In the United States, much of the original activity in genealogical research began as a result of interest in lineage societies. Lineage societies owe their origin to this desire to commemorate or honor a particular ancestral heritage or event. There are thousands of such organizations throughout the world and some date back into antiquity. The attraction of these societies is based on social exclusivity through the establishment of a common social bond. Most of these organizations require some sort of genealogical proof of relationship to an ancestor whose participation in the event confers membership on his or her descendants.
In my own personal experience, there has always been a background of my relatives' participation in various lineage societies. Two of the most prominent of these organizations in the United States are the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). Here are some links to lists of other such organizations.
- Wikipedia: List of hereditary and lineage organizations
- Lineage Societies – the Well-Known, the Obscure How to Apply Successfully
- Selected Hereditary and Lineage Societies
- Lineage Societies for Women & Men Without Local Meetings
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish such organizations from family organizations and genealogical societies in general. Rather than focus exclusively on the particular requirements for joining such organizations, I decided to write about the process of establishing an ancestral link to a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and use as an example some of the requirements for membership established by the DAR.
The first step in establishing a connection is to define the event. In this case, the American Revolution has been defined by the DAR as that period of time between the Battle of Lexington, Massachusetts on 19 April 1775 and the withdrawal of the British Troops from New York on 26 November 1783. Participation in the War effort has been extensively defined by the DAR in the following list:
- Signers of the Declaration of Independence
- Military Service, such as participation in one of the following: Army and Navy of the Continental Establishment, State Navy, State and Local Militia, Privateers, Military or Naval Service performed by French nationals in the American theater of war
- Civil Service, under the authority of Provisional or new State Governments: State Officials, County and Town Officials (Town Clerk, Selectman, Juror, Town Treasurer, Judge, Sheriff, Constable, Jailer, Surveyor of Highways, Justice of the Peace, etc.)
- Patriotic Service, which includes: Members of the Continental Congress, State Conventions, and Assemblies, Membership in committees made necessary by the War, including service on committees which furthered the cause of the Colonies from April 1774, such as Committees of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, committees to care for soldier's families, etc., Signer of Oath of Fidelity and Support, Oath of Allegiance, etc., Members of the Boston Tea Party, Defenders of Forts and Frontiers, and Signers of petitions addressed to and recognizing the authority of the Provisional and new State Governments, Doctors, nurses, and others rendering aid to the wounded (other than their immediate families), Ministers who gave patriotic sermons and encouraged patriotic activity, Furnishing a substitute for military service, Prisoners of war or refugees from occupying forces, Prisoners on the British ship Old Jersey or other prison ships, Service in the Spanish Troops under Galvez or the Louisiana Militia after 24 December 1776, Service performed by French nationals within the colonies or in Europe in support of the American cause, Those who rendered material aid, in Spanish America, by supplying cattle for Galvez's forces after 24 December 1776, Those who applied in Virginia for Certificates of Rights to land for settlement and those who were entitled to and were granted preemption rights, Those who took the Oath of Fidelity to the Commonwealth of Virginia from October 1779 to 26 November 1783, Those who rendered material aid such as furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the Colonies, munitions makers, gunsmiths, etc.
In some cases, interest in establishing a relationship to an individual who falls into one of these rather broad categories and originates with a family tradition. Unfortunately, such a motivation often leads to frustration because the neophyte genealogical researcher begins his or her research by attempting to "prove" the traditional family relationship when the supposed connection is sometimes based on nothing more than a common surname.
All genealogical research should be carefully and thoughtfully documented with as many source documents as can be found by working back in time from the most reliable known information. Sometimes, this involves documenting one's own immediate family and then carefully researching each succeeding generation.