1. Service records: Revolutionary War muster rolls, pay rolls, etc., have been compiled and indexed. These are helpful for determining a soldier’s unit of service and for creating a timeline of his activities. Search Revolutionary War Compiled Service Records, 1775–1783 at FamilySearch.org and Footnote.com
2. Pension records: Sarah Howard applied for a widow’s pension in 1840 as a benefit of the Revolutionary War service of her late husband, James Howard of Connecticut. As proof of her eligibility, Sarah presented her documentation to the probate court upon which the probate judge wrote in her application, “… I have now before me an ancient Bible & in said Bible is a list of the family of Benjamin Chaplin … born 1687.” Then the judge copied the list as part of Sarah’s application! This family descendancy list spans a couple of pages and over a hundred years of births, marriages, and deaths. The judge concludes, ” … the foregoing list of names is a true coppy [sic] from the record in the Old Bible,” then signs the document.
Sarah Chaplin had married James Howard. While tracing the Chaplin family, Terry Chaplin expanded his search to include James Howard and found this letter in Howard’s pension file. Had Terry not looked beyond the Chaplin name, he would not have found this goldmine.
In another case, Tilton Eastman (1741–1805) fought in the Revolutionary War in Col. James McClaughry’s Regiment., in the New York militia. I found Eastman’s file in the Compiled Service Records online at Footnote.com and also in the DAR Lineage Application Papers (though there are some errors in this lineage), but there is no pension file for him. Eastman’s wife, Remembrance Rowley died in 1808. She did not apply for a widow’s pension.
Do you know why there are no pension files for Eastman or his widow?
Though the first act granting pensions was in 1776, it wasn’t until 1789 that select veterans began drawing benefits. The Act of 1832 finally gave pension benefits to all veterans or their widows. Thus, most veterans did not apply until 1832. Under this act, the veteran was required to include his age, birthplace, and residence, so if there is a pension file for your ancestor, it would be worth examining it. In Eastman’s case, both he and his wife had died before the act passed that would have allowed them benefits.
If neither the veteran nor his widow were alive but he would have been eligible for a pension, his heirs may have applied for it, so check for it any way.
The Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Application Files are available at FamilySearch.org and Footnote.com and on microfilm at the National Archives.
3. Bounty-land warrants: See the pension files linked above to search the bounty land application files. I write more about bounty land warrants in another blog.
4. 1840 U.S. census: If still alive the pensioners’ age was reported.
3. DAR Patriot Lineage Application papers and DAR cemetery records: You may search the DAR’s Genealogical Research System.
4. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889–1970 at Ancestry.
5. State military records at the state archives. Joseph Chaplin of Hartwood [Berkshire County, Massachusetts] served in the Revolutionary War, yet no record was found of his service in the compiled service records, the pension and bounty land records, and the DAR Lineage Application papers, but his service IS mentioned in the state collection, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War available at Ancestry or in book at the Family History Library.
 New York, Militia Roll Record, 1771, for Tilten Eastman, Capt. Isaiah Vail’s Company, Col. James McClaughrey’s Regiment, Footnote.com (http://footnote.com : accessed 30 June 2011); citing “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War,” NARA microfilm publication M881, unpaginated lists arranged by regiment then in alphabetical order by first letter of surname, see Tilten Eastman; Also, Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research System, database (http://www.dar.org : accessed 30 June 2011), Tilton Eastman entry, ancestor no. A035813.
 Sarah Howard, widow’s pension application no. W 18094, for service of James Howard (Conn.); Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files; digital images Footntoe.com (http://www.footnote.com : accessed 30 June 2011); Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Terry Chaplin contributor, Colorado.