July, is a time when I reflect on the many things my ancestors did by coming to America, settling various areas, and defending the country, and leaving a great place for me to be born in and to live in. I have a great interest in preserving their histories and accomplishments for the benefit of others, mostly for my children and grandchildren. One way to help preserve their history is to join a lineage society.
Lineage or hereditary societies are organizations with membership limited to those who can prove they are descended from a qualifying ancestor.
These groups are many and varied, but most fall into categories like early settlers to an area, such with the Mayflower Society, [limited to descendants of the group that came on the first crossing of the Mayflower] or the “First Families of Ohio” for those whose families were in Ohio before 31 December 1830. There are also many groups dedicated to specific military service such as the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] or, ethnic or religious groups such as the National Huguenot Society or those who emigrated from certain areas such as the Germans from Russia. There are a multitude of these groups, [see Cyndi’s Lists at http://www.cyndislist.com/ for a listing of lineage societies].
First however, your ancestor must qualify, and you will have to prove that you descend through that ancestor. You may find that a distant cousin has already done much of that work for you. I had a cousin join the DAR using my 3 great grandfather, so I only need to prove that he was my ancestor.
The qualification process starts with you, and it must include more than a pedigree chart, or family legend. It must have actual proof. A history written about that ancestor will not be proof enough without documents to prove stated facts. You may be able to use county histories, bible records, and birth records, wills, land records, death records where they exist, tax records. While census records mat state relationships, they will need additional supporting evidence. To begin this process you would contact the organization itself and ask for their requirements.
With all the work involved why would you want to join? Because members must prove their lineage, these societies have files filled with valuable genealogical information, and as a member you will have access to them. These include multi-generational pedigrees, information gathered from family bibles, cemetery and death records, land, probate and military documents. Large societies often maintain their own libraries, and most publish periodic newsletters.
These groups also often publish books, histories and generally preserve records that otherwise might be lost. Their lineage books and histories are of great value not only to their members, but to others who are researching, and these records are generally easy to locate and many have been filmed. Another advantage in joining a group is that your genealogy will be included with their records, making it easier for your descendants to locate this part of their family history.
While you are searching out your genealogy take a minute to at least think about what groups your ancestor may have been involved with and take a look at the records they have preserved, you may hit a proverbial gold mine.