War Department Documents (1784 to 1800)

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
by Dick Eastman on 1/13/09

The following is an announcement of a new web site:

Between 1784 and 1800, the War Department of the United States was responsible for Indian affairs, veteran affairs, naval affairs (until 1798), as well as militia and army matters. For example, the War Department operated the nation’s only federal social welfare program, providing veterans’ benefits (including payments to widows and orphans) to more than 4,000 persons.

On the night of November 8, 1800, fire devastated the War Office, consuming the papers, records, and books stored there. Two weeks later, Secretary of War Samuel Dexter lamented in a letter that “All the papers in my office [have] been destroyed.”  For the past two centuries, the official records of the War Department effectively began with Dexter’s letter.

The project to reconstitute the War Department Papers was begun more than a dozen years ago, and it has involved years of painstaking work, including visits to more than 200 repositories and the consulting of more than 3,000 collections in the United States, Canada, England, France, and Scotland.

Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 will present this collection of more than 55,000 documents in a free, online format with extensive and searchable metadata linked to digitized images of each document, thereby insuring free access for a wide range of users.

The searchable Field List includes:

Persons/Groups — Search in the “persons/groups” field
Locations — Search in the “locations” field
Items/Things — Search in the “items/things” field
Summary — Search in the “summary” field
Phrases — Search in the “phrases” field

Because this collection of papers was reconstituted from archives scattered across the United States, oftentimes more than one copy of a document was recovered. Sometimes these documents may be slightly different. To preserve the archival record, and to allow access to multiple versions of these historically valuable documents, the archive has retained and posted all images of all versions in their possession.

You can see many interesting, historical documents relating to our Stockton ancestors such as Richard and John Stockton at:


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