Some people become interested in genealogy because they want to join a lineage society. A lineage society (also called hereditary society) is an organization whose members descend from a qualifying ancestor. These societies can be based on military service, historical events, immigration, early settlers, and ethnic background. Some lineage societies are gender specific such as Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).
There are many reasons for joining a lineage society: honoring our ancestors; genealogy research (connecting with others working on the same family or geographic area); social; patriotic, and others. Whatever your reasons for wanting to join, realize that there will be a significant amount of work involved in the application process.
Before starting an application, talk with other members of the society and obtain a copy of the society’s guidelines. Each organization has their own guidelines which you should beome familiar with before beginning the application process. For instance, a current member may be required to sponsor a new member. This is something that you need to know before you begin. If you think you want to join a lineage society, there are three things that you will be required to do.
First, you need to prove with documentation that your ancestor meets the eligibility requirements of the organization. A family story that great-great grandpa served in the Civil War will not gain you entry into the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. You will need to prove that great-great grandpa served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Proof can be obtained by ordering a copy of his military service record from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The second thing you need to do is prove your lineage to the qualifying ancestor. The connection between each generation must be proven. This means that each link in the chain of descent has to have proper documentation. The place and date for the major life events, birth, marriage, and death, must be known for all persons in the direct line from you to the qualifying ancestor. Proper documentation is required for each of these events. Acceptable sources for this documentation are birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, probates, deeds, military records, and census records.
Third, you need to complete the application. Be sure to read all of the instructions before beginning and follow them exactly as they are written. I would suggest that you use a copy of the application as a working copy as the materials are compiled and organized. A standardized linage society application worksheet can be found at www.newenglandwomen.org/worksheet.htm.
You may have had grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts, or uncles that were or are members of a lineage society. It will help to get a copy of their application. Some organization allow an applicant to piggy back on a previous application; others do not. Even if you are not able to piggy back, the application of someone in your line will help guide you to records that you may not have.
Some lineage societies provide help to perspective members. This varies from organization to organization. Most lineage societies have a Web site. The content of these Web sites range from online help to only contact information.
There are hundreds of lineage societies in the United States. A few examples of lineage societies are: Military Service - Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR); Historical Event - Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence; Immigration - The Mayflower Society: General Society of Mayflower Descendants; Early Settler - The Society of California Pioneers; Ethnic - The Huguenot Society of America.
For a list of lineage societies visit the Hereditary Society Community of the United States of American Web site at http://www.hereditary.us/. Additional information can also be obtained from the Hereditary Society Blue Book which is available at the main branch of the Denver Public Library.