Although most of us celebrate our freedom from England every July 4, many Americans are unaware of the 200th anniversary of "the second war of independence."
The United States declared war on England on June 18, 1812, but that momentous event passed recently with sparse local fanfare. The Florida State Genealogical Society, however, is doing its best to focus attention on those who served in this war and are buried in Florida.
Society President Pam Cooper has announced that the first person to send in the name of a War of 1812 veteran whose burial site has not been identified previously will win a full registration to the group's annual state conference (Nov. 8 to 9 in Deerfield Beach). The next five submissions will get 20 percent off the registration fee. Here's hoping the search will continue beyond those six winners, in order to identify all 1812 veterans buried in Florida.
Readers can find lists of known Florida veterans of this war and get details on how to submit proof of their burial sites on the society's website at www.flsgs.org. From the home page, select "War of 1812 Challenge" from the menu in the gold column.
With this challenge fresh in mind, it's an appropriate time to begin a search for your own ancestor who might have fought in this three-year war.
The search should begin with the "Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812." The index is available from the National Archives on 234 rolls of microfilm as publication M602. This microfilm collection is available at the John F. Germany main library in Tampa. The index also is available at Ancestry (www.ancestry.com) for a subscription fee but can be accessed at any Hillsborough county library computer at no charge.
The index will provide information that a researcher can use to order the soldier's Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) from the National Archives. These records have not been microfilmed. The website Fold3 has digitized the CMSRs for those who served on Lake Erie or from the Territory of Mississippi. The records are available on line at www.fold3.com. This is a subscription site, but Fold3 currently is making these service records available at no charge. Those with a library card can access the Fold3 site from their home computers from the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative (http://hcplc.org).
Some soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 received pensions. In 1871, Congress provided the benefits to men they had cited for specific service (usually those who had been injured) as long as they had not subsequently supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Widows who married their husbands before the end of the war in 1812 also were eligible for these pensions.
In 1878, Congress voted to provide pensions to all men who had served 14 days or more and to their widows regardless of when the couple married.
The National Archives index to these pension files is on 102 rolls of microfilm as publication M313. This index also can be searched at Ancestry.
Fold3 is in the process of digitizing these pension files, but have put only three percent of the records online. Fold3 has described the project as being "multi-year" with no estimate on when all 180,000 pension applications will be viewable.
In the meantime, researchers can order the pension applications directly from the National Archives. Details on how to do this are on the National Archives website at www.archives.gov/research/military/genealogy.html.