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Q: Family legend has it that an ancestor was imprisoned on, and escaped from, a British POW ship in Charleston Harbor in 1780. Where would I look for records?
A: Try the National Archives microfilm M247, Papers of the Continental Congress, which includes information about Americans held as prisoners of war during the Revolution, as well as British and Loyalist prisoners. According to the archives’ description of this collection, it contains “detailed accountings of several dozen American POWs detained on a ship in Charleston Harbor.” Finding specific records in this microfilm series can be tricky: Pages are numbered at the top left corner of each document and numbering starts over with each item or volume (some larger items are broken into separate volumes). The Charleston Harbor records are on roll No. 175, item 155, volume 2, pages 219-222. You also can search these records online at subscription site Fold3.
Other information about POWs, mostly centered around 1780, is in microfilm series M246, Revolutionary War Rolls. You can search these records by subscription at Ancestry.com.
From the July/August 2015 Family Tree Magazine