ART LOUX's analysis of the recently released Revolutionary War Graves Register CD. 

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Kansas City
Alexander Majors Chapter

The second edition of the Revolutionary War Grave Register (RWGR) CD was published in April by the Sons of the American Revolution. It is distributed and sold by Progeny Software of Buffalo, NY and Canada, a worldwide marketing company for genealogy-based products. The RWGR consolidates grave records from all known sources for soldiers, sailors and civilians who served the cause of the American Revolution. This combined data provides an unprecedented source of information about these individuals. The purpose of this article is to present statistical insights derived from the data.

From its founding in the nineteenth century the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has sought to locate and record the final resting places of those who served the cause of the War for Independence. Records were gathered from burial sites and reported on individual Grave Registry forms and letters, index cards and tapes. The original data was augmented with all other grave information that could be located in the public domain including cemetery and county lists, municipal, county and state records. Grave locations in the Annual Reports to the U.S. Congress of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution were added to the register.

The Revolutionary War Graves Register, published by FPG Clovis H. Brakebill in 1993, contained more than 54,000 entries.   In 1998, the same grave entries were republished on compact disc, the RWGR CD, with 15,000 spouse names integrated into the surname index.

After the initial publication, the SAR Graves Committee embarked on a broad program of actions and publicity to develop a larger graves register.  An intense acquisition program began with the goal of doubling the number of graves in the register and publishing a combined second edition CD. Throughout the world, SAR members, chapters and societies were asked to seek out overlooked graves and rare lists, to survey cemeteries within their geographical region, and to forward the information.

Thirty-one volunteers were recruited and trained for the publication project.  Using a computer-based software application written for the SAR and supervised by an administrator, they edited, collated and abstracted the graves information. Sometimes receiving only part of the data desired, they used personal references and their own skills to key each grave entry onto a data disc that was then forwarded to the administrator for editing and merging into the main data base.

The latest edition of the RWGR CD indexes virtually all the Revolutionary War patriot graves recorded over the last hundred years by the members of the DAR and SAR.

Each grave entry has the capacity to store surname, suffix, given name, years of birth and death, service, state served, cemetery, town or township, county and state of burial or death, spouse, source of entry and an indicator of update or correction. Of course all this information is not available for each entry. Entries containing as little information as name, county and state of burial or death were accepted.

Duplicate entries originating from multiple sources and corrections of entries were identified and deleted through systematic editing. However duplicates remain on the file in cases where there was no means to select from alternate data. Statistics derived from the data will be skewed somewhat by the remaining duplicates which account for about two percent of the file.

The quality of statistics depends, of course, on the underlying data. Missing data elements have been inserted wherever possible, yet many records carry blank data fields. Intensive editing has been performed to assure the best possible quality of data. As stated, the RWGR data was derived by many people from multiple sources over a century of time. Also, the RWGR data does not record all those who served. The information has not been validated or verified by the SAR.  Thousands of the entries are the results of years of painstaking search and verification; other entries may not have been rigorously researched. Even the rules of the current editing process lacked the space to indicate that some dates and names were accompanied by a question mark or a `probable’ or `about’ annotation.  The reader is cautioned to treat this information as the most accurate possible, subject to the considerable limitations noted. Despite these deficiencies useful statistics may be derived, with caution, from the data.

The file, being on a computer accessible medium, lends itself well to the creation of various statistics. The file contains 99,707 records. As stated not all records contain all data fields. Here is a summary of the occurrences of missing data elements.

RECORDS WITH NO SUFFIX (i.e. Jr, Sr)         94039  94.3 %
RECORDS WITH NO GIVEN NAME                    349    0.4 %
RECORDS WITH NO BIRTH YEAR                  28696  28.8 %
RECORDS WITH NO DEATH YEAR                 15983  16.0 %
RECORDS WITH NO CEMETERY NAME         17811  17.9 %
RECORDS WITH NO CEMETERY CITY           13352  13.4 %
RECORDS WITH NO CEMETERY STATE            162    0.2 %
RECORDS WITH NO SERVICE                          2570    2.6 %
RECORDS WITH NO STATE SERVED               9673    9.7 %
RECORDS WITH NO SPOUSE FIELD               63902  64.1 %

The greatest number of American patriots, 3,627, was born in the year 1760, followed by 3,081 in 1755. Thirty-six were quite young, being born after 1770. These people served as messengers, soldiers, drummer boys and wagoners. Anna Webb, born in 1772, was a messenger. Solomon Caleb Litton was born in 1783 a prisoner at Fort Detroit.

Eighty-seven patriots were born before 1700.  The two oldest were born in 1678.  Surprisingly, perhaps, the large majority of these senior patriots held a military rank.

The average age at death was seventy-four years. The average life span in this era was considerably lower. As late as 1900 the average life span was only forty-seven years. The average life span would be expected to be considerably less than seventy-four years during the period in question.

The American patriots began to die in large numbers in the 1830s, with the greatest number, 2,180, passing away in 1835. As late as 1863 there were 37 deaths followed by 21, 19, 16, 9, 7, and 8 in the remaining years of the 1860s. The final deaths occurred in 1879. Eight hundred eighty- one patriots became centenarians. Two of these were female patriots. Those who served the cause of the American Revolution were a healthy and long-lived group.

How old were the combatants on the American side of the War of Independence? The average age was determined from records having both a birth and death date and having a military rank. The age of these combatants in 1776 was slightly more than twenty-seven years, considerably older than the average age of those who served in World War II.

Deaths from disease and combat are reflected by the large number of deaths during the war years.

Year  Deaths
1776      460
1777      626
1778   1,701
1779      582
1780      423
1781   1,121
1782      394
1783      388
1784      398

The year 1778 had the most deaths but 1781 seems to have the most battle deaths. Many patriots died at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777 to 1778. The southern campaign in Carolina and Georgia was probably responsible for the high 1781 casualty figure. After 1781, little fighting took place.

Smith is the most common patriot surname, followed by Brown and Clark. The top ten surnames are:

Number Name
1,299     SMITH                             
   692      BROWN                             
   582      CLARK                             
   511      DAVIS                             
   479      JOHNSON                           
   460      JONES                             
   444      MILLER                            
   403      HALL                              
   391      WILLIAMS                          
   371      WHITE                             

The most common given name is John; almost twelve percent of patriots were named John. The top ten given names are :

Number Name
11,576   John                              
6,045   William                           
4,355   James                             
4,038   Samuel                            
3,665   Joseph                            
3,505   Thomas                            
2,425   David                             
2,368   Benjamin                          
2,263   Daniel                            
1,797   Jacob                             
Some of the given names have declined in usage over the years; some are more popular today. Here are a few examples with the number of times each occurs on the file: Josiah (768), Joshua (702), Elijah (637), Jeremiah [sic] (558), Ephraim (487), Reuben (475), Jabez (219), Eleazer (201), Abijah (180), Eliphalet (133), Abiather (22), Medad (26), Gad (23), Bezaleel (21), Noadiah (15), and, my favorite, Barzillai (13).

Among the patriots were 2,726 Juniors, 2,113 Seniors and 183 Reverends. 

The `state’ served field allows one of nineteen values including unknown, the original thirteen colonies, Vermont, Maine, foreign service such as the French Navy and, perhaps surprisingly, Louisiana and California. Both France and Spain made important contributions to American independence. King Carlos III of Spain declared war on England on 21 June 1779.  Spanish soldiers in California defended against English claims and military initiatives.  The file has the burial locations of one hundred ninety-six soldiers, sailors and priests of Alta California. It lists more than three hundred Louisiana patriots who served under Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution. An eclectic mix of French, Spaniards, Creoles, Irish, Germans, and Venezuelans soldiered with Galvez.

American patriots were buried in a broad range of locations. One hundred eighty-six men, mostly French sailors, were buried at sea. Thomas Lynch, Jr. a signer of the Declaration of Independence was buried at sea. Fourteen men drowned. The names of six hundred twenty-eight French soldiers who died in 1781 are inscribed on the French Memorial on the Yorktown Battlefield. There are 1,170 men who died in 1777 and 1778 buried at Valley Forge. One hundred forty-seven men who died in the Wyoming Massacre are on the file.

Canadians lined up on both sides of the American revolution.  Many  enlisted in Canadian units formed specifically to fight for and with the Americans. Americans campaigned and died in Canada.  Other patriots moved to Canada after the war and became citizens.  Special efforts are being made to find and record American patriot graves in Canada.

The State Burial table contrasts the number of people who served each of the original colonies (and Maine and Vermont) with the number of those buried in the particular state. Twenty-three percent of both Connecticut and Rhode Island patriots were buried in other states. Other states lost many of their patriots to out-migration:  North Carolina (70%), South Carolina (58%) and Virginia (74%).


Connecticut                  13,494                                  10,332                                77%
Delaware                          489                                       404                                83%
Georgia                          1,680                                    1,606                                96%
Maine                            7,160                                     6,981                                98%
Maryland                       1,210                                        472                                39%
Massachusetts              16,753                                   12,734                                76%
New Hampshire              6,007                                     4,993                                83%
New Jersey                    4,219                                     3,166                                75%
New York                      8,019                                     7,342                                92%
North Carolina                4,120                                     1,237                                30%
Pennsylvania                 12,130                                     9,784                                81%
Rhode Island                  2,448                                      1,879                                77%
South Carolina                1,983                                        829                                 42%
Vermont                        2,446                                      2,131                                 87%
Virginia*                        6,432                                      1,641                                 26%
* Includes those who served Virginia and are buried in West Virginia.

Most of the reduction in the states’ patriot population between the time of service and the time of death is explained by westward migration. There are 6,267 patriot graves in Ohio followed by Tennessee (4,153), Kentucky (2,437), Indiana (1,390) and Illinois (1,151).

The service field contains a short description of the patriotic service of the individual. The NSSAR considers that everyone who was dedicated to the cause of independence was a patriot.  Most patriots qualified through military service. A wide range of non-military service includes farmers who gave food to the troops, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Quakers who "affirmed" that they could not fight for religious reasons but gave these services as well as provided wagons to carry prisoners.

The designations `Soldier’ and `Private’ together account for 68% of the file. Military ranks are registered on 96 percent of the entries.

The top ten military ranks are:

Number Rank
39015  Soldier                           
29112  Private                           
  5506   Captain                           
  3293   Lieutenant                        
  3261   Sergeant                                                     
  1763   Corporal                          
  1268   Colonel                           
  1014   Ensign                            
   997   Major   
   387   Minuteman                                                   

The number of Colonels exceeds the number of Ensigns, Majors and Seamen generating the speculation that the rank of Colonel was often attained after the conflict as an honorary or desired title.

There are many interesting and sometimes mysterious notations in the Service field. An Almoner was a volunteer aide in a hospital handling military casualties. An Artificer prepared shells and  fuses.  A Cornet was a commissioned officer in a cavalry troop who carried the standard. A Matross was an artilleryman who assisted a gunner in such duties as loading, firing, sponging and placing the gun. A Farrier shod horses and performed veterinary duties.

Specialization is evident in the rank of the man who served as `Officer of Caulking.’ The `Practitioner of Physics’ seemingly describes what must have been an unpopular  medical specialty. `Cherokee Chief’ needs no explanation. One wonders if the `substitute drummer’ had other duties as well. `Flying Camp’ does not refer to a predecessor of the Lafayette Escadrille, but rather is a translation from the French 'camp volant', a term describing a  highly mobile reserve force.

William Van Mater of New Jersey "Helped catch Lewis Fenton." Perhaps Lewis Fenton was a hated Tory brought to justice with the aid of Van Mater. David Morrison, Jr., who served New Hampshire, has the designation `Canterbury Train Band.’ The term is probably derived from the practice in seventeenth century England of forming town companies of trained bands or militia. Morrison was probably a member of a militia company from the town of Canterbury, New Hampshire.

The file contains sparse information about minority groups. Eleven people are identified in the Service field as Jewish Patriots. Sixteen Black patriots are identified variously as sailor, soldier, artilleryman and patriot. One is listed as a `Negro Seaman’ on the "Protector." One bears the designation `Mulatto Patriot.’ Six are listed as `Slave.’ Crispus Attucks is listed as a `Black Patriot.’

Females, unfortunately, are under represented on the file. Three hundred fifty-five records contain the designation `Lady Patriot’ in the Service field. Thirteen were Soldiers, one was a Private, one participated in the Boston Tea Party, four were messengers, two were spies, eleven were nurses, one was a physician, one a scout and one served in the artillery.

35,805 records carry spouse information. A spouse field may contain the names of one or more spouses. All together, 42,240 spouses appear on the file. Three of the men had six spouses. Four of the men had five spouses.

The most popular spouse given names Mary and Elizabeth reflect the predominately English heritage of the colonists. Sarah and Hannah were the next most popular names. The most unusual names were Keziah, Ruamiah, Mehitable, Tamar, Tryphena, Azubah and Zerviah. One spouse, Thankful Bangs, had a name suitable for a James Bond heroine.

The RWGR CD contains a wealth of information. This article has explored and summarized some of that information. The reader may explore the file and find his or her areas of interest.

Compatriot Arthur F. Loux, a member of the Alexander Majors Chapter in Kansas City, Missouri, served as that chapter’s secretary. A member of the Revolutionary War Graves Committee, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts under the direction of Chairman Robert Galer in editing the RWGR graves file.

A native of Pennsylvania Mr. Loux is a graduate of Lehigh University with a B.A. in mathematics. He retired recently as Vice President of Systems of a major insurance company.

Mr. Loux has served on the board of directors of the Lincoln Group of New York and as president of the Lincoln Club of Topeka. His articles and book reviews on aspects of the Lincoln assassination have appeared in several periodicals. He is happily engaged in researching his two paternal ancestors who served in the Revolution in New Jersey and his maternal ancestor who served as an Indian Spy in Pennsylvania.
This article was published in The SAR Magazine, Spring 2000, Volume XCIV, No. 4, pages 18-21.  The SAR Magazine is published quarterly (February, May, August, November) and copyrighted by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.  It is reprinted here with the permisssion of the author, the Alexander Majors Chapter's Art Loux.  Look for Art's next article, "Westward Migration of the American Patriots" in a forthcoming issue of The SAR Magazine.