Friday 24 August 2012

The War of 1812 - from the British side

Today is the anniversary of day the British Army marched into Washington DC and burned a lot of it, including the White House. The War of 1812 is an important milestone in American history, but doesn't f eature so prominently on this side of the Atlantic (sorry USA, but Britain was more concerned with the Napoleon, the enemy on the doorstep).

Proper historians in the USA, Canada and the UK have researched the events of 1812-1815 and written plenty of books about it. I can't compete with them, but a couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about some of the records of the war that can help genealogists. To be more precise, I was talking about records held in The National Archives, and there are lots of them, including plenty about the men who fought on the American side, not just the British.

The podcast of the talk was uploaded to the website earlier today - how's that for timing? I illustrated it with some documents, including the one below, the service of record of John Adams, an American from Philadelphia who served in the British Army.

From his physical description (on the second extract) it looks as though he was an African American. There are a few more of these, but most of the records relating to Americans are about the several thousand who were taken prisoner. Most of these are lists of names, some with more detail than others. This one is a list of American prisoners who were fever patients, taken from a Royal Navy surgeon's journal.

In a few cases you might find a detailed account of a poor American soldier or sailor who was not only unlucky enough to be captured, but was sick as well.

Many American genealogists are unaware of these records, but when they do see them they are pretty impressed. Better still, the names of the American prisoners from 1812 to 1815 are name-indexed, although unfortunately the index is not online. Oh well, maybe one day.


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