Lineage & Guns

Musket Bookmark

As most of you know from occasional posts, Sebastian & I have been into studying family history since last summer. I joined Daughters of the American Revolution last fall based on the research, and I’m finding even more patriots with practically every family line that I open up. But just this morning, I found I have a new goal. I want to find a gunsmith in my family tree. Why? Because of this qualification for designating a patriot in DAR:

Those who rendered material aid such as furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the Colonies, munitions makers, gunsmiths, etc.

I’ve found a politician (state representative from Kentucky in 1800) who is the grandson of a sometimes hard-to-prove female patriot, several refugees fleeing religious wars whose families ended up supporting independence, and a patriot documented as supplying whisky to the troops, but no gunsmiths or munitions makers for the Revolution yet. And you know I want one if I can find one.

So, this is a bit of a bleg to anyone who knows about quality historical research. Where is one likely to find sources on gunsmiths & munitions makers from that era? I assume my best bet is to try and find wills and other legal records that may make mention of an occupation, but I wanted to ask if there were potentially other sources since I know this is an audience that loves guns, gun rights, and history.

I’ve got known patriots and family lines in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the war. Afterwards, some ended up in Kentucky simply because that’s the county they were in when it was divided and then those broke off to become a state, so gun makers in those areas are more likely to be of value for this purpose.

15 thoughts on “Lineage & Guns”

  1. There was a book written I believe by George C. Neumann that had as an appendix all of the 500 or so gunsmiths known to have worked for the Patriot cause. It was either “Battle Weapons of the American Revolution” or “The History of Weapons of the American Revolution”, I can’t remember which.

    That should get you started.

    1. Oh, thank you for the tip! Let me go check out WorldCat right now to see where I can get it from the library system…

  2. For the era you are talking about, there is a LOT of research about gun makers due to collector interest and reproduction of custom copies of historic pieces. You can start with the back of Henry Kauffmans’ The Pennsylvania Kentucky Rifle, then move on through Shumway Publications by the regions or state of interest.

    If you have Ancestors of German extraction in that era, You may want to focus there first, though there were non German families like Armstrong in Maryland and Beans in Western NC/TENN. Good Luck and Have fun!

  3. I see I’m duplicating a suggestion above, but:

    That kind of research is not my field at all, but allow me to suggest The Pennsylvania Kentucky Rifle by Kauffman. I remember it having what seemed to be an extensive list of Pennsylvania gunsmiths of the 18th and 19th centuries. There may be much better, but again, I haven’t pursued that kind of research. (None of my ancestors were here before an Gorta Mor.

    1. Lots of libraries around here have it, along with the other books suggested above. I think I’m going to love the look on the librarian’s face when I submit these inter-library loan requests. :) They already think I’m weird since the only times I ever use my library card are for obscure military history books or microfilm records from other states. I’ve never once checked out a book or dvd that they actually have in their collection.

      1. I’ll dig up my copy, and if the useful information is summarized on few enough pages, I’ll photocopy (or maybe scan?) them. I can pass hardcopies along at the next club meeting. I could even loan you the book, but if it is available at the library, I’d prefer not to let my copy get away from me — even if it isn’t at the top of my active stacks, at the moment.

        1. Wow. Found my copy (no mean feat) and “biographies” runs from page 166 (Abendsen) to page 367 (Zorger). Some of the names provide extensive commentary, some only the names and county locations. But, there are a LOT.

        2. I can get it through the library system easily enough, I think. I may start with it since I have regular access to the Neumann books at the David Library, a place I visit semi-regularly for other events. Those I don’t have to check out and return at a certain date.

  4. I have a spreadsheet containing more than 2400 gunsmiths from the period 1607 to 1840, based on some of the sources mentioned above and many from primary historical sources. I’ll forward it to you when I get home. (Email me as a reminder.)

    1. You should publish that someday. It would be valuable to serious students and collectors.

      Another idea might be, to set up a “wiki” reference page like that, where others could contribute sourced information they uncovered.

        1. Even if it were just published as a raw spreadsheet, that would be a big plus to a lot of people.

  5. This post was linked by a social media genealogy newsletter. I wonder what any readers from that group will say… :)

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