The British Headquarters Papers, New York (also known as the Carleton Papers) contain records kept by commanders-in-chief of the British Army in North America during the American Revolution (1776–1783). These 30,000 manuscript pages provide details of the services, sufferings and forced emigration of Loyalists of all classes who were banished, had their property confiscated and lived under laws of proscription because they had adhered to a lost cause. These particular papers were retained by Sir Guy Carleton, the last British Commander-in-Chief in New York upon his retirement.
The original British Headquarters Papers, New York (or Carleton Papers) are preserved at the National Archives in England. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds a microfilm copy of the papers (MG23 B1, microfilms M–343 to M–369). Between 1984 and 1996, the Sir Guy Carleton branch of the Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada undertook a vast indexing project with the help of volunteers and researchers using the microfilms held at LAC. The index was first available on a CD-ROM and in recent years, the Association gave a copy to LAC to make it available online as a searchable database. To learn more about the project and the records, read the brochure and other documentation at the bottom of the British Headquarters Papers 1776–1783 web page.
The series includes a variety of documents about loyalist soldiers and civilian refugees (both white and black people) but also about people who were on Manhattan Island or the adjacent mainland dominated by the British during the American Revolution, as well as many British and German soldiers who settled in Canada later and also some rebels. To learn more about these records, read the archival description.
This research tool provides access to 54,557 references to names of individuals appearing in the Carleton Papers.
For a variety of reasons (length of the project, uncertainty about the final form of the project and the audience it was intended to serve, changes in the makeup of the research team, the size and complexity of the undertaking), there is some inconsistency in the indexing of names of individuals mentioned in the Carleton Papers. At first, only lists of Loyalists, or people presumed to have been Loyalists, were to be indexed. Gradually the criteria widened to include many people (those in British regiments and in key administrative positions) who were not originally from America and in many cases returned to Britain. Some groups of people have been consistently indexed:
- American officials, e.g. Washington, Boudinot, etc.
- Other Americans, except slave owners already named in the Book of Negroes.
- British officials, e.g. Lord North, Barrington, Germain, John Robinson (Secretary of the Treasury), etc.
- British agents and contractors, e.g. Harley and Drummond.
- Leading British military figures in America, e.g. Howe, Clinton, and Carleton.
- Soldiers in British regiments other than the ones on the designated list of regiments.
- People in the navy.
Initially, names of officers with ranks up to and including colonel were indexed, while those from brigadier-general and higher were not. At some point, it was decided to index those names more consistently regardless of stated rank, but references for some of the higher-ranking officers are uneven.
The content of the database entries reflects the original language used in the documents. This information was not translated.
Important note: Given that some of the original documents are very difficult to read, some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.
The search screen allows you to search by:
- Given Name(s)
You can enter a surname and/or given name. Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names and some entries include only a surname. Try searching by surname only.
You can also enter any term in the keyword box such as place of origin, place of residence, ship, destination, occupation etc.
When you have entered your search terms, click on "Search." The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
How to Interpret the Results
Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain an item description.
Search Results Page
The search results page displays the following fields:
- Item Number
- Given Name(s)
Click on the underlined item number of a person to access the Item page, which contains additional information specific to that person.
Depending on the details contained in the actual record, the item page will include some but not all of the following fields:
- Given Name(s): includes either an individual’s given name(s) or initial(s). Given names that are abbreviated on the original manuscript are usually written out in full here, for example, William for Wm., or Archibald for Arch.
- Surname: can also include names of multiple business partners, e.g. Cochran & Abbot.
- See also: for cross-referencing from one record to another, mostly for dealing with business partnerships.
- Rank: Only one rank is entered for an individual. In the case of promotions, generally an officer’s existing rank is entered in this field while his new rank is mentioned in “Additional Information.” Note that trumpeters and drummers are entered here, but staff officers (chaplains, aides-de-camp, surgeons, surgeon’s mates, majors of brigade, quartermasters) are entered under occupation.
- Regiment: includes provincial units, German regiments, and only British units that disbanded in Canada, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, except the 82nd and 16th regiments. Battalion numbers are included in parentheses. The terms “Cavalry” and “Infantry” are also included in parentheses to differentiate between the cavalry and infantry in a given regiment. German units are often identified by the name of the commanding officer: Riedesel, Lossberg, Knoblauch, Kospoth, etc. They also may be identified by the name of the region in which they were raised: Brunswick, Waldeck, Hessehanau, etc.
- Occupation: indicates trade (merchant, carpenter, shipmaster, etc.) or administrative position in the case of civil officials, (inspector general, assistant quartermaster general, etc.). It also indicates staff appointments held by military men (paymaster, adjutant, quartermaster, aide-de-camp, major of brigade, chaplain, surgeon, surgeon’s mate). In cases where an individual is referred to as “Dr.” or “Rev.” but there is no indication of a specific office (whether a surgeoncy or a chaplaincy), “doctor” or “clergyman” is entered. All widows are identified by the term, “widow”.
- Race: indicates if a person was “black,” “mulatto” (a person of half-black ancestry), “quadroon” (a person of one-quarter black ancestry), “octoroon” (a person of one-eighth black ancestry) or part Indian.
- Gender: either male or female has been used.
- Place of Origin: No attempt has been made to substitute modern equivalents for 18th-century place names. Variant spellings have been standardized using the atlases, gazetteers, geographical dictionaries, and maps listed in the bibliography, e.g. Charlestown and Charles Town appear throughout as Charleston.
- Place of Residence: indicates the place of refuge (often New York) of Loyalists who were forced to flee from their place of origin. It is also used to identify the towns, cities, and states where military men were stationed, and where civil officials and departmental employees were employed, etc. No attempt has been made to substitute modern equivalents for 18th-century place names. Variant spellings have been standardized using the atlases, gazetteers, geographical dictionaries, and maps listed in the bibliography, e.g. Charlestown and Charles Town appear throughout as Charleston.
- Destination: the ultimate destinations of Loyalists forced to flee the Thirteen Colonies at the end of the war and also used regularly in the case of shipmasters to denote the destinations of sailing ships.
- Type of Document: indicates the type of document. An attempt was made to standardize the categories as much as possible but inconsistencies were unavoidable due to the size of the collection and the diversity of the documents. The types are:
- Account: used for a wide range of financial accounts, often pertaining to expenses in government departments.
- Address: used for formal addresses presented to the king, the commander-in-chief, or another authority by a legislative body or group of inhabitants.
- Certificate: used for certificates issued by various government officials, often attached to petitions and memorials.
- Coroner’s Report: used for a series of coroner’s inquisitions, mostly conducted by William Waddell.
- Deposition: used for depositions and affidavits. For the person swearing the deposition, “Deposition of” was used; for a person mentioned in a deposition, “Deposition (mentioned)” was used.
- Invoice: used mostly for invoices of clothing, foodstuffs, and other cargoes shipped to America.
- Letter: used for all types of correspondence. For the sender, “Letter from” was used; for the recipient, “Letter to” was used. When a person other than the sender or recipient is merely mentioned in a letter, “Letter (mentioned)” was used.
- List of Bills: almost exclusively used for the lists of bills drawn on Harley and Drummond.
- List of Original Wills: used for just one document, a 20-page list of wills in the custody of the Secretary of New York (document 9671).
- List of Promotions: used for lists of promotions and lists of vacancies in regiments owing to promotions.
- Memorandum: used for all documents headed “Note” or “Notes” as well as those actually headed “Memorandum.” Also used for brief or informal notes of some transaction or an outline of an intended instrument, such as a note for a warrant.
- Orderly Book: used for two orderly books (documents 3343 and 10437), both quite lengthy.
- Orders: mainly used for military orders or instructions.
- Paylist: used for abstracts, accounts, and lists of pay (usually but not necessarily pertaining to military salaries). Also used for lists of warrants, but not for warrants of pay.
- Petition: used for both petitions and memorials. For the sender, “Petition from” or in the case of a joint petition, “Petition from (with others)” was used; for the recipient, “Petition to” was used. If a person other than the sender or recipient is merely mentioned in a petition, “Petition (mentioned)” was used.
- Proceedings: used for the proceedings, minutes, or reports of various boards, courts, councils, etc.
- Proclamation: used occasionally for official proclamations issued by the commander-in-chief or another authority.
- Proposal: used for written proposals of one sort or another, often but not necessarily military in nature. Usually headed “Proposal for,” “Plan for” or “Prospectus for.”
- Receipt: used for receipts of various types (for payment or goods received, for dispatches and others papers received, for warrants received). Usually headed “Receipt for” or “Received from.” The only receipts not included in this field are receipts for military commissions, which are considered lists of commissions and entered under “Return of Troops.”
- Report: used for official documents (military reports, etc.).
- Resolution: used for resolutions of a government or legislative body, for example, the American Congress.
- Return of Employees: used for returns and/or lists of civilian employees. Includes workers in the Barrack Master General’s Department, the Commissary General’s Department, the Quartermaster General’s Department, the Indian Department, etc.; members of the Civil Branch of the Artillery and of the Engineers’ Department; hospital staff etc.
- Return of Horses: used for lists of people whose horses were requisitioned by the military forces.
- Return of Hospitals: used only for a few lists of patients, or of sick and wounded. For hospital staff, see “Return of Employees.”
- Return of Inhabitants: used for one list of inhabitants from Natchez, Mississippi.
- Return of Loyalists: used for lists of Loyalists and refugees including those who were receiving support from the government, were undergoing persecution, were fleeing or fled to British North America and elsewhere; widows of provincial officers; etc.
- Return of Officers: used for lists of British officers.
- Return of Officials: used for lists of government officials.
- Return of Pilots: used for one list of pilots stationed at Delaware Bay.
- Return of Prisoners: used for lists of prisoners of war, whether British, German, or provincial. For civilians (as well as for military personnel held by the British authorities) see “State of the Provost.”
- Return of Property: used for a few lists of barrack houses, vestry houses, vestry tenants, etc.
- Return of Troops: used for all muster rolls, lists of commissions, lists of officers, returns of various military units. Includes all lists of military personnel except paylists, promotion lists, and lists of military prisoners.
- Return of Vessels: used for returns of vessels entered and cleared from various ports, lists of ships carrying provisions, etc.
- Schedule: used for schedules of correspondence, schedules of dispatches, and schedules of accounts.
- State of the Provost: used for the weekly reports of the provost. For prisoners of war, see “List of Prisoners.”
- Statement: used for statements, narratives, and representations.
- Warrant for payment: used only for the warrants of pay themselves, not for lists of warrants.
- Date: the date of the document itself. Where a given document consists of a number of documents compiled over an extended period of time (e.g. 17 June 1775 to 26 May 1776), the date entered is the concluding date. This also applies to abstracts of pay which generally cover three-month periods.
- Additional Information: provides more detailed information about the subject matter of a particular document or the person mentioned in the document.
- Department: the department or office in which tradesmen or civil officers were employed.
- Name of Ship: as shown on the document.
- Document/Page Number: The Carleton Papers consist of many documents with multiple pages within a document. The document number itself may be a numeral consisting of 1 to 5 digits. Where required, the page number within the document follows in parentheses, for example, 9509 (44). If an individual is mentioned on multiple pages of a single document, the pages numbers will be indicated, for example, 10033 (24, 36, 87).
- Place where the document was created: Many documents originated within a specific department or office. No attempt has been made to substitute modern equivalents for 18th-century place names. Variant spellings have been standardized using the atlases, gazetteers, geographical dictionaries, and maps listed in the bibliography, e.g. Charlestown and Charles Town appear throughout as Charleston.
To suggest a correction, click on the “Suggest a Correction” link to access an electronic form.
To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.
How to Obtain Copies
Library and Archives Canada holds a microfilm copy of the Carleton Papers (microfilms M–343 to M–369), which are not digitized and must be viewed on site. Consult Access the Records for other options such as ordering copies. Note that requests should include all the details provided in the database entry.
Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the Sir Guy Carleton Branch of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada and its volunteers without whom this project would not have been possible.