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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 24 June 2012, page B3

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Finding Records for the War of 1812

Many of us have ancestors who played a role in the War of 1812, but finding their service records can be a challenge. By the time the U.S. declared war on Britain, Congress had authorized a volunteer force of 50,000 men supplemented by 35,925 regular army troops and 100,000 militia men.

To encourage volunteers, each was promised bounty land of 160 acres for his family if he was killed in the line of duty. The regular army and volunteers never reached the total authorized. By the end of the war, 286,730 men had served for varying times from less than six months to the duration of the war with only 2,260 battle casualties. This total includes state militias also.

It is said that the total militia forces exceeded 100,000 due to short terms of duty and the same men coming and going more than once during the term of the war. A militia man had to furnish his own gun, a hardship for many. They often refused to cross into enemy territory and were ill equipped to fight - most lacked formal training. These state militia forces were the forerunners of today’s National Guard.

Militia records are usually found today in state or local archives. My ancestor Myron Bly served twice in the Chautauqua County, New York militia, from 20 December 1813 to 3 February 1814 and for an indeterminate time starting in August 1814. I found his records at the Chautauqua County Historical Society in Westfield.

Records for men who served in the regular or volunteer forces can be searched at, free during the month of June, and include four record groups as follows: has War of 1812 Service Records, a collection of military service records of men mustered into the American armed forces between 1812 and 1815 taken from records in the National Archives includes the soldier's name, company, rank at time of induction and rank at time of discharge.

Ancestry also has the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815 of pensions applied for and granted to veterans or their survivors. The index includes the name of the veteran, name of widow (if she applied), pension claim or file number, and service type or organization.

To find other records at the National Archives, some available on microfilm, see Military Resources: War of 1812 online at

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