How To Trace Your American Revolution Geneaolgy


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.


      If you want to trace your origins back to colonial ancestors who may have lived through the American Revolution, here is a good process to follow.

      1. Make your first step collecting information that might already be available at home. Ask relatives for their recollections and look for old letters, photos or certificates, anything that might reveal hometowns; dates of birth or marriages, or parents’ names.
      2. After you have collected as much as possible, search U.S. census data for names of people living in a household, with ages and states or countries of birth. From this, you can guess years of birth or marriages and even the places, if the census was taken near the time of the events. U.S. censuses from 1790 to 1920 are available to research on microfilm in Southern California at the regional branch National Archives, 24000 Avila Road, Laguna Niguel (see our Genealogical Libraries page).
      3. There also were censuses taken by some states between federal census years. Write to state libraries for information on availability. Some state libraries will interlibrary loan microfilm copies.
      4. Next, write to county clerks offices and state health departments for copies of your ancestors’ birth, marriage and death records. Addresses and costs are in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ pamphlet “Where to Write for Vital Records.” Check the reference area of your library for a copy.
      5. Land deeds, wills and probates are among other county records that can provide proof of relationship between individuals. When writing to a county clerk’s office, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for reply. Be as specific as possible, including the ancestor’s name, possible spelling variations of the name and the approximate year a document might have been recorded.
      6. You might also find helpful historical and genealogical societies where your ancestors lived. Addresses are in “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy,” edited by Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny.
      7. A good textbook on genealogy is Val D. Greenwood’s “The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy.” The author discusses the genealogical value of many types of records both public and private. Be sure to check your library for this and other reference books.

      You can also use DNA-testing websites such as 23andme to find ancestors who lived through the American Revolution. However, these services are not perfect, and they can be expensive.

      Also, some ancestry websites have suffered data breaches in recent years, making them a potential privacy risk.

      We recommend first using manual methods to find colonial ancestors, unless you are very short on time.

      Related posts