Records access depends heavily on the state in which your ancestors lived. Some states have a significant amount of research and original records available online and are responsive to certificate requests; others have very little digitized and require most requests to be placed via mail or by an onsite genealogist.
This will directly impact how long your lineage society application takes to assemble. When we build an application, the ideal is to work from the applicant backwards. That helps us ensure accuracy, as we’re verifying every generation before moving to the next. The longer it takes us to the records we need, the longer it takes to finish the application.
Right now, there are two main issues at play: record orders and the need for onsite research. If a record needs to be ordered from the state level, it can take up to 6 to 12 weeks – and sometimes we end up needing to order them one at a time or in small groups in order to confirm links. There’s a serious shortage of onsite researchers right now as well. In many cases, it’s taking me up to a month to find local help. (That’s without the time it takes them do research.)
What can you do to improve the time? First, order certificates early. If you’re thinking about doing a lineage society application, order birth, death, and marriage certificates as applicable for you, your spouse, your parents, and your grandparents in the ancestral line. (If you have or can make photocopies/scans, those can be used as well.) The bulk of societies now require them, and you’ll be ahead. Second, consider your budget: are you willing to pay for the genealogist to work ahead with the caveat that they may need to change lines to address an issue or to pay extra for a local genealogist to retrieve records? If time is a concern, this needs to be considered. Finally, don’t wait! If your invitation expires three years from now, start now… you may not need to even consider the timeline!