Signers of the Declaration of Independence
On 1 July 1776, Richard Henry Lee presented to Continental Congress a resolution proposed by Virginia: 'That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.'
On 4 July 1776, by the unanimous vote of twelve colonies, Congress voted to accept the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Most delegates signed the document on August 12.
Goodrich, Charles A. Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence.
Boston, MA: Thomas Mather, 1834.
Draper, Belle Merrill, Signers of the Declaration of Independence. 1927. (The
DAR Library has a typeset copy.)
Pyne, Frederick Wallace, Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of
Independence. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, Vol. 1, 1997.
See also biographies of the individual signers.
Military service in the Revolution began, with few exceptions, with the Battle of Lexington, 19 April 1775, and ended on 26 Nov 1783. The National Society recognizes military service rendered by officers and men of the Continental Army, Navy, Marines, State and Local Militias, State Navies, the French Army and Navy, and Privateers.
A soldier is credited with the highest rank achieved during the Revolution. When proof of service with the regular forces exists, but details of the service are unknown, the man is credited as a soldier.
The Continental Army
In June 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the establishment of military companies which became the 'Line' or 'Continental Army.'
The soldiers of 1775 and 1776 are often identifiable with their place of residence. The companies were formed in the same fashion as the militia and there is a relationship between members of a company and the town, township or county from which it was drawn. By 1777 the Continental Army was composed of men from different colonies making proof of service, other than residence, necessary. Some enlistees joined regiments of states which offered the most attractive terms, bonus, or bounty land. Continental units recruited replacements in the area where the need arose. For this reason, it is necessary to identify Continental service by some other means, such as pension or bounty land claims, local histories, or depositions of persons who knew the soldier.
The Continental Navy
On 13 October 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the establishment of the Continental Navy as proposed by Rhode Island delegates. By December merchant ships had been purchased and converted to warships to protect the coasts and commercial shipping. The construction of additional ships was authorized.
The Continental Navy reached its maximum strength in 1776, but never had more than thirty ships at one time. Its purpose was to support land troops, protect the coasts, and capture enemy supply ships.
National Archives records include payrolls of the Continental Ship Confederacy 1780-1781; photocopies of rosters of the officers and crew of the Bonhomme Richard (John Paul Jones ship); the Dallas and the Vengence, 1779; photocopies of the log of the Continental Ship, Ranger, 1778-1780.
Clark, William B., ed. Naval Documents of the American Revolution.
Washington, D.C., 1964.
Kaminkow, M. and J. Mariners of the American Revolution. Baltimore, MD: Magna
Carta Book Co., 1967.
Library of Congress: Naval Records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788.
Washington, D.C., 1906.
On 10 November, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of the Marines. Never a large force, the Marines served throughout the war.
The National Archives has service records for some Marines who served during the Revolution.
State and Local Militia
Militia units were organized during the early settlement of the colonies for the protection of the colonists from Indian attacks. The militia was called for emergency duty, usually within the boundaries of the colony or state. Service may have been for a few hours or several days.
It is necessary to provide proof that the ancestor was living in the place where the militia company was formed. These companies were formed in specific towns, townships, or locations within a county. When service is claimed for a man who resided in a place different from other members of the company, specific evidence needs to be submitted to show that the claim is valid.
In July 1775, the Continental Congress authorized each colony, at its own expense, to provide armed vessels to protect its harbors and navigation of its seacoasts. Although some colonies commissioned the building of armed vessels, most state navies were composed of converted merchant ships. Their fleet size and effectiveness varied from colony to colony. New Jersey, Delaware, and Vermont did not maintain a state navy (armed vessels).
Privateers were privately-owned, armed, trading vessels, commissioned or issued letters of marque from either the Continental Congress or from the individual provisional government (sometimes by both) to capture enemy ships and goods. The bounty or prize was divided between the officers and seamen and the governing body that authorized the privateering. Bounties made privateering very profitable and provided much-needed supplies to the American forces. The Continental Congress officially authorized privateering for the war effort prior to that date.
Those persons who conducted public business under the authority of the new state governments displayed evidence of loyalty to the cause of political separation from England. Those chosen to do the work of the state are classified as civil officers.
In New England, the business of ordinary government was conducted by the town. The principal officers were selectmen and the moderator. Additional officers were added to suit the needs of the particular town. Outside New England, business was conducted in the county level, and the types of offices held varied with the needs of the counties. Some states, notably New York, used both town and county forms of government.
Applicants seeking to establish civil service for an ancestor must first prove his place of residence. If the government unit was a town, the ancestor must have lived in that town at the time the service was performed. If the unit was a county or state, he must have resided in the place where the service was rendered. It was the law in all states during the Revolution that office holders be vested in the government they served.
Civil service for the Revolutionary War period ended 16 November 1783.
Some offices classified as civil service include: state officials (other than governor and members of the legislature), county and town officers, Town Clerk, Selectman, Town Treasurer, Judge, Juror, Sheriff, Constable, Jailer, Overseer of the Roads, Justice of the Peace, etc.
Patriots of the Revolution are considered to be those men and women who, by an act or series of actions, demonstrated loyalty to the cause of American Independence from England. We depend upon recorded actions to give us an indication of patriotism. What was the purpose of the action? What were the risks? Its consequences? Answers to these questions can determine whether the action actually applied to an attempt to further the cause of independence or demonstrated loyalty to that cause.
Evidence of patriotic activity may be found in town, county, and state records. Many records kept by the states have been indexed, and often a letter to the state archives will be sufficient to determine if evidence exists to show that a person contributed supplies or made some other contribution to the war effort. Town and county records have usually not been indexed, and a personal search of town minutes and court minutes is required. Minutes of the Continental Congresses, and of most Provincial Congresses have been published. Old letters, diaries, and other family papers can often be used as evidence of patriotic intent, provided the record was made at the time of the event described.
Not all actions which illustrate patriotism are mentioned here. Many others exist. When it is considered desirable to establish another type of patriotic service, proof of the action taken must be submitted with the application paper, together with a historical justification to show that the action did, indeed, imply patriotic intent.
Committee on Correspondence appointed 2 November 1772 in Boston. This was the first Committee of Correspondence and applies only to Boston. These committees, in all of the colonies served to acquaint the population with events as they occurred.
The Provincial Congresses, State Governors, Legislators. The Provincial Congresses met in each of the colonies in 1774 and continued until the new state governments were established. Minutes have been published. We do not accept royal governors.
The First Continental Congress met 5 Sept 1774 in Carpenters Hall, Philadelphia, with delegates from each of the colonies. This became the governing body of the United States and continued to meet throughout the war. Minutes have been published.
Committees of Inspection were first formed in those colonies forced to quarter British troops. By the time of the Revolution, the committees were widespread and their activities varied.
Committees of Safety were formed about 1775. Their activities varied, but they were usually responsible for assessing danger from British troops and Tories.
The purpose of the committees and congresses was to alert the various colonies of the common danger faced by an abusive use of power by Parliament. Because members met in defiance of the King, Parliament and royal governors, they were often in danger of loss of personal liberty or life.
Signers of the Oaths of Allegiance. In 1776 the Continental Congress requested each state to take an oath of allegiance from each of its male citizens over 21 years of age in order to determine the strength of the patriot movement and to identify the loyalists. Those who took such an oath, or signed local declarations of independence from England, were guilty of treason under English law and subject to death by hanging.
Signers of Petitions to the new provincial governments and/or state governments acknowledged the new governments right to represent the people. Such petitions must demonstrate loyalty to the cause of American independence from England.
Defenders of Forts and Stations were individuals living on the frontier, from the great northern lakes to Georgia, and protecting the western frontiers against British forces and their allies, the Indians. Doctors, nurses, and others who rendered aid to the wounded (other than to their immediate families).
Ministers who gave patriotic sermons and encouraged patriotic activity.
Prisoners of War or refugees from occupying forces.
Those who rendered material aid, such a furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the colonies, munitions makers and gunsmiths.
Prisoners on the British Ship, New Jersey, and other prison ships. Since there is no positive residence or unit identification of these lists of names, applicant must supply primary documentation which will prove without a doubt that the prisoner is indeed the patriot from whom the applicant is descended.
Loyalists were those Americans who remained loyal to the Crown during the Revolution. Those individuals, also known as Tories, were opposed to the Revolution.
The colonies were administrated by royal governors appointed by the Crown. Only Governor Jonathan Trumball of Connecticut supported the Americans throughout the war. The others fled, or were deposed and replaced.
Most of the colonists loyalties were clearly divided: those who demanded that the British Parliament honor the rights granted by charter (patriots), and those loyal to the Crown (loyalists or tories).
Membership in the National Society is based on strict adherence to the cause of independence through military service in the Continental Line, state lines, militia, navy, marines, privateers, etc., Civil Service or Patriotic Service.
An application based on the service of a loyalist or tory is not acceptable.
Clark, Murtie June. Loyalists in the Southern Campaign. 3 vols. Baltimore, MD:
Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981.
Coldham, Peter W. American Loyalist Claims, Vol. 1: National Genealogical
Society, 1980. Special publication # 45.
Palmer, Gregory. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution.
London: Meckler Publishing, 1984.
Sabine, Lorenzo. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution,
2 vols. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1964.
Van Tyne, Claude Halstead. The Loyalists in the American Revolution.
Gloucester, MA: MacMillan Co., 1902, 1959.
As the colonists became increasingly hostile to the acts of the British Parliament and war seemed inevitable, loyalties were divided: many favored separation from England; others were loyal to the Crown; and still others, called Pacifists, believed that disputes between nations should and could be settled peacefully. Opposition to the war was demonstrated by refusal to participate in military action. The Pacifists, with strong moral convictions, also prevented men from taking any oaths, including Oaths of Allegiance. Some Pacifists did provide medical aid, food, or goods to the needy troops.