America250 prep: Resources on the American Revolution in Connecticut

This list will be updated. Check back for changes. I welcome suggestions and additions!


Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. The martyr and the traitor : Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. A dual biography, this text examines the Revolution and its impact from both sides.

Baker, Mark Allen. Connecticut Families of the Revolution: American Forebears from Burr to Wolcott. Charleston: The History Press, 2014. Who were the major players in Connecticut’s American Revolution? This text dives into the personal history of those who appear only by name in other texts.

Baker, Mark Allen. Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. Charleston: The History Press, 2014. A lighter adult read, Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut introduces the topic of spying during the American Revolution. The text discusses the process of spy craft, famous spies, and more.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Bushnell’s Submarine: The Best-Kept Secret of the American Revolution. N.p.: Scholastic Non-Fiction, 2006. A history of America’s first submarine, the text studies the work of a Connecticut resident. It’s a young adult text and a fairly easy read.

Mullens, Jolene Roberts. Connecticut Town Meeting Records in the American Revolution. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2011. An abstract of the town meeting minutes, this two volume set can help you discover how your ancestor was involved in their town’s governance.

Museums and Historic Sites:

Connecticut River Museum: Across the street from the site of the shipyard that built the Oliver Cromwell, the Connecticut River Museum hosts a full sized model of the Turtle.

Research and resources on Connecticut’s patriots of color

This list will be updated. Please check back for updates!

“Jack Congo,” E Pluribus Unum ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Jamie H. Eves, ““Faithfully to Serve”: Jesse & Job Leason, African American Soldiers in the Revolutionary War,” Windham Textile and History Museum ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Mary Harrell-Sesniak, “Hammet Achmet: Washington’s Waiter & Revolutionary War Patriot,” 18 February 2014, GenealogyBank ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Michelle Tom, “Glimpses of Windsor’s Black Patriots,” 30 September 2022, Windsor Historical Society ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Pauline C. Merrick, “The Real Sam Huntington: Black Governor, American Patriot,” 12 February 2022, The Atlantic Black Box Project ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Todd Jones, “Black Soldiers in the Nation’s Wars,” Salmon Brook Historical Society ( accessed 10 March 2023).

What’s America250?

April 18, 2025 marks the 250th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution. American250 is the name being used for the overarching efforts to commemorate that event. Many states have their own commissions planning local commemorations. For Connecticut, see

If you’re interested in the Revolutionary War in your community or have ancestors involved in the Revolution, it’s worth keeping an eye on the activities of America250. Some commissions are actively looking for volunteers or are still trying to decide what the commemorations should contain. As they go forward, they may be able to offer programs and resources that can help you learn more about your ancestors.

Resources for tracing patriots of color

This list is a work in progress and will continue to be updated!

Rees, John U. ‘They were Good Soldiers’: African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783. Warwick, England: Helion & Company, 2019. One of the best studies of patriots of color in recent years, the text bookends chapters on the soldiers from each state with more comprehensive surveys on the function of the Army, racism, body servants, and more.

Heinegg, Paul. List of Free African Americans in the American Revolution: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. Baltimore:Clearfield, 2021. Organized by surname, the list provides brief descriptions of what is known about each soldier with source citations.

White, David O. Connecticut’s Black Soldiers, 1775-1783. N.P.: Globe Pequot, 2017. An introduction to the service of veterans of color from Connecticut.

Why does my ancestor’s residence matter?

Most Revolutionary War companies were recruited locally. Although a regiment may have contained companies from multiple towns or counties, a company was generally organized from residents of one locale. This makes knowing your ancestor’s residence key…

Why? If your ancestor didn’t reside in the county or town from which the company was recruited, it’s unlikely the military service actually belongs to them. Same name mix ups are common with Revolutionary War service, as company records may provide no details beyond their name. The residence and name should both match your ancestor.

To determine where a company was recruited, check the residence of the officers. Since they had to organize and train the unit, they typically wanted to stick close to home while doing so. They lived where they recruited or with in a few towns.

What’s a whaleboat – and why does it matter to my Revolutionary War ancestors?

Used in whaling, a whale boat was a small vessel of about 30 ft with a crew of 6. The New Bedford Whaling Museum has an excellent description. During the American Revolution, they were used not for whaling but for raiding.

The best know examples occurred between Connecticut and Long Island. Sometimes called the Whaleboat War, this group of raids had British and Americans attacking shoreline settlements in search of supplies, reloading them into whaleboats and selling them upon return to their home locale. The Americans were well known for depriving the British Army of Long Island’s cattle herds in this way.

To learn more, Dr. Joanne S. Grasso, The American Revolution on Long Island (Charleston: History Press, 2016), 50, 51, 76.

What was the Loyalists Claims Commission?

The American Loyalists Claim Commission was a commission created by the British government to address claims of property damage by loyalists during the American Revolution. Established by act of parliament in July 1783, the commission paid out its final claims in 1789 ( Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Albert A. Knopf, 2011), 121, 142). Because of a high requirement for detailed records and legal documentation of claims, women and people of color tended to receive lower pay outs (Liberty’s Exiles, 134-135).

The records of the commission are held by the UK’s National Archives. The catalog entry for the collection can be viewed here. Records from the collection have been digitized by Ancestry and can be accessed through their “UK, American Loyalist Claims, 1776-1835,” database (subscription required).

Militia or Continental Line?

Land was the biggest driver behind your (non-officer) ancestor’s decision to serve in the militia versus on the Continental Line. In the colonies, land ownership was heavily tied to agriculture. Farming requires oversight, especially New England’s smaller farms. A farm owner would have wanted to onsite as much as possible. Militia service demanded – at most – a few months away from the farm. Continental Line service tended to require years: some served up to 6. If your ancestor was not an officer, they likely joined for the advantages of a steady paycheck and a chance to save some money in addition to patriot sentiment. Continental Line soldiers tended to be poorer than those of the militia.

This pattern tells us where to look for the records of the Revolution’s less wealthy veterans. Men of color and those white men without land tend to have served in the Continental Army. Many should be documented in muster rolls, bounty land grants, pensions, and other records of the Continental Line.

Danbury, the American Revolution, and missing Connecticut records…

If you go to review the Danbury, Connecticut records on FamilySearch , you’ll note that many of the records seem to begin in the late 18th century even though the town was settled by Europeans in 1685. There is records loss in records typically held by the town clerk. Why? According to the town clerk’s office, there was a fire in 1777.

That fire was the result of the American Revolution. In April 1777, the British marched on Danbury in hopes of attacking the military supplies stored there. When they realized they could not remove the supplies, they set them on fire – along with twenty four homes. In colonial Connecticut, the town clerk’s records were stored in the clerk’s home, which apparently was one of those burned.

So, what can you do if your ancestors were among those whose records burned? You may be able to draw some conclusions from records that did survive, but you’ll need to act as you would with a burned county in the American South. Use every available source and every available bit of evidence.

I’d like to apply to the Mayflower Society – but I have a budget. Is there anything I can do to save money?

Mayflower Society applications can get expensive. I get it. Not only are you dealing with the application fees, you may have certificate costs of several hundred dollars – and that’s before you decided to hire help from a professional genealogist.

If you have a budget, there are a few things you can do to make the process less expensive:

  1. Don’t apply on a whim: It can be easy to believe you have Mayflower ancestry simply based on the family story. Unfortunately, not all of them are true. Sometimes you’re just chasing down the wrong branch of your tree; sometimes your family has claimed someone of the same name. As most societies require a preliminary application fee, doing some advance research to ensure that your line is likely accurate can save some money.
  2. Do Mayflower Lineage Match: The Mayflower Society offers a way to check to see what information is already on file – and thus, what documents you would not need to provide again. There is a fee, but it’s equivalent to about three certificates. If it turns out someone’s already documented your entire line, it will be a big money saver.
  3. Don’t buy certified copies unless you have to. GSMD does not require certified copies. Older vital records are often available through online databases. Use Ancestry for Pennsylvania records; FamilySearch has many others.
  4. Ask questions: Sometimes you only need help with a single issue. Ask – and be up front about budget. For short questions, a historian may be able to assist or refer you to a professional. (If it will only take me a few minutes to answer an email, I can often answer a quick question for free.)

Happy hunting!