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Researching Ancestors who were Loyalists in the Revolutionary War: Online Resources

This guide describes the primary resources for patrons interested in researching possible Loyalist ancestors. Guide by Susan Kriete.

Primary Sources Online

Many of the most important sources of information about Loyalists have been digitized and are available online, including the following:

 

1. American Loyalist Claims, 1776-1835—freely available at National Archives of Great Britain

Description of records:

Following the American Revolution, British commissioners (the "American Loyalist Claims Commission") were appointed to examine claims of losses sustained by Loyalists during and following the war. The records of claims and cases heard by the Commission are now searchable in this database. They include books of evidence and memorials given by witnesses, accounts of losses (which can provide detail about places and possessions), evidence of claims, correspondence, indentures, and other documents collected over the course of these examinations.

Documents may mention names, residences (place and year), accounts of battles, estimates of losses, references to other documents presented in support of claims, power of attorney, and other details giving an account of both the Loyalist’s claims and life in America before and during the Revolutionary War.

The records have been arranged in two principal series designated as Audit Office 12 (Series 1) and Audit Office 13 (Series 2). Series 1 includes the minute books and reports of the Commissioners, various tables and lists of claims, claimants and decisions, as well as certain types of "evidence" received in support of claims and administrative records. Series 2 contains the memorials of claimants together with supporting documentation. This includes affidavits and depositions, originals, transcripts, and certified copies of legal documents such as property deeds and wills, correspondence, and a variety of notes compiled during the hearings or on receipt of the claims. Records closely related to these series, some of which appear to have "strayed," may be found among other Treasury records and notably in Record Group T 79.

These records provided the material for Peter Wilson Coldham's book American Migrations, 1765-1799. This title and several other abstract/indexes of these records are on the shelves in the Milstein Division and may prove useful in navigating the digitized records. The Manuscripts Division also holds the American Loyalists Collection, 1777-1790, which includes transcripts and digests from the Claims Commission Audit Office records; the finding aid may be useful for identifying relevant portions of the digitized collection.

 

List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, NYPL Digital Collections ID: 5848812

2. New York, Sales of Loyalist Land—available on-site through Ancestry Library Edition

Description of records (from Ancestry):

As the costs of the American Revolution began to mount, beginning in 1777 New York’s Provincial Congress began passing laws providing for the forfeiture of Loyalist lands. Loyalists could be found guilty of treason by trial in the Supreme Court of Judicature or they could be attainted (which stripped property rights) by the state legislature, and upon either forfeited their lands to the state. The state then sold the property to replenish its depleted coffers.

This collection contains documents relating to the sale of these lands by the state and includes deeds, descriptions and maps of property, appraisals, and contracts of sales. The process wasn’t always straightforward, as claims against the forfeitures were made by family and partners of the dispossessed landowners. In some cases, you’ll find detailed provenance for the tracts of land involved. The majority of the collection relates to forfeited lands in Albany and Tryon/Montgomery Counties.

This collection does not include property from the Southern District, which encompassed much of the New York City area and Suffolk and Westchester Counties; for these records, see The Disposition of Loyalist Estates  in the Southern District of the State of New York

 

3. List of Loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act—NYPL Manuscript Division, call number MSSColl2211 (described in more detail in NYPL's blog entry Dispossessing Loyalists and Redistributing Property in Revolutionary New York).

 

4. Haldimand Papers—freely available at Canada's Heritage website

Papers of the British Commander Frederick Haldimand documenting events in North America from the beginning of the Seven Years War to the end of the American Revolution and first settlement of Loyalists in Canada.

For help navigating this collection, researchers may want to consult the Olive Tree Genealogy blog post Finding a Loyalist in the Haldimand Papers (Loyalist Research Part 6).

For an entry point into the collection, researchers can check a name in Loyalist lists: over 2000 Loyalist names and families from the Haldimand papers, available in the Milstein Division.

 

Departure of the British troops.

5. Library and Archives CanadaLoyalist's page

Includes links to resources and databases, including two relating to African-Americans:

Image credits

List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, NYPL Digital Collections ID: 5848812

Departure of the British troops, NYPL Digital Collections ID: 808779