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Revolutionary War Veteran Research

When researching your ancestors in Colonial America you have to remember that there was a great deal of turmoil in the colonies with wars over territorial ownership between England, France, Native Americans, and the colonists, outside of the Revolutionary War. You cannot make assumptions about anything in genealogy; you must do the historical research.

Map of Vermont, NY, NH, Canada

For example, I was working on a tree this week with documentation that an ancestor had served with a New Hampshire regiment in the Revolutionary War, which was confusing because he was a resident of Vermont. His children were shown to be born in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York in the same decade. How could this be?

This involved doing historical research of the founding of Vermont and its place in the Revolution. I knew basically nothing about Vermont other than it is a lovely place to go to see the leaves change in the Fall (they don't to that much in Texas).

Come to find out, Vermont did not become a state until 1791. In the 1750's, the area that would become Vermont was under disputed ownership by Native Americans, Canada, Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire. New York and New Hampshire both issued land grants to settlers, sometimes the same land! England decided in 1764 that the land was New York's.

There were no armed forces from Vermont in the Revolution because there was no Vermont. Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys were Vermont men being paid by the state of New York. Vermont declared itself independent of everyone in 1777, recognized only the old land grants issued by New Hampshire, and began issuing its own grants to settlers. There was a delegation that went to Canada before the end of the Revolution in 1783 to see about becoming part of that country due to the number of English loyalists in the area, but the end of the war ended that discussion.

American Civil War Flags

Further down in this family tree, a great grandson born in 1817 in Vermont (died 1888 in Iowa) had service records attached for Civil War Service in Illinois, and Kansas, and Vermont. Clearly, he could not have been in all three places, and would have been in his late forties so this seems very unlikely, doesn't it? Just because the name is the same, you cannot assume anything. Do the research about where they were living and what units were formed in those areas at a site such as which is a fabulous repository of images and records for world wide military research.

In a serendipitous conversation with an acquaintance I learned that there was a Revolutionary War Veteran buried not far from me here in Texas. Sure enough, I found him on FindAGrave. John Abston was born in 1761 in Virginia and fought in the Battle of King's Mountain, he died in Collin County Texas in 1857. The Texas Society of the Sons of the Revolution has a website listing 59 Revolutionary War Veterans buried in Texas that includes a brief biography of each. They have also published a PDF of all of these biographies and I will include a link at the bottom of the page.

colorful book spines

This led me to wonder about other publications that might be available to shed some light on a brick wall problem, and found several sites where books can be purchased (links below) and one free site with digital books at with links to

The Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution have their own publications and online research available, links below. Be sure to check in your own locale for SAR and DAR chapters and resources.

Picture of REDBOOK genealogy reference book by Ancestry

The VERY BEST resource for researching across the United States, in case you have not already been tipped off about it, is the "Redbook" edited by Alice Eichholz Ph.D., CG. This has chapters on every state with the state's history (brief) and a breakdown of when the counties were formed, when records started being kept, what records are where, and addresses and phone numbers for the clerks in charge. It is now in its third edition, and is published by Ancestry (of course it is). It's not inexpensive ($44 on Amazon for new hardcover), but is a life saver when trying to understand why it looks like people moved, but it was only the county lines that moved. And, it looks impressive on your bookshelf!

A good genealogist knows there is a time and a place for a "quick and dirty tree" where you have not PROVED your conclusions but need clues on where to look for documentation, and the finished product that will bear up to scrutiny. A good family tree requires a knowledge of history, geography, sociology, and math (at least subtraction when figuring out ages!). Please be kind and label any incomplete online tree as "unproven" or a "guess" so as not to add to the proliferation of false information!

Cartoon hot sun of yellow orange and red

As this hot and steamy August draws to a close, I wish you good luck with your research and exciting discoveries! If I can help you I'd be glad to take a quick look and give you a free estimate (sometimes a quick free answer). Just drop me a line at and I'll try to help.

I am grateful for your continued visits and patronage!

Best regards,

Leslie Ryan

No compensation is received for any links or referrals herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

Further info about burials of Revolutionary War Vets

Sources of Books


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