Thursday, December 23, 2010

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers.

War Office 28, Regimental Headquarters Papers
Swain Report Special, Installment 1

This post begins a special installment of the Swain Report series: while most of David Swain's reports have provided a general finding aid to the collections they cover, this series constitutes a full catalog of all items in the War Office 28 microfilm rolls held by DLAR. The miscellaneous nature of the documents, which seem to be leftover returns and correspondence from British and Royal Provincial regiments in Canada, make composing a standard finding aid difficult. A full catalog is necessary for fully realizing the importance of these documents, which help to fill in the gaps left by other collections and provide important insights into the daily minutiae of military life, and to make them more user-friendly for researchers. We are very thankful that David has undertaken this intensive task, which has already revealed a number of interesting documents that might otherwise have been lost in the shuffle.



British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 2 (Reel 1)

by David Swain

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels, as follows:

28.2 Letters, returns, etc (reel 1, 176 documents)
28.3 Letters, returns, etc. continued (reel 2)
28.4 Butler’s Rangers, Canadian fencibles, Royal Highland Emigrants or 84 Foot, Jessup’s Rangers (reel 3)
28.5 Royal Regiment of New York, Rogers’ King’s Rangers, Barrack Master General’s Department (reel 3, reel 4)
28.6 Engineers; garrison returns; General Hospital Department (reel 5)
28.7 Montreal; ordnance; Quartermaster-General’s Department; St. Johns; Sorel (reel 5, reel 6)
28.8 Three Rivers, petitions and memorials; Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (reel 6)
28.9 Miscellaneous letters, memorials, order books, etc. (reel 7)
28.10 Miscellaneous returns etc. (reel 8)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Patron's Perspective: Larry Kidder on the New Jersey Militia

Today's entry was contributed by Larry Kidder, a regular Library patron and teacher at the Hun School in Princeton. Larry details his experiences in recovering the experiences of New Jersey's militia during the Revolution and shows the role that research plays in public historical interpretation.


Researching New Jersey Militia: Lessons Learned and Avenues Opened

by Larry Kidder

Up until about six months ago my research interests had focused on the Continental Line and I was pretty comfortable with techniques to investigate both individual soldiers and units. Taking on a project involving the New Jersey militia to obtain background information for a new interpretive program being developed by Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell caused me to rethink how to use well-known tools in new ways. My first attempts to investigate the company commanded by Henry Phillips of Hopewell Township in the First Hunterdon Regiment led me to doubt that I was going to find very much. However, with Librarian Kathie Ludwig’s encouragement, help and advice I began to make some breakthroughs and consequently I have become very excited about this research project.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Timothy Bedel Papers and Andrew Park Pamphlet Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 18

The Timothy Bedel Papers and Andrew Park Pamphlet

by David Swain


In the wilds of the Canadian woods, near the St. Laurence River, the fledgling American Continental army, having taken possession of Montreal and seeking to subdue Quebec, sustained a small but psychologically painful defeat in May 1776. The Cedars was a Continental military outpost between Montreal and Quebec. When a small British force surprised its defenders, the officer in charge surrendered his force of over 400 men. Timothy Bedel, commander of the post’s force, was absent at the time but was court-martialed anyway. Andrew Parke was a lieutenant in the British contingent that “conquered” the post.

This report summarizes two related microfilm collections in the David Library. One is the Timothy Bedel Papers, which include little about The Cedars disaster itself but much on other aspects of Bedel’s extraordinary life, as well as the lives of certain of his correspondents. The second is a political pamphlet published in 1777, written partly by Andrew Parke, that provides information and perspective on both The Cedars encounter leading to the American surrender and the subsequent exchange of prisoners.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

William Greene Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 17

The William Greene Papers 

by David Swain


William Greene (1743-1826) was a member of the large and prominent Greene family of Rhode Island—and only a distant relative to General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) of Revolutionary War fame. Still, William’s father was named Nathaniel Greene (1707-1768), and William signed his name “William Greene, son of Nathaniel.”

He had reason to do so because both he and another almost contemporaneous Colonel William Greene (1764-1829) were both merchants in East Greenwich, RI. This other William served during the Revolutionary War as commander of the Kentish Guards, an independent company of volunteer militia in East Greenwich. From the sparse information available, it appears that Colonel William did not see direct action during the Revolution, nor did his military career cross paths with that of General Nathanael—or that of yet another Greene, Colonel Christopher Greene (1737-1781), who did play an active military role with the First Rhode Island Regiment.

The original papers of all four of these Greenes reside at the Rhode Island Historical Society library. The David Library has microfilmed copies of three of these—the papers of Nathanael Greene, Christopher Greene, and the William Greene who did not serve in the military at all, whose papers are the subject of this report.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The James Grant of Ballindalloch Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 16

Library Volunteer and Research Assistant David Swain spent most of August and September carefully sifting through the James Grant Papers, creating one of the most detailed finding aids to date for this important series of documents. James Grant was one of the foremost British professional soldiers of the second half of the eighteenth century, having served in America during the French and Indian War and again during the Revolution. His papers contain a wealth of material for a variety of research interests, ranging from the institutional operations of the British Army to civil government during the era of the Imperial Crisis, when Grant was governor of Florida. David's report is attached below in .pdf format due to its size. Please contact me if you have any problems accessing the document, and our thanks, as always, to David for his essential and invaluable work in improving access to our collections.

Will Tatum

James Grant of Ballindalloch Papers

by David Swain


James Grant was born into relative wealth and high class in the family’s Ballindalloch Castle in Banffshire, Scotland in 1720. He died there 86 years later in 1806. Grant never married and had no children. After both his brother Alexander and Alexander’s son William (James’ nephew) had died by 1770, James became laird of the family castle. Grant always remained a Scotsman and a Britisher. Although he spent considerable time in North America and in the West Indies, as a part of a long, illustrious military career, he never contemplated becoming an American resident or, God forbid, citizen.

The microfilmed James Grant of Ballindalloch papers contain selected items from the Grant Family Papers still owned by members of the family. The selected documents, which pertain to Grant’s life in America, and which are contained on 49 reels, were microfilmed in 2001, with only four sets made, one kept at Ballindalloch Castle, one at the National Archives of Scotland, one in the US Library of Congress, and one held by a private foundation. Recently, the David Library negotiated successfully to purchase a fifth set of the microfilmed Grant’s papers pertaining to America. Researchers are indebted indeed to Grant’s habit of corresponding extensively over many years, and to the care he and his descendents took to retain, preserve, and organize the voluminous papers of Grant’s career and personal life.

The Grant Papers Finding Aid in PDF format

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Merits of Muster Rolls

Veteran British Army Researcher and Library Patron Don Hagist writes in with a commentary on muster rolls, a class of document that features significantly in the Library's collections. Muster rolls for British, Loyalist, Congressional, and German units may be found in both our microfilm and printed collections by searching our catalog at, or reviewing the list of microfilms on the same site.

Will Tatum

The Merits of Muster Rolls

by Don Hagist

Literature on the campaigns of the American Revolution is replete with data on the strengths of the armies involved, expressed in terms of hundreds or thousands of men. Missing from these numbers is the realization that they represent individuals, each with a name, personality and set of circumstances that put him in the army at the time of interest. While we will probably never know the full story of all of them, it is actually not difficult to learn the names of most of them - and the names are the gateway to finding additional information.

For soldiers in the British army, the names of each man in each regiment were recorded twice a year on documents called muster rolls. These rolls were prepared with the ultimate goal of reconciling money. They record the names of the men in each company of each regiment for each half-year period and include the dates of any changes that affected the man's status as a paid soldier during that period: the date he joined the company, changes in rank, and the date that he left the company due to transfer, discharge, desertion or death. Copies of the rolls were sent to the War Office in London, and survive today in the British National Archives.

The David Library has acquired copies of the rolls of several regiments, and possesses the single largest collection of British muster rolls in the United States. These rolls are a rich resource on the British army that has only just begun to be tapped by researchers. Besides the obvious value to genealogists and historians trying to trace the service of individuals, the muster rolls reveal a great deal about the internal workings of British regiments and give valuable insight on their operational capability.

A straightforward example is an event that preceded the war itself, the Boston Massacre in March 1770. Because the British soldiers involved were put on trial, we know their names. Were these men new recruits with little military experience or seasoned soldiers who could be expected to keep their cool under pressure? The muster rolls allow us to trace their individual careers before the event and answer these questions. They also allow us to follow their subsequent service to see what effect their trial might have had on their military careers.

On a larger scale, we can study the juxtaposition of events such as the expedition to Lexington and Concord in April 1775, and the Battle of Bunker Hill two months later. Many of the same British companies, the light infantry and grenadiers, took heavy casualties in each of these actions. Could the casualties from the April action have influenced the performance of the British forces in the second action? Were men transferred within the regiment after 19 April to bring the light infantry and grenadier companies up to strength, resulting in a companies of men who had not worked together for very long? Or were the companies that went into action at Bunker Hill under-strength? Muster rolls provide answers to these questions.

During the course of the war, attrition caused losses in strength, losses that were restored by transferring experienced soldiers and recruiting new ones. How many British soldiers were discharged from a regiment each year? How many died, and how many deserted? How frequently did new recruits arrive, and how were they distributed within the regiment? How many experienced men were transferred in from other regiments? When corps such as the 23rd and 33rd Regiments of Foot charged Continental troops who heavily outnumbered them at the battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781, what portion of them were veterans of other campaigns and what portion were new soldiers? How long had those new soldiers been in America? What was the real rate of desertion from a British regiment, and were deserters more likely to be new recruits or long-serving soldiers? Muster rolls provide answers to these questions.

Muster rolls can be challenging to use because of the time required to assimilate the information that they contain. The resultant information, however, is extraordinarily useful in providing texture to the otherwise-hollow numbers often used to characterize the army. The collection of British army muster rolls at the David Library is a remarkable resource for making new contributions to our understanding of the regular soldiers who formed the backbone of the British army during the eight-year conflict in America.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

Monday, August 16, 2010

William Jackson Papers; Samuel Benjamin Papers; Joseph Bellamy Papers; George Panton Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 15

William Jackson Papers; Samuel Benjamin Papers;
Joseph Bellamy Papers; George Panton Papers

by David Swain

Introductory Information and Comparative Observations

This report includes information on four relatively small microfilmed manuscript collections recently acquired by the David Library from the Yale University Library. They are diverse entries into the big book of Revolutionary War era history, although they share a few interesting commonalities. Two served in the military, but the other two did not (although one of these did briefly—on the British side). Two were clergymen who spent much of their adult lives preaching the Gospel (although one was Congregational and passively chose the American side in the revolutionary conflict, while the other was Anglican and actively chose the British side).

-- The first collection (Jackson) tells of a patriot military staff officer and later civilian civil servant who was in the right place at the right time to meet and correspond with important people in high places—and to serve as secretary for the Constitutional Convention.

-- The second (Benjamin) tells of a military line soldier who served in the Continental Army from beginning to end of the Revolutionary War.

-- The third (Bellamy) tells of a Congregational minister active in the Great Awakening movement, who was a friend and colleague of Jonathan Edwards, and who was never actively involved in secular public affairs.

-- The fourth (Panton) tells of an Anglican priest who was organizationally active in the Anglican Church in America, vocally and actively a loyalist who lived out the war in New York, and in a small way involved in the British/loyalist military effort, only to move after the war to Nova Scotia and later “home” to Scotland.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joseph Palmer Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 14

Joseph Palmer Papers

by David Swain

Biographical information and context of the Papers

Joseph Palmer (1716-1788) seems to have held a number of prominent public positions (or at least to have been directly involved in public affairs) during the Revolutionary War period at the town level (Braintree), county level (Suffolk), and “province” level (Massachusetts Bay). Evidently he was an attorney because “Esq.” usually follows his name on addresses. He also served as Colonel and then Brigadier General of the Suffolk County Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia. He seems to have been entrusted, during his public service, with the drafting of a number of public documents. At least this is the impression gained from perusing his papers, as microfilmed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. The papers also include some correspondence (notably from Benjamin Lincoln and Thomas Legate concerning military matters).

This collection of microfilmed manuscript documents may be of most interest to those seeking information on how logistics of the Revolutionary War were planned and carried out, especially from a state and local militia perspective. While the documents have no collective continuity, they offer multiple snapshots during a short and crucial period of American Revolutionary history during which high-level citizen-militia officers were trying to deal with the myriad details of how to recruit, equip, supply, train, and move a citizen army.

These documents of Brigadier Joseph Palmer present a startling contract with the diaries of common soldier Ebenezer Wild, also of Braintree, MA (whose papers are reviewed in another report), who marched and marched as a Massachusetts Bay militia man in the Continental Army from 1775 to 1781. Palmer’s view was distinctly top-down, while Wild’s was decidedly bottom-up, and they played very different roles in the same war.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Henry Knox Papers II Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 13

Henry Knox papers II

by David Swain

Introductory Information

The Henry Knox Papers II are only a part of the papers of Henry Knox housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society:

-- The Henry Knox Papers owned by the New England Historic Genealogical Society and deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society consist of a 55 reel microfilm collection, of which the David Library owns a complete copy.

-- The Henry Knox Papers III consist of a yet unfilmed manuscript collection held only by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

-- The Henry Knox Papers II, with whose contents we are concerned here, are partially microfilmed, and the David Library owns a microfilm copy of all the items that have been microfilmed. These include two reels of recent acquisitions containing the Diary (part of the Revolutionary War papers) and the Waste Book and Letterbook (part of the Bookseller papers), plus three reels of orderly books (part of the Revolutionary War papers), previously acquired and catalogued by the David Library in a separate microfilm collection titled Revolutionary War Orderly Books.
The entire Papers II collection is organized as follows:
                   I. Personal papers, 1736-1803

                   II. Professional papers, 1771-1823
                                A. Revolutionary War papers, 1775-1781
                                B. United States War Office papers, 1786-1790
                                C. Bookseller papers, 1771-1823

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Abraham Whipple Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 12

Abraham Whipple Papers

by David Swain

Background Information

Abraham Whipple (1733-1819) was a native Rhode Islander and a “native” seafarer. Early in life he sailed on merchantmen, captaining a ship for wealthy Providence merchants and slave traders Moses and John Brown in the West Indies trade. During the French and Indian War, he turned to privateering, at which he was enormously successful (and lucky), capturing 23 French ships during one particularly lucrative six-month period.

By 1772, he had changed the country whose shipping he hunted from France to England—and, in the process became an early revolutionary patriot. In June 1772, he and John Brown led a party who burned the grounded British revenue cutter Gaspée off of Warwick, RI. The Gaspée had been chasing an American packet boat, seeking to enforce British customs collection and cargo inspection laws. Thus, the act of arson was recognized as a politically defiant, even revolutionary act.

In 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly decided to take direct action against the British Frigate HMS Rose, which had been “interfering” with Rhode Island trade. It chartered two sloops to do the job, the Katy, owned by John Brown, and the Washington. Abraham Whipple was made captain of the Katy and commodore of the fleet of two. This “Rhode Island Navy” promptly captured the Rose.

As the US Navy began to be created in late 1775, the Katy became one of its first ships, renamed the Providence (a modern replica now floats by the quay in downtown Providence) Whipple also joined the nascent navy as captain of another ship, the USS Columbus. Both ships participated in a 1776 raid on the British military garrison at Nassau, Bahamas, successfully seizing supplies badly needed by the Americans.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

William Panton, John Leslie & Company Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 11

William Panton, John Leslie & Company Papers

by David Swain

Introductory Information

The University of West Florida has conducted an exhaustive research and archiving project among dozens of sources to collect, abstract, catalog, and microfilm huge quantities of documents and document copies pertaining to the operation of Panton, Leslie & Company. They have accumulated research documents that fill 525 reels of microfilm (MF 1986-10). Over 10,000 documents were selected from the much larger research collection, of which 8,357 (having received owner authorization) were abstracted and microfilmed separately. The David Library owns the 26 reels of these selected microfilmed documents and their abstracts, which are organized in chronological order (MF 946). The first 12 reels cover the years 1739 through 1800, within the time period of the David Library’s particular interest.

Note that this review pertains to only reels 1 through 12 and the time period 1739 through 1800.

Rather than consisting of a large set of business and accounting papers (although some of these are included), the contents of this collection tell a story of high intrigue and human (and political) drama. They include a great variety of papers, including government documents and letters (in both English and Spanish), personal and business correspondence, a variety of business records, and more. The microfilms display each document side-by-side with the archivist’s typewritten transcript. In addition, English translations are included for many of the documents in Spanish. Some of these translations are typescripts; others are pages from printed documents. Yet others have both typed and printed translations. For some documents in English, typescripts are also included.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Edward Shippen Thompson Collection Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 10

Edward Shippen Thompson Collection

Introductory Information

Edward Shippen Thompson (1869-1947) is a descendent of the Burd-Shippen-Yeates interrelated families, via several 19th Century marriages through a Patterson and other families to a Thompson family. E. S. Thompson was interested in genealogy and his family’s history, which led him to collect and keep great quantities of family papers, as well as genealogical notes and charts. These papers relate to the period from 1684 through 1941, including many kinds of materials, such as a large collection of 19th Century photographs and some newspapers. The reference to 1684 relates to genealogical information, not manuscript papers. Also, most of the papers (Folders 14-15, 17-21, and 26-221) come from the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century.

The Edward Shippen Thompson Collection is owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives (MS Group 125). The David Library owns three reels of microfilmed documents from this collection.

Note on interrelated collections: The David Library owns microfilm collections containing images of three closely interrelated sets of family papers—the Jasper Yeats Family Papers, the Burd-Shippen Family Papers (both manuscripts and transcripts), and the Edward Shippen Thompson family papers. Given the extraordinary extent to which the three complement one another and overlap one another, researching them together would be advisable. (Each set is described in a separate Swain Report.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ebenezer Wild Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 9

Ebenezer Wild Papers

by David Swain

Biographical information

Ebenezer Wild was a native of Braintree, MA, born in 1758 and died in 1794 (at age 36). He served in the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War, rising from a corporal in 1775 to a 2nd lieutenant in 1781. In 1776, he was assigned to the 6th Continental Regiment. From 1777 onward, he was in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Archibald Lochry Letters Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 8

Archibald Lochry letters

by David Swain

Archibald Lochry, from Bedford, Westmoreland County, PA, was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. In June 1781, he and his 107 men assembled at Fort Pitt, assigned to march SW from there to meet George Rogers Clark’s expedition at Wheeling, VA (now WV). Their goal was to capture Detroit. By mischance, Lochry and his men were ambushed by British and Indian fighters, and his entire force was killed or captured. Lochry himself was killed. Little more is known about this man except that he held a few local public positions in Westmoreland County.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Christopher Greene Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 7

Christopher Greene was an important figure in the American Revolution. Raised in Rhode Island and a member of a prominent New England family, Greene served in various capacities throughout the Revolutionary War, but is most noted for serving as a Colonel in the Rhode Island militia, where he organized a regiment of former slaves to support the Revolution. Greene was killed in battle leading this regiment in 1781. In 2009, the DLAR acquired his papers from the Rhode Island Historical Society. Below, David Swain gives a detailed account of Greene’s life and of the collection’s content, most of which relates to Greene’s military service.

Patrick Spero

Christopher Greene Papers

by David Swain

Biographical Information

Christopher Greene (1737-1781) was a member of the large and prominent Greene family of Rhode Island, a third cousin to General Nathanael Greene. Christopher’s father died when he was 24, leaving him the family mill estate and business, which he ran until he joined the Rhode Island contingent of the Revolutionary Army in 1775 at the age of 38. Before the Revolution, he also served several terms in the Rhode Island colonial legislature.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Using Microfilm Effectively

Patron's Perspective

Rhonda Kohl recently read one of David Swain’s reports. All the discussion of microfilm inspired her to write a quick tip sheet on reading and using microfilm. The DLAR has over 10,000 reels of microfilm, so Rhonda’s advice might be very useful for current David Library patrons and future visitors.

Patrick Spero


A microfilm image is a black-and-white reproduction of a two-dimensional object: a page that contains handwriting in ink or pencil. All sense of depth in the handwriting disappears when it is photographed and placed on film. In addition, not all microfilm is created equal, as most of us know; even the best-shot film is limited by the quality of the original. After transcribing hundreds of 18th and 19th century documents, here are a few tricks I have learned.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edward Hand Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Six

In this edition of the Swain Report, David relays some fascinating finds in a small but potentially rich collection of Edward Hand Papers that the David Library recently acquired from the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Patrick Spero

Edward Hand papers

by David Swain

Edward Hand (1744-1802) was a physician in Lancaster, PA. During the Revolutionary War, he was a brigadier general and, by 1781, adjutant general to George Washington. After the war, he served in the US Congress (1784-1785) and PA Assembly (1785-86).

The microfilmed papers owned by the David Library, made from manuscripts owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives, consist mostly of general correspondence but also include a few military papers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Burd-Shippen Collection

The Swain Report, Number Five

In his most recent Swain Report, David writes about the Burd-Shippen collection the Library recently acquired from the Pennsylvania State Archives. The Collection contains a wide array of documents from the Burd, Shippen, Yeates, and Hubley families. These families were among the most prominent Pennsylvanians in western Pennsylvania, especially Lancaster and Cumberland Counties, during the colonial and revolutionary eras. The families were involved in all aspects of society, and their papers touch on important matters relating to law, business, and politics.

Patrick Spero

Burd-Shippen Family Collection

by David Swain

Introductory Information

The David Library owns two reels of microfilmed documents of the papers of the Burd and Shippen families, which are owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives.

The papers contain letters/documents of several generations of several closely intermarried families, including the Burd, Shippen, Yeats, and Hubley families. Overall, the papers cover the period from 1704 through 1900 (with a number of gaps, notably between 1834 and 1899).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yeates Collection Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Four

In 2009, the David Library made a large acquisition at the Pennsylvania State Archive. The Papers of Jasper Yeates was among those acquired. As you'll note in David’s report, Yeates was a very important figure in revolutionary Pennsylvania. Stationed in Lancaster County as a prominent lawyer, he served on the Committee of Safety for the County, was a member of the Middle Department for Indian Affairs during days immediately following Independence, and served as a Supreme Court judge for the state of Pennsylvania. The Collection we have contains a wide-range of his papers. Other portions of his papers can be found in the Lancaster County Historical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Patrick Spero

Jasper Yeats Family Papers

by David Swain

Biographical Information

Jasper Yeats (or Yeates) was born in 1745 and died in 1817. His father, John Yeats, was a Philadelphia merchant, so Jasper may have been born in Philadelphia and moved to Lancaster when he decided to start a law practice. He married Catherine Burd, whose family came from Carlisle, and his business correspondence includes a number of letters from two of her brothers, Joseph and Edward. Another in-law family was the Shippens of Lancaster. The Yeats, Burds, and Shippens all knew each other well and intermarried closely. Judging from his family papers, Jasper practiced law from the early 1760s until he died. In 1791, he was appointed an associate justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a position he held until he died.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jeduthan Baldwin Diary Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Three

We recently acquired the Jeduthan Baldwin Diary from the Massachusetts Historical Society. What follows is David Swain's excellent and intriguing report of what he discovered in the diary. David describes the three main sections of the diary and lets us in on some of the juiciest nuggets he discovered.

Reading David's report, I was struck by two things. First, Baldwin’s diary truly captures the era of the Revolution, beginning with the Seven Years War and ending in the midst of ratification. Although many works of history begin or end with 1776, Baldwin's life shows how for many the era of the Revolution was a period of continuity. What Baldwin's diary tells us about this era is something for researchers to answer.

The second observation comes at the end of David's detailed and fascinating report. David mentions a portion of the diary that includes records relating to Shays' Rebellion and notes that while portions of Baldwin's Diary have been published, this part has not. I did a quick search of Google Books and found that few books have cited this manuscript copy. What new insight on Shays' Rebellion might this collection hold?

Patrick Spero

Jeduthan Baldwin Diaries

by David Swain

Biographical Information

Jeduthan Baldwin (1732-1788) was born in Woburn, MA. He lived most of his life in North Brookfield, a small town in a still rural area NW of Worcester. He apparently learned the construction trades and mechanical engineering early in life because he served in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War as an engineer, designing and supervising (and probably doing) the construction of fortifications, buildings, bridges, and the like for American colonial and then US national military efforts. His rank during the French and Indian War was Captain. By late in the Revolutionary War, he had risen to the level of Colonel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Revere Family Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Two

In his second installment, David Swain, the David Library's volunteer researcher, describes a couple of interesting items he discovered in the Revere Family Papers. For those interested in Paul Revere or in the military action in Rhode Island, it might hold a few gems.

Patrick Spero

Paul Revere Family Papers

by David Swain

Biographical information

Paul Revere (1734-1818) lived his entire life in Boston, becoming a wealthy and prominent silversmith. His niche in history has been assured by the endurance of the tradition about the role he played as messenger of the Lexington-Concord patriot victories. The papers discussed here focus more on Revere and his family’s business in metalworking.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The John Rowe Diary Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number One

David Swain is our volunteer resident researcher. On the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, we will feature some of the items David has found in our archives. In his first entry for the blog, David writes about the recently purchased Diary of John Rowe. Rowe lived in Boston, where he earned a living as a merchant and sometime smuggler like John Hancock. Rowe kept a detailed and meticulous diary from the revolutionary era, which the David Library just purchased on microfilm from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Rowe was active politically and socially in Boston. He was a Freemason, served on numerous town committees, and regularly socialized with people like Samuel Adams and George Washington. As you will see, Rowe's diary can provide a wonderful window into the world of revolutionary Boston.

Patrick Spero

John Rowe Papers (diary)

by David Swain

Biographical information

John Rowe (1715-1787) was born in Exeter, England and came to Massachusetts Bay colony as a boy with his brothers. He settled in Boston and lived there for the rest of his life. He became a prominent merchant whose primary interests in life revolved around his private business activities and related socializing (especially through active membership in Freemasonry starting in 1740).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Introducing the Swain Report Finding Aids

Over the course of July 2010, David Swain, our volunteer researcher, re-edited his finding aid reports and provided the following introduction, which I have ante-dated for new users. We owe David a great debt of gratitude for his tireless work, which promises to make life much easier for future users of our microfilm collection. To see all of the Swain Reports at once, click on the link under "Topics" in the menu sidebar.

Will Tatum

The Swain Reports

The purpose: To highlight new microfilm acquisitions by the David Library of the American Revolution and to provide summary information about each to guide researchers seeking manuscript documents about particular people, events, or topics within the Library’s area of historical interest—the American Revolutionary period from about 1750 to about 1800.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2009-- A Year in Review

Edited by Patrick Spero, Past Historian at the David Library

What's new at the David Library? A lot. Over the course of the past year, the David Library acquired a number of new collections that we hope will be of great interest to our patrons.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Understanding Rev War Pension Applications

Patron's Perspective

Sue Winter and Bill Schleicher, two longtime patrons of the David Library, recently shared some of their insight into searching the Revolutionary War pension records we have here. The Pension Records are one of the richest resources we have - and that is saying a lot since we have over 700 collections and 10,000 reels of microfilm. The Pension Records contain data on every soldier who filed a pension with the federal government. Many include narratives of their time in the war. Previously, Kimberly Hess shared the fascinating story of Elizabeth Poole, which she had found in the records.

Patrick Spero

It pays to cast your nets widely in the Revolutionary War pension files.
Happy is the family historian who finds an ancestor's pension file record. But even if your ancestor never applied for a pension, you may not be completely out of luck. And, if you're fortunate enough to have found a pension file, there may still be more to discover.