At first glance, it would seem that the War of 1812 did not have much effect on California. It was fought on the Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe, the Great Lakes and in what are now the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The final battle, the decisive United States victory at New Orleans was fought after peace had been concluded in Ghent, Netherlands by the United States and Great Britain.
The war was fought at the same time as the Napoleonic Wars between Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Spain on one side, and Napoleon’s France on the other, far away in Europe. What does that have to do with California?
Well, most of the population of California has ancestors that may have come from parts of North America that may have been affected one way or another by the war, or that may have married into those families. How does a Sacramentan found out?
You are going to climb a family tree, as timeless as the California redwoods. In doing so, you are going to search for your connection to the War of 1812. First, start with yourself. Eventually, you will have a paper file folder (and an electronic one) for each person on your tree. In the folders, you will put copies of documents like birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas, draft cards, letters, newspaper articles and the like about each person in your tree. Include in that folder a list of all the documents in that folder and a summary of the “vital statistics” for that person. Do this for our own folder as well as for everyone else’s folder till you get to the years 1812-1815.
Your parents may be the key to the past. For one thing, they may help you in your quest for information, supplying you with facts and stories about their lives and those around them. They may help you get information about distant relatives. The computer is also a great help. There are many helpful websites and computer programs that will simplify your “time machine” trip into the War of 1812. Look at the links below for further information.
“How to” articles:
- “How To Begin Tracing Your Family Tree” by Kimberly Powell
- “101 Ways to Research Your Family Tree for Free” by Kimberly Powell. This can be a very expensive endeavor or not. Ms Powell shows how to save money.
- “Family History for Beginners” This is a basic on-line course.
- On-line Courses — these cost, but you can get Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for them.
Organizations (this is only a sample):
- California Genealogical Society. 2201 Broadway, Suite LL2, Oakland, CA 94612-3031. Tel. (510) 663-1358 FAX (510) 663-1596.
- National Archives. Potential Source of clues about ships, battles, and engagements, and who fought in them.
- Library and Archives Canada. Contains history of military involvements in both British North America (pre-1867) and Canada (after 1 July 1867), including the War of 1812.
- National Archives and Records Administration. Army and navy Pension requests, information about the Chickasaw and other tribes.
- The Coloured Corps: African Canadians in the War of 1812. A source for Canadian involvement in the war.
- Ministry of government Services, Ontario, Canada. A source for Canadian family history records.
Software and sites:
- ancestry.com — website that helps you find information about distant relatives by making available various sources such as census data from U.S., British, and Canadian censuses, military records, birth and death certificates, etc.
- Sacramento Family History Center — 9314 Blue Oak Dr., Orangevale. CA 95662, (916) 487-2090. Provides instruction on how to find ancestors, a genealogical library, computers, and information on some of the various computer programs available.
- First nations. Clues about the involvement of various Native American nations in the war.
- Family Tree Maker. Formats family tree based on input of data from other programs like ancestry.com, Family File, etc.
- familysearch.org — a free data entry site. They also have sources for various groups such as militias involved in the War of 1812.
- Legacy Family Tree. The “Standard Version” is free. Allows you to enter vital statistics, pictures, and stories about any given ancestor.
- Military records if you are able to find an ancestor that lived during the 1812-1814 time period.
- British muster rolls You may find information about relatives that fought against the United States in the war. The war was a watershed even in Canadian history, as it led to the drive necessary to form the Canadian nation 52 years later.
- Do not overlook information about the Indian Wars, Revolutionary War, or Mexican War, because records from these conflicts may shed light on ancestors that may have fought in one of these and the War of 1812. The Indian Wars extended for over 100 years from Revolutionary times to Wounded Knee in 1890; the Mexican War occurred 34 years after the War of 1812, and the Revolution about the same number of years before. Our modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have 50+ year old participants in them–military members as old as Revolutionary veterans fighting in 1812, or 1812 veterans fighting in the Mexican War.
- War of 1812 Discharge Certificates. Notes on the men who served, their units, and other information.
- State/Provincial Departments of Vital Statistics for the Northeastern states (NH, VT, MA, ME (see MA),CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA), Middle Atlantic (DE, MD, VA, NC, SC), Southern states (GA, Mississippi Territory, KY, TN), the Northwest Territories in 1812 (State of Ohio, Indiana Territory, Illinois Territory, Michigan Territory), and Upper Canada (now Ontario), and Lower Canada (now Quebec).