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 https://ct250.org/.

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).