Two hundred years ago June 18, President James Madison signed the United States’ war declaration against Great Britain, starting the War of 1812.
Contributing to the declaration were British impediments to American trade with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into Britain’s Royal Navy, and Britain’s support of American Indian tribes against American expansion into the Old Northwest as a buffer for Canada. Some Americans including Thomas Jefferson even saw the war as an opportunity to acquire Canada.
The war lasted until 1815 and ended in what many historians consider a draw, with neither side gaining or losing significant territory.
Psychologically, though, Americans felt they’d won a second war of independence. Canada successfully repelled US invaders, giving the war a prominent spot in Canadian national consciousness. Great Lakes and Southeast American Indians lost their hold on their lands. Many left, made deals with the US government or were removed to Indian Territory.
Find bicentennial events, a timeline, and museum and historic site information at the Official War of 1812 Bicentennial website.
If your ancestors fought in the War of 1812, here are some free FamilyTreeMagazine.com articles to start your research:
- Tracing Canadians in the War of 1812: Find resources for tracing Canadians in the War of 1812, including Library and Archives Canada’s projects to digitize War of 1812 records.
- Military Records at the National Archives: This is a list of the National Archives’ microfilmed military records, including those related to the War of 1812. You can find copies of the films at the Family History Library, and many are digitized on genealogy database websites such as Ancestry.com, Fold3 and FamilySearch.
- At Your Service: Compare your ancestor’s birth date to this chart to see if he might have fought in the War of 1812 (or another war).
- War of 1812 Prisoner of War Records: If your War of 1812 ancestor was taken as a prisoner of war, start your records search with these resources.
- War of 1812 Records: Our AncestorNews columnist links to several of her favorite, free War of 1812 online databases. (Note that the Library of Virginia database linked on this page is down June 12 due to a power outage at the library.)
Here are some resources from Family Tree Shop that you might find helpful.
- Research Strategies: 10 Lesser-Known Military Conflicts article download (one of the conflicts is the War of 1812)
- The July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine (now mailing to subscribers and on sale in Family Tree Shop), with David Allen Lambert’s guide to War of 1812 genealogy