Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Joining a Lineage Organization

There are literally hundreds of lineage organizations based in the United States and thousands of them worldwide. Those are groups that limit membership to individuals who meet specific criteria based on their ancestry. In other words, they require their members to be descendants of a specific type of person of historical importance. 

I have recently been approved for membership to The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) but there are groups such as the :
  • Associated Daughters of Early American Witches
  • Children of the Confederacy
  • Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War
  • Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence 
  • First Families of St. Louis 
  • Hereditary Order of the Families of Presidents and First Ladies of America 
  • Holland Society of New York 
  • International Society of the Descendants of Charlemagne
  • Jamestowne Society
  • Mayflower Society 
  • National Society of Descendants of Early Quakers 
  • Order of Descendants of Colonial Physicians and Chirurgiens 
  • Pioneers of Alaska 
  • Society of Descendants of the Alamo 
  • Society of the War of 1812 
  • Sons of Utah Pioneers 
  • United Empire Loyalists' Association
...just to name a few. Basically, if you are descended from anyone of any historical importance  - - and who isn't? - - you can probably find a lineage based organization to join.

The next question that arises is why would one join such an organization. Well, maybe you're just into history or your cultural heritage. Organization of this vein help to promote the history of their cultural or historically significant events. They also often provide scholarships to their members and the descendants of members. They often do a lot of good supporting the needs of the community. You will probably also get a subscription to an interesting magazine from the organization, a shiny membership pin, and tons of friendships with others who have the same interest as you do. But the most significant reason I sought to join a lineage based organization was to validate the quality of my genealogy research. 

Nowadays with the advances in DNA one could probably take a simply saliva test to prove linage to a historical figure; and many of these types of organization are now accepting DNA as additional evidence for membership. If you read my posts on DNA research though, you know that you can share a common ancestor with someone very far back in history and not necessarily have any DNA in common that cousin. Cousin Mary at Threading Needles in a Haystack and I are 6th cousins (once removed) and AncestryDNA did not find us to be a genetic match. Yet she and I can document our individual lineages back to a couple who were married here on Long Island in the late 1700s.

So how does one go about joining a lineage organization?

Once you figure out who in your family history fits the particular criteria for membership to such a society, you must carefully document your ancestry back to that person. And I mean carefully. The amount of documentation required will vary by society. Some will have specific definitions as to what type of documents are considered "proof"  but generally you will have to provide documentation that links you to your parent, your parent to their parent, and so on using vital statistics records like birth, death, and marriage certificates. In instances where those type of documents do not exist, you will have to provide other sources of connection; church register entries, wills, property deeds, military service records, newspaper articles, etc.

For some lineage societies you may only have to link yourself to your parent and then, maybe, provide his or her military service record. In my case I had to document 8 generation of my lineage to join the DAR; from me to my patriot. Now if my mother had been a member of the DAR I would have only had to document my connection to her. And now that I am a member of the DAR, someday my niece could join with a lot less effort than I had to muster by simply linking herself to my mother through me. So the volume of documentation that is required for membership will vary from organization to organization and from circumstance to circumstance.

Just as always is the case with quality genealogy research, though, a considerable amount of time is often involved in completing a membership application. If like me, you have many generation to document you will probably have and a ton of records to submit - - - with citations!! Yes, citations as to where you obtained the documentation.

Some lineage societies will also require that you be "sponsored" meaning that a local chapter of the organization supports your application. So if you are thinking of joining a lineage society, reach out to them and they will help guide you through their application process.

And yes friends, there will be fees as there are with joining any organization. But I pay beaucoup bucks each year in fees and dues to belong to professional organizations for my job, why not join an organization that validates the quality of my genealogy research - - my research that I love so much?


  1. Thanks for this post - I always knew you were a professional-quality genealogist/researcher, but it's nice to have that validated by a national, historical lineage society! ;) And thanks for the mention of the other lineage societies - I didn't know about some of them, and they sound interesting, so I'm going to go look them up!

  2. Thanks, Mary! There are many many more lineage groups out there. And to be accepted the DAR is exciting but I also recognize that not everyone has a patriot in the history. Initially I was misinformed that I had one, then i was convince for a long time that I didn't, and then by surprise I found one. Who knew?

    These other lineage organizations seem just as rigorous in the verification/application process. I think every genealogist should try to join one. And I think we might have a witch on our Rebecca Raynor's Pearsall line but again, that could just be bad internet info.

    I'm thinking of also trying to join the United Empire Loyalists - - just for the irony.