Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Capt. Joseph L. Townsend: 1812 New Jersey Militia

I am certainly pleased that my husband and I decided to make a visit to the EVANS Public Library (named for a descendant of my paternal 5th great grandfather, Jeremiah Evans) on our recent trip that included a 3 day stop in Vandalia, Illinois. I am even more pleased that I had my trusty Flip-Pal portable scanner with me. I discovered the library houses a large collection of the Fayette County Historical Society's publication called "Fayette Facts". For over a dozen years I had owned all the Fayette Facts that had previously been offered by the FCHS as back issues to the public...about 25 of them. But when I looked on the library shelf there were a good 40-50 issues there and most of them were copies I did not have in my personal library. I pulled them all from the shelf and sat down at an empty table and started going through the indexes for my surnames: Evans, Miller, Owen, Patterson and Townsend. It was Wednesday, June 1 and being a week day morning it was quiet in there, but my Flip-Pal was smokin'!

By far the most surprising and exciting item concerned my paternal 3rd great grandfather's military service and was found in Fayette Facts, Vol. 38, No. 4, pg. 36:


            Joseph L. Townsend, born 1796 and died 1875 was a Captain in the New Jersey Militia. He married Christianna Wheaton and is buried at Howard's Point, Howard Township, according to Daughters of the War of 1812 records.

            Howard Township is now known as Avena and a check of these burial records indicated that Christianna Townsend, wife of J. L., died August 28, 1872, aged 74 years 10 months and 22 days and is buried in Yolton Cemetery. Joseph's grave is probably here as well."

Prior to seeing this short article I had found no clues of any military service for Joseph, not that I hadn't tried to find them. His family was from Quaker stock back in New Jersey but after they came to Illinois it appears they left that faith behind so there shouldn't have been a refrain from serving due to religious views, but I still failed to produce anything showing a service record for Joseph. This find was certainly a lucky break! It just goes to prove what I've heard over and over again: 95% of genealogical information is found in repositories other than the Internet.

A search on's War of 1812 Service Records turned up two entries for a Joseph Townsend in the New Jersey Militia.  One shows a Captain in Read's Battalion and the other shows a Private in Howell's Regiment. Nothing about the online records proves to me that either of these entries is for MY Joseph Townsend. I guess the Daughters of the War of 1812 have already done this investigation for me. I'd certainly like to see a copy of the records myself though!



  1. YAHHH, and WAHHHOOOOO. Great find!!! Can't wait to read more.

  2. Wow! That's a cool find! I hope you find his service records.