Find your Revolutionary War Soldier in the Georgia Militia Records

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

Pictured is St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish fort was abandoned ca 1742 by the Spanish conquistadors. Afterwards, it was essentially populated by the British, French and local Indian tribes. There are several old cemeteries, including an Indian burial ground, which are available for public viewing. During the Revolutionary War, the Red Coats (British) established a prison in the downtown area. Presumably, those prisoners taken at the Siege of Charleston and Siege of Savannah were taken there. The sign in the public square relates how because the vast sea which separated them from land, the American officers were free to walk about.

During the Revolutionary War, the Loyalists and Rebels were at odds. Even neighbors and friends. An interesting account was discovered in the voluminous record of Military Affairs in Georgia dating between 1775-1793.

On 8 June 1775 John Murray (a Loyalist) of Christ Church Parish gave an affidavit stating that he was taken prisoner on 8 September 1780 on his passage by water from St. Augustine, Florida and thereafter put onboard the “Languedoes”, a French Man of War commanded by Count D’Estaign. While onboard, he discovered John Glen, an attorney formerly of Savannah, Georgia. Murray expressed his wish to Glen that he would be merciful and use gentle and lenient measures towards the friends of the Government, to which Mr. Glen replied “that it was not now a time to use gentle and moderate measures, but to make reprisals and retaliate for the injuries which had been done to their persons and their properties.” Members of the Georgia Pioneers website may view this depostion here

For those who are searching out ancestors, whether Loyalists or Rebels, the Military Affairs of Georgia 1775-1793 (on the Georgia Pioneer website under Georgia/Military) offers some pretty dynamic information concerning those fighting in the Georgia Militia of the period. The data contains regimental lists, correspondence, payrolls, Minutes of the Ccouncil dealing with individuals, and some letters regarding the Cherokees and Creeks. It provides more insight into the struggle for independence and names of Minute Men and other regiments fighting under the emblem of the local Militia. Tip: If you did not find your Revolutionary War soldier in the Continental Army, you will probably find him in the Militia.


Who were the "Blue Bloods?"

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

In England, aristocrats maintained their status using dress and mannerisms. Status interferred with persons ever rising above one’s birth and was one of the reasons that commoners left the country to come to the plantations. For example, although the gentry (tradesmen) rose up in wealth, they had limitations, and America offered opportunity.

The term “aristocrat” refers colloquially to persons who inherit social status whether due to membership in the official nobility or the monied upper class. During 1834 Blue blood was an English idiom noble birth or descent. The idiom originates from the ancient and medieval societies of Europe and distinguishes an upper class. Ironically, the blue blood vessels of the upper non-working class appeared through their untanned skin! Actually, according to Robert Lacey, it was the Spaniards who provided the notion that the blood of an aristocrat was not red, rather blue.

Be that as it may, many Americans have a smidget of that blue blood in their DNA and can trace their lineage to King Edward I of England via certain noble houses of Europe. The key is to locate the port where the emigrant sailed from and search the parish records there and then pay close attention to all of the names in a family and who they married. In England, the parish registers go back to early 1500. Also, there is a rich history of the English monarchs which includes their noble families and other relatives. Lots of history to read, yet so worth it!

Traced Virginia Families

Native Americans and Scots in the Revolutionary War

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

During the Revolutionary War, the British convinced the tribes in the northern colonies to attack and kill white settlers. The British wore the red uniform; therefore, enemies of that uniform were easily spotted. Some Cherokees warriors, frustrated by losing land to white people, defied the authority of older chiefs and attacked frontier settlements, but were soundly defeated by expeditions of the militia from Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. However, in the Northern colonies, the New England Indians volunteered as minutemen for the patriots before the fighting began and joined the Army of George Washington at the siege of Boston, thereafter serving in New York, New Jersey, and Canada. The Mohawk Indians, led by Joseph Brant split the confederacy by fighting for the British troops and were eventually joined by the Cayugas, Onondagas and Senecas.

However, the Presbyterian missionary, Samuel Kirkland, was persuasive in convincing the Oneidas and Tuscaroras to side with the Americans. Ultimately, the American Revolution became a civil war for the Iroquois, as Oneidas clashed with Senecas at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777. Two years later, General John Sullivan burned forty Iroquois towns and crops. I have often wondered about the British persuaded Native Americans to fight on their side. Perhaps the British supplied them weapons.

Loyal to the British, were the Scots. Oddly, the Scots supported the Stuart kings against England and later fled to America because of frequent excursions with the British. Just before the Revolutionary War, a huge migration of the Macdonalds went to Moore County, North Carolina where, while onboard a vessel, sent a message to the governor requesting a large land grant (granted). In Georgia, it was the highlanders who settled Darien that were Loyalists, and ran supplies to the British. The settlers in North Carolina and Georgia knew the identify of those who sided with the British. They lived amongst them. After the war, the Macdonalds returned to Scotland, and those in Darien were named on traitor lists. Georgia Pioneers has a list of the Scottish estates confiscated in Georgia. While some Loyalists returned to England, more went to Nova Scotia and South Florida. A review of old colonial deeds and wills reveals that certain Georgia settlers had sugar plantations in Barbadoes and there was a Scotland district in Barbadoes.

Barbadoes Records

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How Colonials Built Savannah, Georgia

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

Pictured is an old section of Savannah which faces River Street. The first vessels docked in the Savannah River, and settlers walked up the hill into the city.

The old records of Chatham County, Georgia survived and were preserved. Today, they are located in storage off-site; should you travel to Savannah, you will need several days to await for the (selected) records to be transported to the court house.

The first will to be record was of Button Gwinnett in 1777. Gwinnett was shot in a duel with General Lachlan McIntosh. The two were at political odds, both wishing to lead the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. Gwinnett was shot in the leg and returned home where he died three days later.

The old wills are wonderful because they provide much detailed family information, and one frequently learns of other relatives in England and other countries. I have to tell you - a typical old will written in colonial days in Savannah was 50 pages or more. That is because of the books which they kept entailing the great expense of establishing their plantations. It is easy to see that each colonial planter was a small business enterprise and required a lot of work and effort. Georgia Pioneers has images of Chatham County Wills from 1777-1861. Also, an alphabetical card index file abstracting the names of all wills and estates. Collection at Georgia Pioneers

An interesting source of old collected newspapers, diaries and such can be found at the Savannah Historical Society on Bull Street. Most of their collection is not found elsewhere. While I was there, I read the old newspapers wherein they excavated the grave of Chief Tomochichi in one of the Savannah squares. The story is that Tomochichi was a good friend of General Oglethorpe and asked to be buried there. They proved the burial, finding a tomahawk, etc.

Records after the First Shot, and Beyond

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

The first shot announcing the American Revolutionary War was on April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington. Suffice it to say that there was a broad Continental Army. However, State Militia soldiers also fought this battle. Georgia Pioneers has just added the Georgia Militia Records dating from 1774-1838 (also indexed so you can go directly to the data). This record should be used by all genealogists searching for veterans of Revolutionary War Soldier in Georgia. All adult males were required to belong to the local Militia. These same units were engaged in many battles of the war, including Indian wars. That means that you may expect to locate ancestors born as early as 1729 to 1760. Also, during the War of 1812, Georgians fought the battle with the various Indian tribes, all the way into Alabama and the last battle at Fort Bowyer, a small a structure of wood and sand which defended against two British attacks, one in September of 1814, again in February of 1815. That makes this index and the information more valuable because of the possibility of finding those ancestors who fought in the Indian Wars of that period.

One of the most difficult quests is to locate the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Soldiers who were part of the militia armies. This is exciting record is available to members of Georgia Pioneers and (after logging in) may be viewed here

Coming next! The complete record of “Military Affairs 1775=1793” which includes such jewels as letters of revolutionary soldiers to the Adjutent General, details of battles and persons, etc.

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