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.

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* 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.

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How to Research Your Genealogy with Google & Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena shows how to use the information you find in old newspapers to conduct Google searches that help your genealogy research.

So you just found “the” newspaper article about your ancestor that you were hoping to find. You’re excited and can’t believe what you just learned. That’s great! Congratulations! But don’t stop there. What’s next?

The next step is to find out more about the information in that newspaper article. Take that article and enhance what you just learned by searching Google.

photo of a magnifying glass

Photo: magnifying glass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re not familiar with all that Google offers, know that it’s much more than just a search engine. In some cases it also includes content that Google has digitized and made available, such as in the case of Google Books—a must for genealogy researchers. In other aspects it is a specialized search engine that is meant to search for specific content like images or videos. Adding Google searches to your genealogy research routine will help you uncover more facts about your ancestor’s life, complementing the information you learn from old newspapers.

Googling Historical Events

In some cases finding the perfect newspaper article might mean finding one that doesn’t even mention your ancestor by name. Instead, perhaps the news article provides confirmation about an event your ancestor experienced.

One story I’ve heard repeatedly in my family involved one of my paternal great-grandmothers. The story involves the 1933 Long Beach (California) earthquake and how angry my great-grandmother was because all of her china, stored in a china hutch, was destroyed by that quake. While I knew there was a 1933 earthquake, I wanted to learn more about how it would have affected my family. Now unfortunately, my great-grandmother isn’t here to ask about that story—but I did get a sense of the magnitude of that earthquake and the resulting damage by reading about it in newspapers. In turn, this historical news information helped me better understand what my great-grandmother experienced.

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This Long Beach earthquake occurred on 10 March 1933 and registered 6.4 on the Richter scale. At least 120 people lost their lives in the earthquake, and there was millions of dollars in property damage. In retrospect, my great grandmother was probably very lucky that her china was the only casualty.

front-page news about the Long Beach earthquake, Evening Tribune newspaper article 11 March 1933

Evening Tribune (San Diego, California), 11 March 1933, page 1

Once I found some newspaper articles that detailed the quake aftermath, I turned to Google and searched on the keywords “1933 Long Beach Earthquake.” Of course I found articles and books that tell me more about this earthquake, but what I was most excited about was the video footage I found via a Google search, on the free website Internet Archive. Internet Archive is a wonderful source for digitized books as well as microfilm, audio, and video files.

The video footage showed me what Long Beach looked like just after the earthquake and allowed me a glimpse of my great-grandmother’s world as a 29-year-old wife and mother. One aspect that really hit home was that my grandfather was a 7-year-old schoolboy at this time, and many of the local schools suffered significant destruction. Luckily the earthquake happened at 5:55 p.m. on a Friday so kids were most likely at home when the quake struck.

Finding Images with Google

A continued search on Google Images (available by clicking on Images at the top of your Google Search results page, or by going to the website Google Images and entering your search keywords) provided me with images of the damage caused by the earthquake. I could then click on one of those images and go to the corresponding website. One of the benefits of Google is searching by words or images.

Search Tip: When searching on Google, don’t just stop with the Web results. At the top left of your results page, click on Images to see images that match your search terms, or click on Videos or Books to see what videos or books have applicable information for you as well.

My next steps in telling the story of my great-grandparents is writing up a narrative about this earthquake they experienced, adding my dad’s memories of his grandmother, and including newspaper accounts, images, and links to the relevant videos, so that my children—and eventually my grandchildren—can better understand this event my family lived through.

Researching with Google Books

Remember those missing husbands? If you read one of my previous Blog articles, Missing Men: Lost Husband Ads in Newspapers for Genealogy, you may have noticed that in order for me to learn more about the stories of the missing men, I also searched Google Books. For those who are unfamiliar with Google Books, it is a Google search engine that includes digitized books as well as a “card catalog” of books. Because Google partners with libraries, you can find everything from family histories, city directories, local histories, DAR publications, and occupational and union journals. Google Books is a great complement to your newspaper research.

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In that Blog article, I showed a newspaper ad that I found about one of the men I highlighted in the article, Henry Hooyer (a.k.a. H. L. Hooyer):

missing husband ads, Dallas Morning News newspaper advertisements, 12 September 1907

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 12 September 1907, page 8

After finding this “missing husband ad,” I wanted to know more about Hooyer and his disappearance. I knew later newspaper articles might exist, but I also wanted to see if Google Books might provide me with some information. A missing husband could be “missing” for a number of reasons—including disappearing as a cheap alternative to divorce, or perhaps some tragedy had befallen him.

My search on Google Books paid off. I was able to find out more about his disappearance through digitized copies of the Leather Worker’s Journal, the journal of the International United Brotherhood of Leather Workers on Horse Goods, available on Google Books. Notices in his union journal included more information about the disappearance, his physical stats, and that his occupation was harness cutter at Schoelkopf’s when he disappeared on August 19th.

article about Henry Hooyer, The Leather Workers’ Journal magazine article October 1907

The Leather Workers’ Journal, October 1907. Credit: Google Books.

What Will You Google?

So how do I use Google after I find a newspaper article? I use the newspaper article as my foundation and then take clues from it to try to find other information in digitized books, images, videos and websites. For me, what I find in a newspaper leads me to more questions which I resolve by searching for additional newspaper articles in GenealogyBank and a search in Google.

Search Tip: Just like with any search engine, remember when searching for an ancestor to try different versions of their name including initials. A Google Advanced Search, available from the drop-down menu on the gear icon at the top right of your Google search results page, will allow you to narrow your search.

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Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 2: Google Books & Internet Archive

Here are the top two websites that will save you time and get you 24/7 access to online genealogical libraries with more than one million books: Google Books and Internet Archive. These are digital books that you will rely on to document your family tree, such as published family histories, local histories and historical periodicals.

Google Books: http://books.google.com

collage of images from Google Books about George Kemp

Credit: Google Books

Internet Archive: www.Archive.org

collage of images from Internet Archive

Credit: Internet Archive

Libraries have been aggressively digitizing and putting the world’s published genealogies, local histories and historical periodicals online. This makes it easy for genealogists to refer to these on their schedule—24/7—rain or shine.

Google Books has more than 1 million online genealogy books.

Internet Archive has more than 600,000 genealogy-specific books online.

By contrast, the typical genealogical collection in a public library might have 3,000 books. A state library might have a collection of 40,000 items of genealogy-specific books and materials.

The search engines for Google Books and Internet Archive let you search on every word in each book in their collections—so if your ancestor is mentioned, you will find him.

Both websites let you download and keep any page of these books, or a digital copy of the complete book. Tucking that in your research footnotes lets you show not only the citation, but also the actual pages where you got your information.

Since each digital book title has a permanent URL, you might choose instead to keep only the hyperlinked URL pointing to your source online instead of a fuller mention in your notes. Either way it will be easy for others to see how you reached your conclusions and retrace your steps.

If you will be using these genealogy books often you can download and keep complete copies of each one, forming your own on-call personal genealogical library.

Genealogical societies, public libraries, etc., should catalog these online book titles directly into their library online catalog or on a genealogy book list on their websites. This makes it easy for family history researchers in their area to quickly find the online local histories and genealogies that focus on their town or county.

Link to These Online Books

Search these online books looking for your ancestor.

collage of images from Internet Archive about William Sawyer

Credit: Internet Archive

When you find information that you want to source to your ancestor, footnote the citation with the hyperlink to the online page.

In this example we have an article about William Sawyer (1679-1759) in a book by William Sumner Appleton: Some Descendants of William Sawyer of Newbury, Mass. Boston, MA: Clapp, 1891. Page 3.

screenshot from FamilySearch: search for descendants of William Sawyer

Credit: FamilySearch.org

Add the bibliographic citation and the hyperlink URL to your online family tree.

genealogical information about William Sawyer

Credit: FamilySearch.org and Internet Archive

For example, with the hyperlink embedded in William Sawyer’s page on FamilySearch’s Family Tree all genealogists will be able to click on the source link and immediately open up this page in the online digital book.

Google Books and Internet Archive are two of the finest examples of 21st Century genealogical tools online.

These two online book collections make it easy for genealogists to research and link their research findings to their online family trees.

It is a great day for genealogy.

Books of the Week – Donald Lines Jacobus

Millions of books are going online.
Entire libraries – that never close; a
vailable 24/7.

It is now possible for genealogists to read, download and keep genealogies, local histories – publications of all types and sizes. Instantly accessible online and easily stored on your personal laptop or handheld computer.

Donald Lines Jacobus (1887-1970) – well known as the Dean of American Genealogists was writing since he was a young boy. The New Haven Register 18 May 1900 carried a remarkable, lengthy article about his discussion of Biblical and Classical genealogy – written at the age of 12. Click here to read the entire article. It is published online in GenealogyBank.

Jacobus was a prolific writer and his books are going online.

You can read some of his earliest publications – The Lines Family – about his mother’s family that was published in 1905


and The Wilmot family of New Haven, Conn., published in 1904 by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

You may even read his book of Poems published in 1914 by the Harty-Musch Press, Inc. in New Haven, Connecticut.

Milestones in the Wilderness (1914)

Take full advantage of what the Internet has to offer. You will find thousands of published genealogies & local histories online at:


Internet Archive
Google Books
Family History Archive

and GenealogyBank is your best source for online newspapers – over 4,200 newspapers and 260,000+ digital books and documents online.

It is a great day for genealogy!

City Directories

Thousands of city directories are going online.

City directories are a basic tool for genealogists. City directories are like an annual census of the cities and towns across America. Now – thousands of them are being digitized and put online.

Read about the history of city directories here: Williams, A.V. Growth and Development of City Directories. Cincinnati, OH: Williams Directory, Co., 1913. 152p.
Download and Keep this book in your personal library!

City directories usually listed all adult residents of the community. Typical entries give:

Name; address; occupation; relationships; notification that a person moved & where they moved to; divorce dates/remarriages; widows etc.

Here is an example of entries identifying widows – giving the names of their deceased husbands in the Indianapolis 1914 City Directory. Here are just a few examples of the city directories that are going online:

Google Books

Internet Archive

Google Books

Google Books

Google Books

Google Books

Internet Archive has over 2,300 city directories online and Google Books has over 1,000 city directories online. These directories are not on GenealogyBank. All genealogists should use those sites to find city directories. Good things are happening all across the Internet.

It is a great day for genealogy!

Virginia is 401 years old today!

Happy Birthday to Virginia!
The first colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia on May 14, 1607 and with ups and downs the Commonwealth has prospered ever since.

GenealogyBank.com is packed with early Americana – including millions of Virginia items go back to the 1700s.

Newspapers
GenealogyBank has more than 100 Virginia newspapers – containing more than 2.3 Million articles. There are multiple titles going back to the 1700s and early 1800s.
Click here for a complete list

Also – GenealogyBank has more than 4 Million Virginia obituaries and death records in the America’s Obituaries and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) sections.

Other Virginia Resources in GenealogyBank

Search for Virginia documents in:
American State Papers and US Serial Set in the Historical Documents section.
There are thousands of Virginia documents in the Historical Books section that are unique to GenealogyBank.


For example – here is a petition to Congress signed by the local Virginia residents south of the James River that were seeking improved conditions on the Turnpike to Richmond.



Here is an example of an early Virginia funeral sermon – for Mrs. Ann Boyd who died 1819.



Terrific sources.

Beyond GenealogyBank – here are other useful sites for Virginia research
Virginia Census Records
1850, 1880, 1900 – Free Online – FamilySearchLabs


Virginia Digital Books Online
American Memory Project
Documenting the American South

Google Books
Making of America

Library of Virgina – Virginia Land Records

Virginia Genealogical Society
Be sure to see the back issues of their newsletter that you can download and read online

Virginia Historical Society
Current issue of Virginia Magazine of History & Biography
Be sure to see their online research guides

Virginia Vital Records
See the collection at the Library of Virginia
Virginia Department of Vital Records