Finding a Patriot


Module II - Finding a Revolutionary Patriot

Module I "Getting Started" discussed how to identify the dates and places of birth, marriage, and death for your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  After completing this step, you should have enough information to begin looking for a Revolutionary War patriot in your lineage. 

Public Member Trees on

  The best place for quickly working your way back to the Revolutionary War period (1775-1783) is the Public Member Trees Database on  NOTE: is a subscription site.  However, you can access for free at your local Family History Center or public library affiliate.

Millions of amateur and professional genealogists have made their research available here.  Although there are MANY ERRORS in the information at this site, it is still much easier to use other people's research and gather the documentation needed to validate the research than it is to try to research something entirely from scratch.

When searching at this site, type ONLY the first name and last of the person you are searching AND the spouse's first and maiden name in the Spouse boxes.  Do NOT fill in any other search boxes unless you are researching an extremely common name.

It is very important that all names are spelled EXACTLY the same way as the person who uploaded the information.  If your spelling is different, you will not find their file.  If your search fails to return any results, try a different spelling (e.g., Sarah or Sara, Philip or Phillip, Whitmer or Witmer, etc.) and search again.

Once you reach the Revolutionary War period (1775-1783), look for direct ancestors born between 1710 and 1765 who were living in 1775-1776.  Anyone meeting these criteria might be a Revolutionary War patriot ancestor.

Click here for a demonstration on how to search the Public Member Trees Database.

To search the Public Member Trees Database, click the link below. 




Take Notes

  After clicking on a result in the Public Member Trees Database, you will be reviewing a file about your ancestor.  At this point, you have three options for moving further back in time.  You can click on either the:
  • father
  • mother, or
  • spouse

Each option (father, mother, or spouse) may provide a line to a Revolutionary War patriot.  Thus, each option should be thoroughly investigated.  However, because only one line can be investigated at a time, things can get very confusing when working in a Public Tree file.

To keep track of where you have researched and where you have not, it is important to take notes.  One example of an efficient note-taking strategy is displayed below.

  The above example shows that for grandparents Thomas Fletcher and Rhoda Southworth, the researcher clicked on Thomas' father David Fletcher.  The researcher did NOT click on Thomas' wife Rhoda Southworth or Mary Gould his mother.  At some point in the future, the researcher will need to come back and investigate Rhoda Southworth's line and Mary Gould's line. 

Likewise, for great-grandparents David Fletcher and Mary Gould, the researcher clicked on David's mother Esther Hill.  The researcher did NOT click on David's wife Mary Gould or David's father Henry Fletcher.  Later, the researcher will need to investigate Mary Gould's line and Henry Fletcher's line.


Census Records

  If you did not connect to anyone's research by searching on your grandparents or great-grandparents in Public Member Trees Database, the next step is to search the federal census records to get back one generation in time.  Search for your grandparents or great-grandparents.  The goal is to find them as children living in their parents' household.  If you are successful in identifying an earlier generation in your lineage, return to Public Member Trees Database and enter the names of the newly identified couple in the Search box.

At, you can search all the census years at one time.  There are also a few FREE sites where you can search various census years.  FamilySearch continues to add census records to its collection.  Currently, you can search and view images for the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1900 and 1940 censuses as well as indexes (no images) for the 1880, 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses.  For a demonstration of FamilySearch, click here.  For instructions on using FamilySearch, click here.  (NOTE:  This site also provides free access to vital records for many states.)


DAR Patriot Database

  If you have identified an ancestor born between 1710 and 1765 who was living in 1775-1776, check the online DAR Patriot Database to see if your ancestor is listed.  If the answer is yes, someone else has submitted an approved DAR application for your ancestor.  If the answer is no, your ancestor could still be a Revolutionary War patriot.  However, no one has submitted an approved DAR application for him/her.

Click here for a demonstration on how to search the DAR Patriot Database.

To search the DAR Patriot Database, first print out the instructions at this link.  After printing the instructions, click the link below to search the DAR Patriot Database. 



  For more information about the online DAR Patriot Database as well as other databases available through the DAR Genealogical Research System, click here.
  To search an SAR Patriot Index, click hereAnother index of patriots for the Florida Society SAR is listed here.

DAR Descendants Database

  Rather than starting with a Revolutionary War patriot ancestor as is required when using the DAR Patriot Database, the DAR Descendants Database allows you to check the DAR database starting with your great-grandparents.  This can be the easiest and most effective method for  identifying the proven Revolutionary War patriots in your lineage.  The DAR Descendants Database is a database of all lineages that appear on approved DAR applications.  To protect the privacy of DAR members, the lineages begin with members' great-grandparents (generation 4) and end with the Revolutionary War patriot.  Because the Descendants Database begins with generation 4, you will need to know your great-grandparents (at a minimum) before a match can be made in the database.  If you know your great-great-grandparents (generation 5) and their parents (generation 6), you will be more likely to find a match in the database if one exists.

The best strategy for using the DAR Descendants Database is start by identifying all 8 of your great-grandparents.  You will search the DAR Descendants Database using the last name of the husband and the maiden name of his wife for each set of your 4 sets of great-grandparents. 

NOTE:  Be sure to follow the instructions carefully in the demonstration below.  The best search method is to use the Advanced Search form.  With the Advanced Search form, the husband's last name MUST be in the top field and the wife's maiden name must be in the Spouse - Last Name field.

If nothing is found after searching on your great-grandparents, the next step is to identify as many of your 16 great-great grandparents as possible.  Search the DAR Descendants Database using each of the 8 husband-wife sets in your family tree.

Once you have checked all of your great-great-grandparents (generation 5), move back yet another generation to check as many of your 32 great-great-great-grandparents (generation 6) as possible. 

Assuming that a match exists in the DAR Descendants Database, the likelihood of discovering a match increases the further back in your family tree that you go.  This is because the number of ancestors that you share in common with others increases as you move further and further back in your lineage. 

Click here for a demonstration on how to search the DAR Descendants Database.

To search the DAR Descendants Database, first print out the instructions at this link.  After printing the instructions, click the link below to search the DAR Descendants Database. 



  For more information about the online DAR Descendants Database as well as other databases available through the DAR Genealogical Research System, click here.

Revolutionary War Service

  If you did not find your ancestor in the DAR Patriot Database, it is still possible that your ancestor was a Revolutionary War patriot.  In order to submit a DAR or SAR application for your ancestor, it will be necessary to provide documentation regarding your ancestor's Revolutionary War service.  In addition to military service, DAR also accepts a wide variety of civil and patriotic actions.  Click here for a list of the types of acceptable service.

To access free books and resources for documenting Revolutionary War service, click the link below. 





  In addition to the online databases, the open Internet may provide considerable information about your family. Thousands of people have posted their family histories on personal home pages, transcribed information from headstones in local cemeteries, and researched the histories of their communities. 

Searching Google effectively for family history information involves several special search techniques.  Click here for instructions on these techniques.  After reviewing the instructions, click the link below to search Google.




Continue to Module III

  Continue to the next module "Documenting the Lineage."

Copyright 2009 - 2020 by Debbie Duay, Ph.D., Fort Lauderdale, FL. All Rights Reserved.