Lineage societies, despite the reputation that they sometimes have of being for snobby socialites, do serve very useful purposes in the genealogical world.
Why do people join lineage societies? The woman I was helping with research for her lineage papers this week has friends who joined the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and she would like to go to the meetings with them. Some people do join for the snob appeal ~ to be able to brag that they have Mayflower ancestry, or royal ancestry, or had ancestors who were among the first settlers of Indiana.
But, beyond the social aspects, lineage societies provide a couple other benefits to the genealogical community. Follow me over the Great Orange Doodle for more....
There are two basic benefits that lineage societies have for the wider genealogical community.
The first is that many of them have repositories of knowledge. Whether it's a huge library like the DAR has in Washington, DC, (which is oh, so very filled with genealogical goodness!) or an official genealogist who knows what's available in early Indiana research, that knowledge can be invaluable in helping a researcher find out more about his or her ancestors.
The other big (and often overlooked...) benefit to a researcher that a lineage society can provide is a double check on one's research. Having an outside professional (or serious amateur) genealogist who knows the area of one's research review a line for accuracy can be quite helpful ~ and a society's genealogist can often help in finding the final 'proof' needed to confirm that the person seeking membership is actually descended from the eligible ancestor.
Most lineage societies have made the proof requirements for membership more professional in the last couple decades. Generally, if a close relative belonged to a lineage society, a new applicant only has to provide proof of descent back to the common ancestor on the already approved membership. However, if Grandma or Aunt Mary joined the DAR forty years ago, the documentation may not meet modern standards of proof and have to be redone ~ but the older application can be used as a guide for finding proof that meets modern standards. A society's old lineage papers can be a wealth of information about early families in an area, and much of that has not been digitized for wider consumption.
Let's look at a couple of the more well-known and/or interesting lineage societies....
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants (to give its full name) is open to those directly descended from a Mayflower passenger. Membership is handled/processed though state societies. Traditionally, it was 25 male passengers who were the qualifying ancestors, but their website now lists the wives and daughters, as well, although, for example, if you are descended from Priscilla Mullins, you are also descended from her husband John Alden and her father William Mullins.
The men who were the traditional qualifying ancestors:A house at Plimouth Plantation:
John Alden, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, William Bradford, William Brewster,
Peter Browne, James Chilton, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Francis Eaton, Moses Fletcher, Edward Fuller, Samuel Fuller, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland, Richard More, William Mullins, Degory Priest, Thomas Rogers, Henry Samson, George Soule, Myles Standish, John Tilley, Richard Warren, William White, Edward Winslow
Note: I've bolded the names of those I'm descended from (italics are for those that I don't have sufficient proof for yet). Any distant cousins reading this?
A couple interesting bits:
1. finding John Billington as an ancestor is somewhat bittersweet, as a friend found out ~ he gets you Mayflower membership, but he was also the first European-American executed in the new World :-(
2. if you find one Mayflower ancestral line, the chances are fairly high that you will find several, as some of them were prolific and the families intermarried frequently in the colonial era.
3. In fact, if your ancestry goes back to colonial New England at all, it's likely you will run into Mayflower ancestry. My grandmother insisted she didn't have any ~ that all her ancestors were from Boston's North (and superior, in her somewhat skewed view of the world) Shore. When I found a bunch of the lines that went back to the Mayflower, they were through an ancestor she didn't approve of, for various reasons, so she continued to discount the lines ~ until a friend bragged about her 2 lines, and then Gram was very interested in her dozen of so.....
Oh, and stay tuned ~ Isaac Allerton has an added bonus....
If you manage to have Plymouth Colony ancestry, but somehow miss the Mayflower Society requirements, there is the National Society of Old Plymouth Colony Descendants. Or, for those whose ancestors lived on Boston's North Shore, The Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury (I could join for several: Gerrish, Dow, Coffin, Greenleaf, Jaques, Kent, Keyes, Sewall, to name a few) or the Bloodlines of Salem. There's also the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches (yikes ~ qualify for this one, too....Anne Hutchinson and several Salem accused), as well as the Society of Descendants of the Colonial Clergy (yup, you guessed it.... could join this, as well ~ Thomas Hooker, Azariah Horton, a couple of those Putnams.........).
My definite Putnam lines (still working on a couple others.....):
Early cemetery, Marblehead, MA:
The Daughters of the American Revolution is open to:
Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence.Aided is often interpreted fairly broadly ~ if you have a non-loyalist ancestor who was living in what became the United States at the time of the revolution, it's quite possible that person sold supplies to the army, or provided housing, although the easiest to prove is actual military service (yeah for bureaucracy and recordkeeping!). The DAR is an excellenty source of records and other oinformation about the revolutionary and early federal eras. If you are a genealogist and in DC, their library is worth going to, even if only just to gawk at the resources they have ;-)
The First Families of Virginia is similar to the Mayflower Society ~ and, if you can prove descent from Isaac Allerton of the the Mayflower, you can get the bonus of joining this, as Allerton was in Virginia before he traveled on the Mayflower.
The list of qualifying ancestors for the National Society, Descendants of Early Quakers is very long ~ lots of choices there ;-)
Quaker meetinghouse, now at Old Sturbridge Village:
Another old Quaker meetinghouse, now at Genesee Country Village (great place to visit.....) in western NY:
And the interior:
The Holland Society is for men descended in the straight male line from early NY settlers. Since it's straight male line only, that limits eligibility but may make research easier, as there are no surname changes.
There's a society for descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence, but I haven't found one for descendants of presidents.
When I knit or quilt (two of my other
obsessions hobbies), I'm into the process as much as the final product ~ mulling over what pattern to use, perusing the available appropriate yarns, loving the actual knitting and sewing. Yes, the finished product is wonderful (and I love when I manage to make the perfect gift for someone.....) but the process is what keeps me interested ~ and addicted. Looks like I'm the same about genealogy ~ it's the hunt that's the fun ;-) For me, doing lineage society papers is about the hunt, not the snob appeal.
So, how do you go about joining a lineage society? Well, some are invitation only, but the ones of most interest to genealogists aren't ~ they have websites that explain the requirements and direct a potential member to resources and people to help with the process.
The first step is to identify the lineage society that fits your ancestry ~ the DAR or the Sons of the Republic of Texas, or the St. David's Society (men with Welsh ancestry), and so on.
The next step is to narrow down to lines that might trace back to qualifying ancestors.
When I was contemplating the DAR, the first couple dozen lines I looked at had men who were too old or two young to have fought in the Revolution ~ but then I had a string of lines where the men were the right age. And some of the too old men turn out to be qualifying ancestors, as well ~ the non-military assistance.
The friend I was helping earlier this week had a nice filled out pedigree ~ all her 16 great great grandparents were listed. Knowing a fair bit about colonial New England (and that many towns in western Maine, as with Ohio and parts of northeastern PA, were settled by men who had been given land as part of a military pension), I was able to pick out which names were the best ones to follow to find. So we looked at her Abbotts, Chandlers, Goulds, Watermans, and Westons, as all of those families go back to the colonial era in Massachusetts (and I can remember the names off the top of my head, as we discovered ~ as is quite common with colonial New England genealogy ~ that we were related several different ways.....), and found the lines we will actually look for sufficient proof for. If she had been looking for Mayflower ancestry, I would have focused on the Waterman and Weston lines, as those were families that were in the Plymouth/south shore area, while the other families were more likely from north of Boston.
Whether your genealogical meanderings end up with lineage society membership or not ~ hope you are having fun with the hunt ;-)