Category Archives: War of 1812 Ancestors

Endless Opportunties… to Learn!

The War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions team have all been quite busy, and we’re excited to share with everyone what we’ve been working on. Each and every one of these projects was designed to assist you in finding your War of 1812 ancestor, so you may want to set aside some research time!

  • We are proud to announce that Ancestors, Family, and Associates in the War of 1812 Records is now available on Ancestry Academy – and it’s FREE to watch FOREVER. We appreciate Ancestry’s continued support of the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project. This recording featured David Rencher, AG, CG, FUGA, FIGRS, and reviews a brief history of the war, the records created by the conflict, and potential opportunities for researchers. You do need a free Ancestry Academy account to watch the video.
  • Also new and now available is the War of 1812 Research Genealogy At A Glance research guide; available through Family Roots Publishing Company. This laminated guide will assist you in identifying records affiliated with the War, and their location and contents. The guide is available for $8.06.
  • For those interested in a bit more, Family Roots Publishing Company is offering a bundle package to celebrate the release of our new Genealogy At A Glance guide! Available until March 28 only, you can get both the laminated guide and a copy of Tracing Your War of 1812 Ancestors, compiled by David A. Norris (2012), and save 20%. Get the details here.
  • Don’t forget! Our popular webinar, presented by Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG, is available for free as well from Legacy Family Tree Webinars. This presentation, “The War of 1812 Records – Preserving the Pensions” is a great place to learn specifics on the pension files and more.


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What will you find in the pension files from the War of 1812?


We hope you are able to take advantage of all of these offerings. To contribute to this effort and to ensure that we are able to digitize each and every page of the War of 1812 pension files, please make a donation today; every dollar is important! Together, we will protect these vital historical documents forever.


How the Irish Changed the Course of the War of 1812

The War of 1812 was a war fought over immigration and citizenship.

Though the American Revolution officially severed them, the United States and Britain were still very much tied together in the early 19th century. At that time, many people believed that contrasting ideologies were the main difference between the two societies.

Americans favored republican self-government and a relatively egalitarian society. The British thought that to be a dangerous experiment destined for failure; they preferred the power and stability of their constitutional monarchy.

These different approaches to government caused a great flow of people between the two countries. Hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants poured into America, while some 30,000 “Late Loyalists” left the United States for British-controlled Canada.

A torrent of Irish immigration

In the earliest decades of the United States, the Irish made up more than 50% of the immigrants to the nascent republic. Many blamed the Crown for the poverty and oppression they faced at home. A violent but failed rebellion in 1798 sent even more Irish fleeing their homeland.


Irish emigrants who had already settled in America frequently wrote back home extolling the virtues of this new republican life, where it was possible for hard-working common people to succeed and live in religious freedom.

How the Irish changed American politics

Once in America, the Irish played a key role in shaping the political landscape of the new country. They arrived in the midst of an intense political struggle between Federalists, who favored a strong central government, and Republicans, who preferred state governments to dominate.

The Republicans painted Federalists as secretly loyal to the British crown – it was easy to draw parallels between a strong federal government and the centralized constitutional monarchy.

The message of the Republicans resonated with Irish immigrants. They had seen the dark side of an overly powerful central government back home, and the fact that Federalists were associated with the Crown didn’t help things either.

Despite Federalist efforts to suppress immigration, naturalization and voting rights, the Irish population vaulted the Republicans to political dominance through their sheer numbers. Once the Republicans came to power, they continued to open up immigration, naturalization and voting rights, leading to even more Irish coming over.

Britain reacts


This massive Irish emigration was a central cause of the war. Britain viewed these new Irish-Americans as very dangerous for their country. Not only were they losing a huge percentage of manpower for their labor and military force, but Irish abroad were considerably harder to control than Irish at home.

So Britain rejected the idea that subjects of the Crown could ever give up that status and refused to recognize anyone naturalized as an American citizen.

They began to treat all emigrants as fugitives or deserters. When able to, they stopped American ships and impressed sailors who they discovered were born in Britain. They essentially gave them two options – return to serve in the Royal Navy (which was hurting for sailors due to the Napoleonic wars) or be hung as deserters of the Crown.

Irish in the war effort


All of these factors led Irish-Americans to be gung-ho about going to war with Britain. The Republicans were extremely anti-British and pro-war, viewing the Crown’s colony in Canada as a threat to America’s independence that must be snuffed out.

In addition to being loyal Republicans and always looking for a chance to strike back at the British, those in favor of a free Irish Republic saw invading Canada as a way to achieve that. Many believed that if Americans could wrest Canada away from the British Empire, that would greatly damage the Crown and inspire a this-time successful Irish rebellion.

For these reasons, Irish-American newspapers and politicians encouraged Irish immigrants to enlist in the army. Promised the chance to spill British blood, and a way to earn land and a paycheck, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

The Irish joined in numbers far greater than their proportional representation in the overall population of America. The British viewed these Irish immigrants as absolutely essential to the US war effort once the conflict got under way.

Britain doubled down on their efforts to restrict immigration and impress expatriate sailors. Irish-Americans that were captured by the British were given a similar option – serve in the British military or be hung as a traitor.

But at this point it was too late. Irish-Americans were consistently on the front lines of the conflict and were heavily invested in the cause. Although the war ended in an arguable stalemate, our Irish ancestors were an integral part of successfully defending America in what could have been a nation-ending conflict.

Do you have Irish Ancestors that were in America at this time? If so, see how they were involved in the war – search the 1812 Pensions for free today.

Indians, Heirs, and an Act of Congress

The Chandonia/Chadonnet descendants may guess that they have Native American ancestry, but not know much more than that.  The pension of John B. Chandonia (aka Jean Baptiste Chandronnet) lends a whole new dimension to his life and service in the War of 1812.  If we compare online sources for John and his family with his War of 1812 pension, we see a completely different picture.  As each source is analyzed, we can compare it with the War of 1812 pension for John for additional information in the pension that can support, change, or enhance the information gleaned about his life.

  1. FindaGrave: If researchers are looking for the wife and children of John, a good way to start would be by working from death to birth.  FindaGrave has a listing for John B. Chadonai [sic] (1790-1837), a “Potawatomi Scout” in the War of 1812.  He is buried at the City Cemetery in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana.  No additional death or birth information is listed, nor are wife or children are mentioned. It does not state if John was a white man or Native American/Indian working as an interpreter.[1]  Compare with War of 1812 pension:  In the pension, we find a few more pieces of information concerning John’s life and death.  1) John’s surname is consistently spelled “Chandonia,” but we also see that this is a widow’s pension and that she is illiterate, so the phonetics and not the spelling need to be the focus of future searches.  2) John is listed as a ““a half-breed Pottamatomie Indian.”  3) John died at South Bend, Indiana in May 1837.[2]
history, genealogy, headstone, family history, War of 1812

John Chadonai headstone.

  1. Marriage Records: A beautiful image of John and Mary’s marriage record can be found on, but it is important to confirm it is the same couple.  The marriage date and place found in the pension file make it a certainty (see next).  Jean Baptiste Chandronnet married Marie Louise Chapolton in a French-speaking Catholic church in “Détroit, Ste-Anne, Michigan.”  It gives that Jean [John] was the fils majeur [adult son] of Charles Chandronnet and Marguerite Marcot, born in St. Joseph.  He married Marie Louise Chapolton, daughter of Benoit Chapolton and Therese Melche.  Marie signed the record with an X.  The marriage was performed 8 February 1815.[3] Compare with War of 1812 pension: John’s wife is Mary L. Chandonia, neé Chapolon.  They were said to have married 8 Aug 1811 by Rev. G. Richards in Detroit, Michigan.[4]  It appears that Mary, age 80 at the time of her deposition, understandably may have gotten the date a bit wrong. Having each record to compare with one another is important to any investigation.
  1. Census records and Children: Since John died before the census began enumerating full households in 1850, we can only guess that the following are the right family, especially given the difficulties in name spellings.  Note that if looking for evidence of John’s Native American heritage, it is not found in these census records.
  • Mary L. “Chawdanie,” age 54 in 1850, appeared to live with the widow Mary Brissette and her children in St. Joseph County, Indiana. Their race is not listed, and assumed to be white.[5]
  • Mary L. Chandonah, age 66 in 1860, now lived with the family of Charles B. Chandonah [no relationships listed], and a few Bresett children in South Bend, St. Joseph, Indiana. Their race is not listed, and assumed to be white.[6]
  • Mary “Shandonia,” age 77, lived with the Anthony and Emma Lamaram family in 1870, still in South Bend. Their races are all listed as “white.” [7]
  • Finally, the 1880 census is the last enumeration we find for Mary. She is now listed as Mary “Chadnois,” age 95, mother-in-law of Anthony Lamaraud (husband of Emily).  Their races are all listed as “white.” [8]

Compare with War of 1812 pension: In a deposition dated 27 Aug 1872, the children of John and Mary are listed as Charles B. Chandonia and Mary L. Breset.  Perhaps Emma/Emily died by this time?  Also noted in the file is the fact that John and Mary are the grandparents of Theo. Charles “Charley” Chandonia.

What you do not find in any other record online except in the War of 1812 pensions about John and Mary are:

  • Mary was awarded benefits based on an Act of Congress, approved 3 March 1847, “An Act for the relief of the Widow and Heirs of John B. Chandonia.”
  • Previous to the war, at the massacre of the whites by the Indians at Chicago, John saved the life of the Captain in command and his wife.
  • He joined as an interpreter and was eventually captured and held in a British prison until the end of the war. During his service he was described as “young, active, enterprising, and daring,” and was said not only to have helped his commanders with intelligence but been active in interceding on behalf of the army “possessing an influence over them [the Indian tribes] that no one else, who favored the American cause, did- all these circumstances combined gave him the power of rendering to the United States greater services than any one else at that time…”[1]
  • So, what are the value of the files being digitized by FGS and the Preserve the Pensions project?  Beyond measure.   By searching these pensions and comparing them with other sources, we find a story rich with detail and personality.  The initial petition in 1846 to hear Mary’s case before Congress may be echoed by us today…“…regretting that so just a claim should have been so long neglected, thereby permitting the widow and children of so meritorious a man to drag out a life in penury and want – hereby report a bill for their relief, and recommend its passage without delay.”Where else could we build the story of a Potawatomi born, French speaking, Native American patriot?  Let us search these records without delay and work to support, donate, and preserve so meritorious a memory for our own veteran ancestors and their families.


Stories such as this one could simply not be told without access to important historical documents, like the Pension files of the War of 1812. Help us today by making a donation supporting the digital preservation of this incredible collection.



[1] Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016),memorial page for John B. Chadonai (1790-1837), Find A Grave Memorial no.109,706,013, citing City Cemetery, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana; photo by Diana Brown, used with permission.

[2] John B. Chandonia (Indian Interpreter, U.S. Army, War of 1812), WO 8492, WC 4417, widow Mary L. Chandonia, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Records of the Veteran’s Administration, RG 15; National Archives (NARA), Washington DC; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016).

[3] “U.S., French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1695-1954,” digital images, ( : accessed 23 January 2016), Détroit, Ste-Anne, Michigan, Registre de Sainte Anne Detroit 1801 á 1842, p. 1729; imaged from microfilm identified as “Gabriel Drouin, comp., Drouin Collection”, Montreal, Quebec, Canada: “Institut Généalogique Drouin.”

[4] John B. Chandonia (Indian Interpreter, U.S. Army, War of 1812), WO 8492, WC 4417, widow Mary L. Chandonia, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, RG 15; NARA.

[5] 1850 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, Portage, page 21 [stamped 11], dwelling 144, family 144, Mary L. Chawdanie entry; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M432, roll 171.

[6] 1860 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, page 4,  dwelling 22, family 22, Mary L. Chandonah entry; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M653, roll 295.

[7] 1870 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, Ward 4,  page 4,  dwelling 20, family 22, Mary Shandonia entry; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M593, roll 360.

[8] 1880 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, ED 162,  page 39 [stamped 395],  dwelling 396, family 397, Mary Chadnois entry; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series T9, roll 309.