Lesson Plan

Lesser-known Participants: Genealogy for Beginners


GOAL: To have students learn research methods for locating Revolutionary War ancestors.


The students will employ various methods to research his/her family tree.
The student will illustrate his/her family tree. The student will review various books to examine how authors have gained information. The student will write his/her autobiography.


Most citizens of the United States can identify at least one American General who fought in the American Revolution. Although leaders were important, it was the efforts of the thousands of lesser-known, or even unknown soldiers, that ultimately won the war. Many descendants of these men are unaware that their ancestors fought for their freedom.

To find out if the student has a Revolutionary War ancestor, he or she can begin by interviewing older family members who may remember family folklore of alleged Revolutionary War veterans. How can the student verify the information gleaned from grandparents? Many Revolutionary War veterans filed for pensions after the war. Both the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and state archives have records of these pensions.

Many soldiers had the same first and last name. Therefore, it is important to try to find birth, death, and marriage records to determine precisely which one is the correct ancestor. South Carolina began keeping records of births and deaths in 1915, while North Carolina began keeping them in 1913. Although North Carolina began keeping records of marriages in 1779, South Carolina did not start keeping marriage records until 1911. County courthouses have some records. The rest are kept in the state archives. Local public libraries also are excellent sources of genealogical information, and many have copies of census records on microfiche. In addition, the internet is a good source of genealogical information.

Genealogy comes from a Greek word meaning tracing generation or descent. Learning about their lineage enables people to find out about themselves - who they are and why they are that way. One can learn how one’s family fit into the context of history, thereby bringing history alive.



1. Draw a family tree, using your family name as the trunk. Make small branches come out of the side of the trunk, one for you and for each of your brothers and sisters. Write the names on those branches. Draw larger branches coming out of the top of the tree. On one side will be your mother’s side of the family (maternal), and on the other side will be your father’s side of the family (paternal). Make branches for your grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-grandparents; as far back as you can go. Interview your older family members to see if you can find out more. Did you learn anything new or surprising?
2. Ask your grandparents to tell you stories about when they were young. Ask them if they remember any stories about family members fighting in the Revolutionary War. Take notes. Keep a record of what you learned in a notebook. If you have a Revolutionary War veteran for an ancestor, did he or she participate on the American side or on the British side?
3. Visit your local library. Look through the census records to see if you can find ancestors listed. The reference librarian can help you with this. Write down your observations in your notebook. Search the genealogical files for Revolutionary War veterans. Ask the reference librarian if the library has copies of church histories. These will contain valuable information on marriages, births, and deaths. 4. Write to your state archives for information about your ancestors. The archivists may have additional suggestions for you to try. Note that there may be a nominal fee for printed information.


Have students look through books such as The Patriots at the Cowpens, The Patriots at Kings Mountain, The Loyalists at Kings Mountain, The Loyalists in the Siege of Fort Ninety Six, and Scots Irish in the Carolinas. Discuss how the authors acquired the information to write the books.


Write an autobiography so that your descendants will know about you and what you did when you were young. Be sure to include all that you have learned about your ancestry. Also write about your family now. Who is your favorite relative and why? How many people are in your family? Are you the oldest, youngest, middle, or only child? Where were you born? Where do you live now? Have you always lived there? What are your hobbies? Who are your best friends? What is important in friendship? Describe any family pets that you have had. Tell about your education. What are your favorite and least favorite subjects? Why? What is your proudest accomplishment? What was your most embarrassing moment? What do you think the future holds for you? Describe your personal code of ethics. If possible, include photographs for some items, and label them.

Additional Resources

1. North Carolina Vital Records, Vital Records Section, PO Box 29537, Raleigh, NC 27626 ($10.00 fee for copies)
2. Office of Vital Records and Public Health Statistics, Department of Health and Environmental Control, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201 ($8.00 fee for copies)
3. North Carolina State Archives, 109 E. Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601-2807
4. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 8301 Parklane Road, Columbia, SC 29223 5. Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8 th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20408

Bunnell, Paul J. The New Loyalist Index. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1989.

Chorzempa, Rosemary A. My Family Tree Workbook. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1982.

Dollarhide, William. Genealogy Starter Kit 2 nd Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc., 1998.

Kennedy, Billy. Scots Irish in the Carolinas. Greenville, South Carolina: Emerald House Group, Inc., 1998.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Loyalists at Kings Mountain. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1998.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Loyalists in the Siege of Fort Ninety Six. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1999.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Patriots at the Cowpens, Revised Edition. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1991.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Patriots at Kings Mountain. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1990.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc., 1983.

Neagles, James C. and Lila L. Neagles. Locating Your Revolutionary War Ancestor. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc., 1983.

http://vitalrec.com/index.html This is a site for vital records. There may be a fee for some records.

http://www.state.sc.us/schah This is the site for the SC Dept. of Archives and History.

http://www.nara.gov This is the site for the National Archives.

http://www.familysearch.org This is the site for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints genealogy and ancestor search. It includes a link on how to search for one’s ancestor through their database