Loyola University Chicago and Shepherd Universities Awarded Grant to Create American Revolution Loyalist Database

The Omohundro Institute for Early American Studies has awarded Kyle Roberts, PhD, Loyola University Chicago, and Benjamin Bankhurst, PhD, Shepherd University, with a Lapidus Digital Collections Fellowship for 2019. The $5000 grant will provide undergraduate students at both universities a chance to develop in-demand skills in the Digital Humanities (web design, transcription, mapping, visualization, etc.) and create a website that will give online access to rare manuscript records from the Loyalist Claims Commission held by the National Archives at Kew, England.

Previously dismissed as the losers in the American Revolution, Loyalists, the people who chose to stay loyal to the British Crown during the conflict, are seeing a resurgence of scholarly interest over the past decade. The story of their difficult decision is recorded in the papers of the Loyalist Claims Commission, but is one that has been largely overlooked since the end of the war.

This 2019 spring semester, students in Bankhurst and Roberts’ jointly-taught American Revolution course are learning how to transcribe original documents to recover the stories of individual loyalists. They will help design and upload their transcriptions, along with original images, to a new website dedicated to their experience.

“I am looking forward to gaining a better insight into a period of history that is so integral to our American experience as well as other nations at the time,” says Paul Witry, a senior Global & International Studies and Political Science major at Loyola.  “By taking part in this research process, our joint classes have the opportunity to offer a voice to those who are no longer living and shed light on subjects previously unknown.”

“Students from Shepherd and Loyola universities are really fortunate for the opportunities being provided through the American Revolution class,” says Claire Tryon, a Senior History major at Shepherd University, “I think working directly with documents, such as from the Loyalists Claims Commission, will give us a more profound expansion of these individuals perspective through the intimate experience of reading their thoughts, having to decipher for ourselves the emotions and implications, and our critical analysis.”

Kyle Roberts is Associate Professor of Public History and New Media and Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago. Benjamin Bankhurst is Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Both have researched and written extensively on the history of North America and the Atlantic World in the eighteenth-century..

The Lapidus Initiative for Excellence and Innovation in Early American Scholarship, generously funded with a major gift from Sid and Ruth Lapidus, looks to build on the Omohundro Institute’s tradition of excellence in scholarly programming and publishing by funding projects that incorporate digital platforms and tools. Scholars must partner with special collections libraries that will digitize the needed materials with the funds from the fellowship. The fellowship awards funding to the holding library and to the scholars whose research relies on, or will be greatly enhanced by, the digitization of a collection or partial collection of materials related to early America, broadly conceived, before 1820.

About Loyola University Chicago

Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with more than 17,000 students. Nearly 12,000 undergraduates call Loyola home. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as a course location in Vernon Hills, Illinois (Cuneo Mansion and Gardens); and a Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Illinois. The University features 13 schools, colleges, and institutes, including the Quinlan School of Business, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Law, School of Social Work, Graduate School, Institute of Pastoral Studies, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, and Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago. Ranked a top 100 national university by U.S. News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations like the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about Loyola, visit, “like” us at, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago or @LoyolaNewsroom.

About Shepherd University