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Loyalist Muster Rolls
During the American Revolution, muster rolls were prepared by the commanding officer of each company of a regiment for the express purpose of paying the officers and soldiers. For the British, they were prepared about once every 182 days. Loyalist rolls were to have been made out once every 61 days, although there were exceptions, especially during the southern campaigns.
Only those regiments that received pay and clothing for their services were mustered. As a result, there is an absence of muster rolls for many of the militia and other irregular units that served during the war. Rolls do exist for some of the militia units that were in pay for a part of their service, however, such as some of the North and South Carolina militias. For a better understanding of the different types of regiments, or establishments, please see Not All Loyalist Regiments Were Created Equal.
During a muster, each man was physically checked against his name on the roll, and a notation was made regarding each man who was absent or whose status had changed since the previous muster. The rolls listed all circumstances that affected pay or absences. For example, notations were made of soldiers who were killed, died, deserted, discharged, or absent on duty elsewhere.
Revolutionary War muster rolls contain little in the way of personal information. Information such as age, height and nativity do exist on a few Loyalist muster rolls, but these rolls are few and far between. Remember, though, that knowing the regiment in which a man served can be a valuable clue to lead you to other information, such as where he might have originated or where he settled after the war, so muster rolls are still excellent sources for genealogical as well as historical research.
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Finding the Records
The National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, holds over half of the existing Loyalist muster rolls, divided between two collections. These rolls cover primarily the regiments of the army in America, such as the New Jersey Volunteers and DeLancey's Brigade.
These two collections are:
MG 23 Chipman Family Papers
Ward Chipman was the Deputy Muster Master of Provincial Forces, and the Chipman Family Papers contain a variety of muster rolls, including several Nova Scotia musters of refugees who were still receiving provisions gratis from the British after the war.
Muster rolls housed at the National Archives of Canada have been microfilmed and can be borrowed on interlibrary loan. Check with your local library or Mormon Family History Center to learn how interlibrary loans can be obtained.
Original muster rolls for regiments in the Northern Army, that being the army out of Canada, will not be in these collections. These rolls are housed in two major British collections:
War Office, Class 28 papers, Volumes 2-10
War Office, Class 28 papers are located at the Public Record Office in Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK. This collection includes papers of various British and Loyalist regiments serving in the army in Canada. The National Archives of Canada holds microfilm copies of the War Office, Class 28 papers on Microfilm Numbers C-10861 and C-10862.
The Haldimand Papers are housed at the British Library in London. This collection contains the muster rolls for such famous corps as Butler's Rangers and the corps under Messrs. Jessup, Peters and McAlpin. Microfilm copies of the Haldimand Papers are also available from the National Archives of Canada on Microfilm Number C-1475.
Check our Internet Links area to find websites for these institutions where you can read more about their holdings.
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Loyalist Muster Rolls On-Line
The index is sorted alphabetically by the names of the regiments. For each regiment, you will also find information on when the regiment was raised and who the commanding officers were.
The key to finding a specific individual's name in a muster roll is knowing the regiment in which the person served. If you are searching for an ancestor's name but are unsure of the regiment, try performing a search of our site on his surname to see if he is listed.
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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies