Category Archives: American Revolution

Accessing Revolutionary and Civil War Claims Case Records

War claims case records have always interested me, but I have never found any ancestors who filed claims with the government for property lost during the American Revolution or the Civil War.

First of all, I have to admit that this particular kind of research, to me, is almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Not to say that it can’t be done, but it will take some effort.

Why? Well, many of these records are housed at the National Archives and may only be available on microfilm, which requires an on-site visit. Second, a possible ancestor/s need to be identified.

How would I approach this research task?

First, I would begin with a family known to have lived near the site of wartime activity, not just battles, but troop movements or other events that might have caused a family to have a loss of horses, crops, etc.

Next, I’d search out town and county histories, which usually provide lots of information about military actions, to determine the likelihood of claims for losses being generated. I’d also contact local historical and genealogical societies to inquire about such activity and would probably also call the local reference librarian at the public library.

Third, I would look for finding aids, whether at NARA or some other repository, to learn what might be indexed or, even better yet, available online.

Today’s post is only covering the American Revolution and the Civil War, but claims cases were created that cover most wars/conflicts throughout American history.

For Revolutionary War claims cases, there is the Index to the Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 by John P. Butler. There are five volumes, published in 1978.

This set might be in a library close to you. Genealogy libraries of any size will probably have it, but university libraries might also have it on the shelves. I checked WorldCat and I only have to drive 10 miles down to the University of Arizona Library to access this book.

Remember, this is just the index, but if the name I am searching isn’t in it, I can cross this book off my “to do” list.

There is also the Revolutionary War Prize Cases: Records of the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture, 1774-1787, by J.C. Bancroft Davis, published by NARA i 1949, but only available on microfilm.

In my case, I’d need to head to UCLA to view the film, which doesn’t seem to be in the Family History Library.

Claims cases from that time period are much more limited in scope than cases arising in the 19th century.

Let’s look at Civil War resources.

At the top of my list for a Southern family would be Gary B. Mills’ Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission: a Composite Directory of Case Files, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994. This book is searchable on Ancestry.

Also by Mills is: Civil War Claims in the South: An Index of Civil War Damage Claims File​d Before the Southern Claims Commission, 1871–1880, published in 1980.

By J.B. Holloway, there is: Consolidated Index of Claims Reported by the Commissioner of Claims to the House of Representativ​es from 1871 to 1880.,published in 1892.

There is also one article i n the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, volume 75:141-152 from June 1987, written by Donna Rachal Mills, “Civil War Claims Commissions: The Mixed Commission of British and American Claims.”

These are the easiest paths to pursuing damage claims submitted during the Revolution and Civil War.

By the 1860s, there were more people and more claims filed with the government for damages and losses during the Civil War. The two indexes already mentioned are the two most easily accessed.

However, there are also a number of guides and finding aids to microfilmed records held at the National Archives.

Preliminary Inventory of the War Department Collection of Confederate Records: Record Group 109 by Elizabeth Bethel in 1957 and updated by Craig R. Scott in 1994 will help you navigate RG 109.

The Record Group Explorer for NARA shows about half of this collection is viewable online:

Maizie H. Johnson’s guide, Preliminary Inventory of the Textual Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, published in 1967, covers NARA Record Group 92. The Record Group Explorer shows only 6% of this record set has been digitized and placed online.

There are also some guides to Record Groups 56, 76, and 205, but between 0-1% of those records have been digitized.

Remember, too, that Bethel’s and Johnson’s publications are simply GUIDES to each collection, NOT an index.

For those brave hearts who welcome a challenge, there are some microformed record sets at NARA, such as Southern Claims Commission, Approved Claims, 1871-1880 for Alabama and a few other states (remember there is Gary Mill’s index), but microfilm/fiche means onsite research.

I highly recommend the St. Louis County Library excellent two-part online guide: Researching Southern Claims Commission Records: Resources and Step by Step Strategy for Finding a Claim. There is a wealth of information on the two links and well worth the time to check out the online resources.

The second website I can recommend is the FamilySearch wiki page: Southern Claims Commission, which is even more comprehensive that the SLCL website.

Locating claims case records is not a simple action. It takes some digging and might involve access to a local branch of NARA. However, these resources should get you started.




My Son’s Ancestors and the Birth of America

My son has quite a few ancestors who served in the American Revolution. Both my husband and I have a handful of Tories, who remained in the newly minted United States of America after the war plus Loyalists who gave up everything and started a new life in Canada.

However, my son also has quite a few patriots who gave active or civil service during the Revolutionary War and, with tomorrow being Veteran’s Day, I’d like to honor those who believed that a new independent nation could be created.

These patriots lived everywhere – from Campobello Island, Canada throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic colonies and the South and, collectively, they saw the birth of a new nation.

Our family proudly thanks each man for their contribution to the founding of the United States of America:

William Hay (MA), who marched to Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775 and took part in the battle where someone fired “the shot heard around the world.”

Samuel Scripture (NH) fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill) on 17 June 1775.

John Stufflebean (NY) enlisted in 1775 and served as a spy in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area until he and others were captured by Mohawk Indians. Before escaping, he had to run the gauntlet. Eventually, he and a couple of other men made their way to the Ohio River and safely reached Kentucky.

James Scripture (NH) fought at the second Battle of Ticonderoga in July 1776.

Robert Wilson (Campobello Island, Canada) fought in the siege of Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia, 10-29 November 1776.

Jacob Miller (PA) fought at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 September 1777 and at the Battle of Stoney Point on 16 July 1779.

Moses Woosley (VA) survived the winter of December 1777 with General Washington at Valley Forge.

Francis Sturgill (VA) served in the Montgomery County, Virginia militia throughout the war, which, at that time, was the dangerous frontier. Family lore says he also took part in the Battle of King’s Mountain on 7 October 1780.

Joses Bucknam (MA) enlisted multiple times. He was at Ticonderoga in July 1776, Fort Hill in Boston, West Point and then was captured and sent to Old Mill Prison in England. He was part of a prisoner exchange and freed in June 1781.

Matthias Williams (VA), older brother of my son’s ancestor, William (who was too young to serve), watched the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown on 19 October 1781.

In addition to those with military service, there are three men who supported the cause:

John Hash (VA) and too old to service, signed the Oath of Allegiance.

John Haskell (ME) gave civil service as a town selectman, 1777-1778, in New Gloucester, Maine (part of Massachusetts as that time).

Samuel Tarbox (ME) gave civil service as the town warden, also in New Gloucester, Maine (part of Massachusetts at that time).

Thank you for your service.

Seeing Canada in a Different Light During the American Revolution

I thought I knew quite a bit about the American Revolution, having studied the subject in school and having researched six American Patriots and 6 Loyalists who sailed to Canada in 1783 at the close of the war.

I was recently contacted by a lady about a possible connection between two of our ancestors and she included a link to a Canadian resource I had not come across before.

Until now, I hadn’t really given much thought to political stances of residents in Canada in the 1776-1783 time period. I guess I pretty much classified them as loyal to the king. That is, until I read the reports in the first journal published by the New Brunswick (Canada) Historical Society in 1894.

Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society. . . no. 1-3, 1894-1897 are found on HathiTrust.

It appears that the original journals were/are in the library collection of Cornell University and Google was allowed to digitize them. However, it seems that in order to save a PDF of the entire journal, an account with a HathiTrust partner is required. Otherwise, only a page or two at a time can be saved.

I wanted to share a page with you that I found because it absolutely fascinated me and I have never seen anything like this entry in all the years I’ve been doing family history research – 39 years, to be exact.

First, a bit of biographical background is necessary. Major Gilfred Studholme (1740-1792) enlisted with the Loyal Nova Scotia Volunteers when the American Revolution began. He later fought with the Royal Fencible Americans, who successfully defended Fort Cumberland in 1776. both military units were based in Nova Scotia.

The New Brunswick Historical Society PDF on HathiTrust includes several articles that are mainly lists of residents found living in the Amesbury Tract, New Brunswick, Canada after the war ended in 1783.

Major Studholme had ordered a survey of inhabitants and their familial and economic status on 15 June 1783:

In reply, the following list, in effect a very detailed census, was delivered just two weeks later. By itself, this list is a true treasure trove of genealogical information from a time period that is very difficult to research and document.

If you look carefully at the personal details of each family, not all of these people supported the King’s cause. Several are definitely identified as “rebels” or contributing to the success of the rebels.

Gilfred Studholme most definitely read this lengthy report with great care because look at what followed:

Studholme diligently appended his own personal knowledge about a number of the men on the list and, for active “rebels,” he sometimes even stated what their actions entailed.

What could possibly be better for learning about one’s ancestors and their lives and actions during and just after the Revolutionary war?

I looked and looked, but much to my chagrin, none of my families are in this report.

If you have ancestors in New Brunswick and/or on the islands of Campobello and Grand Manan in the 18th century, you should definitely take a look at these journals. Use the link above to HathiTrust.

Here are the Table of Contents for the three issues: