By Ericka Grizzard
Lineage societies such as Daughters/Sons of the American Revolution, The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and many others serve as notable distinctions and sources of tremendous pride – the certified stamp on your family’s presence at certain points on the timeline of history. Today’s societies, while rooted in specific heritage, are largely philanthropic organizations with focuses on historic preservation, education, and community service and there is a very high level of interest in being part of that legacy. Here are three things to know before you consider joining a lineage society:
- Establishing eligibility is only the starting point. Eligibility does not equal membership. Unlike other organizations lineage societies require a tremendous amount of proof before accepting an applicant into their ranks. Inquire with your local or state chapter and get to know the society’s general application requirements and process – for instance, Daughters/Sons of the American Revolution establish lineage from the applicant to their patriot ancestor, while The General Society of Mayflower Descendants establishes lineage from the Mayflower passenger to the applicant – it seems like a small or irrelevant distinction, but it changes the way the process is completed and the lens through which the society views your eligibility.
- Documentation is everything. When many societies started out, they placed much more faith in an applicant’s word with some documents to support it but now, in all truth, membership belongs to those applicants who have enough documented proof. During the last few years societies have made more stringent changes to document requirements, and you will need several primary and secondary sources for each individual and generation in your lineage. Familiarize yourself with which documents are acceptable for the specific society in which your are seeking membership, and keep in mind that just because a document was accepted by one society, that does not necessarily mean that it will be accepted by another. It’s also helpful to remember that a previously proven line to a shared ancestor does not mean that the society still accepts those documents as proof positive – some lines have been disproven and others require more documents than the original member offered.
- It’s a labor of love. The amount of time and work that you will put into proving your line will likely exceed your initial estimation. Chapter Historians and Registrars will be some of your biggest advocates, sounding boards, and advice-givers; but the work to prove your lineage rests with you. Having your family counted in history by being part of a lineage society can be an amazing part of your family legacy, but it is truly a labor of love.