Genealogically Speaking: The War of 1812


a featured article by Derek Davey

 

 

The War of 1812 is referred to by many as our Second War for Independence. For the genealogist it provides another source for family history information during a period of time in our country’s early history that generally lacks good data.

 

As the western edge of civilization at this time, Ohio was the site of many important battles. Recent settlers defended their land against both Native American and British forces. Survival skills gained by early settlers—fighting a harsh environment and wielding a gun—played an important role in minimizing the duration of the war.

Northeast Ohio and the area around Cincinnati were important areas for recruitment for militia. Soldiers were organized by the U.S. government from local units originally created to defend against the local native population. Service tended to be short term and men had several short stints of service. They were called up when a threat was apparent or a campaign was being organized. Men were also organized into federal units that primarily occupied the forts that were created during this period.

 

A series of trails and forts were created in the state to help defend the frontier. The trails would become important routes of migration and trade in later years. For example, a trail ran from Cleveland down through Fremont and then to Perrysburg, where Ft. Meigs was located. This was a very big fort for its day and played an important part in the war. From here you could go further west down the Maumee River to Ft. Wayne or directly north along the western half of Lake Erie to Detroit. The route between Cleveland and Perrysburg would become Route 20 in Ohio and the northern route followed closely I-75 up to Detroit from Toledo.

 

From Cincinnati a trail was made that reached all the way to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, a major trading post at the time. All along this trail, a series of blockhouses were built that would provide protection for troops during potential Native American attacks. The locations of many of these outposts would later become towns.

 

In northwest Ohio, the Black Swamp acted as a barrier from the east and the south. Troop movement in this area was difficult. There was really no good time of the year to travel through this area. In the rainy season you had to travel through several feet of water along with large swarms of mosquitoes. In the winter, a solid sheet of ice ran for miles. This was a major reason for the direction of the trails created during this time. The Black Swamp also created a need for very hardy soldiers.

 

Finding Your Solider

 

How can you determine whether your ancestor served in the War of 1812? This war tended to accept a much larger age group for service. Check for those who lived in the area that were between the age of 18 and 50. Remember men were in short supply in the frontier so everyone was needed.

 

The Ohio Historical Society has a searchable War of 1812 Roster of Ohio Soldiers, which lists all soldiers who fought in this war. Ohio furnished 1,759 Officers and 24,521 enlisted men for this war, representing 10% of Ohio’s total population. The Roster can be searched by first and last name. Members and officers of a unit are identified. If it’s known what part of the state the unit was from, it is identified.

 

A microfilmed index to service records for soldiers and sailors can be found at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) (M-602, 234 rolls). This listing is for volunteers. Actual service records are currently in the process of being filmed. The records for the Regular army are in “Registers of Enlistment in the US Army 1798-1914” (NARA M223, 81 rolls). In the index, you will find name, rank, organization of unit, dates he was mustered in and out and the state from which he served. 

 

Pension records can be found in two places:

  • The “Old Wars” series covers death and disability claims (covered under special Congressional acts) for service during the entire period. The records are organized alphabetically and there is an index (NARA, T-316, 7 rolls). Included is the name, rank, military or naval unit and period of service. If the person applied for a pension, it will include age or date of birth, residence and sometimes place of birth. When a widow applied for a pension it shows her age, place of marriage to the veteran and maiden name. If the veteran left orphans, the names of the children, ages, and place of their residence will be listed.
  • The “The War of 1812 series” (NARA, M-602, 234 rolls) resulted from Congressional acts passed in 1871 and 1878. Due to the late passage of these benefits, most the people affected had passed on. Included in these records is a subseries that includes death and disability claims as well as bounty land warrants. This makes this source a valuable item due to the increased amount of soldiers covered and closeness to the actual war. The soldier’s information included in this file shows name, age, place of residence, if married, maiden name of wife, place and date of marriage, rank, military or naval unit, date and place of entering the service and date and place of discharge. The widow’s declaration includes name, age and place of residence of the widow, date and place of marriage, name of official conducting the ceremony, date and place of the veteran’s death, his rank, his military or naval unit, the date and place of his entering the service, and the date and place of discharge. This series is indexed on Ancestry.

 

Bounty land records are the final piece of War of 1812 documentation. For those who may have had family that relocated to the territories of Missouri or Illinois where the bounty land was given, this information is very important. The normal amount was 160 acres. Unlike other wars, land grants were awarded from War of 1812 service could not be sold. This will help in understanding the migration pattern and hopefully will move you on to your next step in your genealogical research. Find War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858 (NARA M-848, 14 rolls) indexed on Ancestry.com

 

 

Derek S. Davey has been helping people discover their heritage for more than 15 years. He specializes in the upper Midwest region, including migration patterns. Find him at DerekDavey.com; follow his “Genealogy: Northeast Ohio” blog at neohiogenealogy.blogspot.com.

 

© Derek Davey 2012

This article originally appeared in the June issue of The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.