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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: The Forgotten War -- The War of 1812
by Rhonda R. McClure

June 08, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Listen in on a group of genealogists for any length of time and you will discover that when they talk about military records they jump from the American Revolution to the Civil War. There were a number of altercations in that almost hundred-year period, and one of the major ones was the War of 1812.

And many of our ancestors would be directly involved in this war. In fact, 280,000 Americans would fight in this war. And it was during this war that Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner.

The 1812 War would require the services of 280,000 Americans.

What's Available?

Like the American Revolution and the Civil War, many of the military records that have been generated are available to help us with our research. There is a index to the Compiled Service Records allowing you the chance to locate your ancestor and see what company he was in. While this is a resource found at the National Archives and other similar repositories, don't overlook the resources at the state level.

In addition to the service records, there were pension records. Once again the United States government used its ace in the hole—land. It offered land to those who volunteered. Bounty land was given to the soldiers, but that may not be who finally ended up with the land. Especially if the soldier died during service or afterwards, the bounty land may have gone to a spouse, children or parents even.

Possible Pensions

To find out what pension may exist for your ancestor, you will want to turn first to the Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files. This is available on microfilm and also in a three volume published set compiled by Virgil D. White. It is possible that your genealogy library will have one or the other of these.

Once you have located your ancestor, you will want to record the pertinent information, which includes the certificate number. It may be possible that there is an application for your ancestor who fought as well as for the spouse.

Getting the Pension

You will take this information and request the military records. It is a good idea to request both the military service records as well as the pension records. Generally the pension records will have more in the way of family data, but the service records will detail his involvement in various campaigns and may have included a physical description.

You will request these records from the Reference Services Branch:

(NNIR) National Archives
8th and Pennsylvania Avenue
NW, Washington, DC 20408

However, to request the records you will need to use Form NATF-80. This form can be requested via e-mail. Information for requesting these forms can be found at the National Archives.

In Conclusion

The next time you are looking for military records for your ancestors, don't forget to search for some of them in the records that now exist that pertain to the War of 1812. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find and how it can help you.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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