Archive for April, 2012

Lineage Societies

When I reflect on the many things my ancestors did by coming to America, settling various areas, defending the country, and leaving a great place for me to be born in and to live in, it generates an 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, and also to find more information about them, 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 such as being an early settler in an area, such like with Mayflower Society, (limited to descendants of the group that came on the first crossing of the Mayflower)  or like 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 Sons of the Confederacy (Civil War), ethnic or religious groups such as the National Huguenot Society or the Ulster Scots Heritage Society, or those who emigrated from certain areas such as the Germans from Russia. There are a multitude of these groups, and if you are interested, there is probably one you could qualify for.

 First however, your ancestor must qualify and you may have to prove that – but chances are great that a distant cousin may have already done that for you. I have one such cousin who joined the DAR using my ggg grandfather, so when I joined, part of the research work was already completed. 

The next step in joining is a careful documentation of your ancestry back to the qualifying ancestor.  You start that process with you, and it must be more than a pedigree chart, or family legend, it must be 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 certificates, wills, land records, birth certificates where they exist, tax records and census records that state relationships.  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 a member must prove lineage, there exists in lineage society files valuable genealogical information, which includes 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.  The records of the DAR, for example, will include names of others who lived in the colonies during the period of the Revolutionary War, such as the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the participants in the Boston Tea Party, as well as clergy who supported the Revolution.

 These groups 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 or digitized. 

 You also might want to join a settler society because you have an interest in the area your ancestor settled or because you still live in that area and want to preserve the history. A big advantage is that if you qualify for a specific lineage society, your genealogy will be published 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. Someone else may be involved in one of those societies, and have the information you need.


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