Are you relatively confident that you qualify for a lineage society membership, but aren’t sure how to go about getting started? Have you started the process, but run into some confusing obstacles? In this article, one of our professional genealogists, Kit Muller, will introduce you to common issues people have when applying for lineage society memberships and some simple solutions!
When I was in college, my grandmother sent me copies of a letter written by her great-uncle Neil McCafferty to his family, telling them of his day guiding President Lincoln around the Civil War battlefield of Antietam. Later that year, she wrote, “Oh, yes, we’re also related to Patrick Henry. You should join Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).” I didn’t consider joining DAR until decades later, with direct lineage to a Revolutionary War physician, Dr. Walter Warfield of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Nor did I know there were Civil War lineage societies as well.
from Kit’s personal collection
My membership application to DAR took years to research–I wasn’t yet a professional genealogist nor did I realize I could hire one to help me!
Do you know of a Revolutionary War or Civil War ancestor in your family tree? Do you have the same surname as a pilgrim who arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620? Have you ever wanted to discover if the family lore surrounding these questions was true?
A Lineage Society for You
Besides the General Society for Mayflower Descendants, the DAR, the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), and the Jamestowne Society, there are many other possibilities, depending on where your ancestors were and what they did. You can find a comprehensive list of lineage societies on Cyndi’s List.
A few examples are:
- Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
- Society of the War of 1812
- Daughters of the Republic of Texas
- Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers
- Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge
- Sons of the Revolution in the State of Michigan
- Society of California Pioneers
Gold mine owned by one of Kit’s California pioneers, Anton Zantgraf
As you can see, there are national organizations, societies limited to one battle or one location, state lineage societies, and those not connected with war but with migration or settlement in an area of the United States. Not included in this article are ethnic lineage societies. However, please see our other blogs, such as a recent article detailing membership in Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage for descendants of enslaved Americans.
Lineage Society Membership Application Requirements
Some of these societies allow members-at-large who are not directly descended from a solider or pioneer but would like to participate in the many community service programs, preservation of historical records and artifacts, museum work, reenactments, assisting military veterans, awarding scholarships, and myriad other activities undertaken by these societies.
However, they all have a common application for direct lineal descendants, requiring proof of lineage through documentation. The steps to be taken for membership in most of these societies include:
- Find a local chapter for guidance
- Determine whether you have an ancestor who qualifies you for membership
- Fill out an initial application
- Research and provide all birth, marriage, death, and other records proving the generational links between you and your pilgrim, soldier, sailor, or pioneer ancestor
Hiring Professional Genealogists To Help With Lineage Society Research
Local officers at many societies can help determine if you have a target ancestor. For example, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has produced over twenty-five-generation Silver Books (named for their silver covers) detailing the links from the original Mayflower passenger to the fifth generation of their family. These books have been revised over the years, with some extending the generations and many updates made, but society can use the books to give you an idea of whether you should apply.
What may be most challenging to find are the records between those of the fifth generation (born usually in the mid-1700s) and the records you already have for your grandparents or great-grandparents. Legacy Tree Genealogists has expert researchers who concentrate on Colonial American records and understand the requirements of the different lineage societies, who can make this process much less arduous and time-consuming for you.
For the DAR, your ancestor did not need to be in the military but could also have been a member of the Continental Congress, an officer in the local county or town government during the Revolutionary War, an individual who furnished supplies such as a horse and cart to deliver food or ammunition to the troops, and even a member of the Boston Tea Party, which just had its 250th anniversary on 16 December 2023. You can find the list of accepted Revolutionary War service here.
DAR library in Washington, D.C. by Brian Rhinehart at Civil War Records. Used with permission.
You don’t need to go to the beautiful Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington, D.C. to research your ancestors, though it is worth seeing. The DAR website lists all ancestors who have already been identified through a membership application.
Kit’s Revolutionary War ancestor from the DAR website.
Records associated with these applications can be ordered from DAR, but they are also somewhat limited and may need much more research to fill in the gaps. The DAR was more relaxed when it was founded in 1890. In recent years, they have revisited many applications and decided there needed to be more proof of eligibility after all.
Whether you know of a Revolutionary War participant who has already been approved, one who was once approved but is not anymore, or you believe you can apply for membership through an eligible ancestor not yet recorded by any society, let us know how we can help.
The genealogists at LTG are experienced in looking at your family tree to help determine eligible ancestors, whether for the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, or one of the lesser-known societies you may be interested in joining.
How To Prove Your Ancestry for Lineage Society Membership
As we go further back in time with our family trees, it is sometimes much more difficult to find records. Whether your ancestors moved west from the more populated east coast into an area where they had to cull forests for farmland, build towns, and fight hunger and cold, or whether they stayed in New England or Virginia and saw their family records burned in a courthouse fire or destroyed by a hurricane, sometimes the standard birth, marriage, and death records don’t exist.
If there are enough indirect records, for instance, a marriage record of an ancestor’s brother mentioning his parents, the ancestor’s obituary listing his brother and sister, and his sister’s baptism with her parents as sponsors recorded in a traveling minister’s log from the “backcountry,” then an argument may be written to provide this generational link for your lineage application.
Legacy Tree Genealogists cannot write your lineage application for you or guarantee a lineage society will accept it, but if you need help identifying an eligible ancestor or missing generational links necessary for a lineage application, let us provide the research!