

Related Colonial & Revolutionary War Ancestry Articles:

Fourth of July Trivia: Quiz Your History IQ

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, to add to your Fourth of July celebrations, Mary presents a fun quiz of Independence Day and Founding Fathers trivia.

As 4th of July celebrations are more American than apple pie, I thought our GenealogyBank Blog readers might enjoy an Independence Day trivia quiz.

photo of fireworks behind the Washington Monument, 4 July 1986

Photo: fireworks behind the Washington Monument, 4 July 1986. Credit: Lono Kollars; Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps the more historical-minded genealogists already know the answers, but if not, try figuring out these questions about July 4th on your own. Some answers may surprise you. (The answers are shown below.)

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1) What year were fireworks first used to celebrate the 4th of July?

A) 1776
B) 1777
C) 1826
D) 1876

2) Why were captured enemy Hessians allowed to participate in the celebrations at Philadelphia on the 4th of July in 1777?

A) The American troops wished to raise morale by humiliating them.
B) They were waiters who served food to the American officers.
C) They were talented musicians.
D) Their capture and subsequent parading through Philadelphia was reenacted.

3) How many rockets were shot in celebration on that glorious day in 1777?

A) 10
B) 13
C) 16
D) 20

4) What saying was reiterated three times on 4 July 1777?

A) Hip, Hip, Hurray!
B) Long live America!
C) Long live Congress!
D) The Glorious Fourth of July!

5) Which of these presidents died on the 4th of July (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and/or James Monroe)?

A) Adams & Jefferson
B) Adams & Monroe
C) Jefferson & Monroe
D) Adams, Jefferson & Monroe

6) Who died first, Adams, Jefferson or Monroe?

A) Adams
B) Jefferson
C) Monroe

7) What were Jefferson’s last words?

A) “God bless America.”
B) “No, doctor, nothing more.”
C) “May God have mercy on America.”

8) Another Founding Father died on the 4th of July. He was known as the penman of our Bill of Rights. Who was he?

A) Fisher Ames
B) William Blount
C) Thomas Fitzsimmons
D) Robert Morris

9) Which of these persons was not born on the 4th of July?

A) Tom Cruise
B) Malia Obama
C) Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips (Abigail Van Buren, aka “Dear Abby”)
D) Neil Simon (playwright)

10) Why do some people insist that the 2nd of July is our true Independence Day?

A) It was the day the resolution was passed in Congress to declare our independence.
B) It was the day we won a major victory against the British.
C) It was the day the peace treaty was signed ending the war.

Searching for the Answers

Enter Last Name

Here are the answers to the Fourth of July trivia questions. I came up with many of these questions and answers based on research in old newspapers. An online collection, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is a great way to learn more about our Colonial and Revolutionary ancestors—and the times they lived in. For example, this 1777 newspaper article provides answers to the first four trivia questions.

article about Fourth of July celebrations in Philadelphia in 1777, Virginia Gazette newspaper article 20 July 1777

Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Virginia), 20 July 1777, page 2

The answer to the fifth trivia question can be found in this 1907 newspaper article.

Three Presidents Died on the Fourth of July, Grand Rapid Press newspaper article 4 July 1907

Grand Rapid Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 4 July 1907, page 3

The Answers

  • Question 1: B. 1777 was the first year that America celebrated its Declaration of Independence with fireworks.
  • Question 2: C. The Hessian band was used to entertain the troops.
  • Question 3: B. Thirteen rockets were shot in honor of the thirteen Colonies.
  • Question 4: D. “The Glorious Fourth of July” was repeated three times.
  • Question 5: D. Presidents Adams and Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of 4 July 1776 (1826) and President Monroe died on 4 July 1831.
  • Question 6: B. Jefferson. Shortly before he died, Adams reportedly said “Thomas Jefferson survives,” but he was mistaken—as Jefferson had passed away earlier that same day.
  • Question 7: B. These are Jefferson’s recorded last words, refusing the laudanum being offered by his doctor.
  • Question 8: A. Fisher Ames (9 April 1758 – 4 July 1808) was a Representative to Congress from the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.
  • Question 9: A. Although he appeared in the movie Born on the 4th of July, Tom Cruise was actually born on July 3 in 1962.
  • Question 10: A. July 2 was the day that the Declaration of Independence resolution passed Congress. July 4 was the official date printed on the document.

Where Was George Washington? Revolutionary War Fact Checking

One of my family traditions tells us that George Washington made his headquarters, from 4 July to 19 August 1781, at the home of my 5th Great-Grandfather, Joseph Appleby (1732-1792) in Greenburgh, New York, in the Dobbs Ferry section of town, during the American Revolutionary War.

Joseph Appleby served as a 2nd lieutenant in the First Regiment of Westchester County, New York Militia.

I found this interesting 1935 newspaper article reporting that in 1935 Messmore Kendall (1872-1959) was living in a house in Dobbs Ferry—and erroneously stated that was the house that George Washington used as his headquarters in 1781, not the home of my ancestor Joseph Appleby.

article about Messmore Kendall and George Washington, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 27 August 1935

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 27 August 1935, page 8

Kendall took great pride in his home’s supposed connection to George Washington and its key role in the American Revolution.

It was an impressive home.

photo of Philipse Manor

Photo: Philipse Manor. Source: Library of Congress.

Kendall served as the national vice-president of the Sons of the American Revolution and as the president of the Empire State Chapter of the NSSAR. In 1894 he had a monument erected in front of his house commemorating its place in history.

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Kendall collected dozens of historic heirlooms previously owned by George Washington and had them on display at his home.

It was a nice story—but it was not true.

A Historic American Building Survey Report issued 29 March 1934, written by Thomas Hotchkiss (Re: Messmore Kendall Residence), stated that:

The 1894 monument…incorrectly alleges that Washington and Rochambeau met at this house [Philipse Manor] to plan the Yorktown Campaign in 1781. As explained authoritatively…these commanders of the allied armies occupied the Appleby and Odell houses respectively on country roads back in the hills, and conveniently held their conference there surrounded by their troops.

It turns out that Kendall lived at the Philipse Manor built by Frederick Philipse. His great-grandson, Frederick Philipse, was a Tory and “his lands and houses” were seized and sold. The manor house was purchased by Philip Livingston.

See: Historic American Building Survey, Report HABS No. 4-105

Genealogy Tip: Historical claims can be wrong—even when they make it into print in a newspaper, such as Kendall’s claim about his home being a former headquarters of George Washington.

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The Appleby home which George Washington did use as his headquarters stood on what is now Secor Road in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The WFAS radio station offices are now located on this site.

photo providing an aerial view of the Appleby farm

Photo: aerial view of the Appleby farm. Source: Google Earth.

There is a video interview with Mary Sudman Donovan, Ph.D., Village Historian of Dobbs Ferry, New York. See the interview on YouTube here:

Donovan is the author of the book George Washington at “Headquarters, Dobbs Ferry” July 4 to August 19, 1781. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009.

photo of the cover of Mary Donovan's book "George Washington at 'Headquarters, Dobbs Ferry' July 4 to August 19, 1781

Find and document your family’s stories in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Carefully review the facts you are gathering. Evaluate them and seek out corroborating sources.

Make sure that the stories about your ancestors are accurate, preserved and passed down in the family.

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