Posted in History, Military, War of 1812, Websites

200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

Today we commemorate a big day in history. Betcha didn’t know!   This month War of 1812 databases are available for free at, so check them out. If you find the Fold3 is a website you like, you can access it for free at your local LDS Family History Center .

Here is a re -post from the Newsletter regarding the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, by Michael J. Leclerc. There is more information about him on the APG website.

War of 1812 Ancestors

By Michael J. Leclerc

Monday, June 18, marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. The bicentennial is being marked with much fanfare in Washington and elsewhere around the country.

The War of 1812 was the first time the United States officially declared war (although the Quasi-War with France and the first Barbary War preceded it, there were no official declarations of war in those instances). The War of 1812 was vehemently opposed by the New England states, who feared the damage that would come to their merchant fleets. Indeed, the War of 1812 had more official political opposition than any other war through the end of the twentieth, including the Vietnam War. Despite this, and the fact that our national anthem was written at the Battle of Baltimore near the end of the war, Americans don’t know much about it.

One of the major problems leading to the war was Britain’s attacks on U.S. ships. The Royal Navy would board American ships, ostensibly looking for escaped British sailors. In reality, they would look for any able seaman and impress him into the Royal Navy. Lists of these impressed seamen can be found at NARA. Because of this problem, Congress approved the issuing of Seamen’s Protection Certificates, which can also be helpful.

The U.S. Navy played a key role in the War of 1812. Because of this, many of the males who served during the war were younger. Anyone who has visited U.S.S. Constitution in Boston knows that ships of that era had small lower decks. Boys were able to scramble around these smaller spaces more quickly than grown adults. Keep this in mind as you examine your family for people who might have served during the war. Males ranging in age from 12 to their 20s are good candidates to have served.

Many of the veterans received bounty land. Until 1842, most of this land was within the present-day boundaries of Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. If you have ancestors who appeared in those areas before 1850, check to see if they received bounty land. The land grants may give you further clues as to where your ancestor originally came from.

The National Archives has a page dedicated to resources to help you research your War of 1812 ancestors. For those of you who can get to Boston, I strongly recommend a visit to U.S.S. Constitution to see what life was like for her crew during the war. The oldest commissioned warship in existence, she celebrates her 215th anniversary in 2013. Each year on July 4th, she takes a cruise through Boston harbor. A contest is held each year for the public to ride during the turnaround cruise (called that because the ship returns to her berth in the opposite position from when she started so that she will weather evenly on both sides).

Posted in History, Homestead Act of 1862, Research tips, Websites

150-year Anniversary of the Homestead Act

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act—one of the most significant influences on the growth of the western United States in history.  The Homestead Act was an act of Congress that allowed individuals over 21—men, women, or freed slaves—to claim 160 acres in the Public Domain at no cost.  The only requirement after filing a claim was to live on the land for five years, build a home, cultivate the land, and make improvements.  At the end of  five years the settler could “prove up” his claim at the nearest land office and become the legal owner.  Approximately 10% of the United States land mass was settled this way, and over 4 million settlers applied.  Of course, only about 1.6 million (40%) successfully met the requirements and fulfilled their claims, for a variety of reasons.

Genealogists love the Homestead Act because it produced voluminous land-entry case files packed with personal information about claimants. They generally range in size from 8-25 pages. Regardless of whether or not a claimant was successful, the application files still exist and those are what we seek. These files are housed at the National Archives but are in the process of being digitized through a joint project of FamilySearch, The University of Nebraska, NARA, and  Right now they are about 39% complete.

For text of the Homestead Act, history,  photos, maps, and sample file documents check out the websites below.

Here is a link to the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Nebraska, site of one of the very first Homestead claims:

And here is a link to the Bureau of Land Management’s commemoration site:

The Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) website has an index to many of the homestead records:


The actual files can be ordered from the National Archives website using the information obtained in the BLM index above:  click on “Order reproductions”

Most people do not realize there were many more Acts of Congress that provided settlers with a way to obtain land.  A timeline on the BLM website lays it all out:|02_Public_Lands_History

One interesting little factoid is the politics surrounding the Homestead Act of 1862.  As you will recall, the Civil War started in 1861.  By 1862 the Southern States had seceded and had no representation in the United States Congress.  Prior to 1861 there had been several attempts to pass legislation such as the Homestead Act, but it was controversial because of clashing ideologies between North and South.  The Northerners envisioned states where all were free to stake a claim and farm their own land, whereas the Southerners wanted to preserve the plantation/slave economy in the new states that would be created.  This was an impasse that prevented any kind of land Act, and Congress seized upon the opportunity first chance they had in May of 1862.  The Homestead Act officially began at midnight on 1 Jan 1863.

Happy Trails!  And Happy 150th  Birthday Homestead Act!