Lineage Society

Avoid Common Lineage Society Mistakes: Know What Documents You’ll Need to Provide

Family trees? Ancestry ThruLines? A family genealogy?

Lineage societies have rules about records you can and cannot submit as supporting documentation. Knowing what those rules are can save you significant time and frustration.

Check with your specific society before proceeding, but here are a few general rules.

  1. If a vital record (birth, death or marriage certificate or record) exists, do your best to acquire a copy. Some societies will allow the substitution of abstracts, such as the Barbour Collection; some will require the originals. Photocopies are fine. Do not submit originals, as they will likely be destroyed.
  2. If a vital record does not exist, acceptable substitutes can include:
    • Obituaries
    • Deeds
    • Military records, including draft records and pension files.
    • Church records
    • Family Bibles (Be sure to include the cover page. Entries must be made by someone who would have experienced the event. A birth 200 years before the publication date will not be accepted.)
    • Gravestone images.
    • DNA under certain limited circumstances.
    • And more.
  3. Some documents and sources should be avoided except in limited cases. Such as:
    • Family histories and genealogies without citations to sources.
    • Ancestry ThruLines
    • Family trees.
    • Local histories that do not provide citations to sources.
    • Lineage applications from other societies
    • DNA (Unless it meets the society’s requirements.)

Wondering if a source will or will not be allowed? Your first resource is the society itself. Have questions? We’ll be glad to help. Contact Us

Lineage Society

How can I use Civil War records in my lineage society applications?

Even if you’re not applying to a Civil War related lineage society, Civil War records can still help your applications in a few different ways.

  1. They can put an individual in a certain place at a certain time. If an ancestor had to register for the draft or mustered in, you know where they were when the documents were completed. This can be key in building a timeline.
  2. They can document dates and places of death in a time before vital records. If your ancestor died in service, it should show up as part of his compiled military service records. If he died after and was receiving a pension, it would be included as part of the pension to explain why the pension should no longer be paid.
  3. They can document relationships; the births of children; and dates and places of marriage. Pension files are a gold mine of family information. Widows had to “prove” their marriage so that they could get access to their husband’s pensions; they had to prove their children’s births so that they could access to benefits for minors. The person swearing an affidavit of support may be a sibling.

How do you find these records? Many have been digitized and are accessible on Fold3. If they are not, they can be ordered from the National Archives . Happy hunting!


Avoid Common Lineage Society Mistakes: Plan for How You Spend Your Money

Almost no one goes in with a good understanding of the cost of the lineage society application process. That confusion leads people to one of two extremes. Either they assume the process should be free or they spend far too much money buying records they don’t necessarily need. Planning ahead can help you spend your money effectively.

  1. Know from the beginning the process isn’t going to be free. Even if your family saves everything, you’ll have the application review fee (which can be anywhere from $15-$500). Most families don’t keep copies of vital records in the house. Those run around $20 and can be more.
  2. Use the path of least resistance. If your goal is membership and not documenting a specific ancestor, use the easiest to document line. Some societies will allow you to reference paperwork already on file. If you have industrious cousins, that may mean you need to document only three to four generations instead of eight or more.
  3. Don’t order certified copies unless necessary. Sometimes you’ll have to no option but to order the certified copies – especially for recent births, deaths, and marriages. Many older records are available without charge somewhere online. (FamilySearch is a great resource for this.) Save the money.
  4. Know when you’re stuck. Yes, hiring help can get expensive. But your money and your time both have costs. If you’re having a hard time proving a line, ask for help before you spend any more money. Often we get “tunnel vision” when trying to do an application and can end up spending time and money on a line that doesn’t work, while an easily provable line still is awaiting research.

Lineage Society

What does a lineage society application cost?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question. The cost depends on what society you join, where you join that society, and what portion of the lineage you need to document to complete your application.

Smaller societies may charge you only a lifetime application fee of several hundred dollars or less. Essentially, they’re charging you to review the application and to off set their activities fee by a small amount.

Larger, decentralized societies (the Mayflower Society is a prime example) vary their fee by the location you apply. Even though they may send the application to one place to be reviewed, these societies hold their resources locally. As a result, the fee you pay will vary based on local needs.

Larger centralized societies generally have a standard application review fee but will also charge local dues. This allows them to standardize where they can and then still meets the needs of the local organizations.

And then there’s the cost of the documents for your application. (More to follow…)

What does this mean for you? If there’s a budget concern, it’s best to ask about fees going in. Most societies are glad to clarify. They don’t want to shock you – or put in the time only to find you can’t pay the necessary fees to complete your application.

Lineage Society

4 Common Lineage Society Application Mistakes – and how to avoid them

It doesn’t matter whether you’re joining the Dames or the Mayflower Society, lineage society application mistakes happen. But when they do, they can derail the process and leave you frustrated and struggling to finish your paperwork. Know the common errors going and learn how to avoid them.

  1. Know from the beginning this is NOT a free process. At the bare minimum – which almost never happens – you will be paying the application fee, which can run from $20 to several hundred. More often, you will be spending several hundred on certificates and possibly more on research help. There are ways to save money and to be cost effective. (We’ll discuss more in a future post.) Go in expecting to spend some money. It will reduce the frustration of all involved.
  2. Know that you will need to provide documents. Sorry, but the family tree you found on Ancestry isn’t good enough, no matter how many ways it says you’re related to a Revolutionary War patriot. Those trees are hints. They are not what the lineage societies call “proof,” or documentation that supports the assertions you’re making about your lineage with evidence.
  3. Don’t assume just because someone else in the family was a member, you automatically are. Societies have tightened their standards for required documentation over the last few decades, and many older applications do not meet those standards. You may get lucky, but far more often, you’ll need to provide documentation to fill in the gaps. Plan to do the application over. Finding out you don’t need to will be a nice surprise. (We’ll talk about how to use what’s already on file in a future post.)
  4. Make a plan. The process can feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to get confused about what you need to order, locate, or send to the society. Make a plan. And know when and where to ask for help. (We’ll discuss more in a future post.)
Lineage Society

Did Connecticut issue bounty land for Revolutionary War service?

Enjoy a final great question from our inaugural “Tracing Connecticut Revolutionary War ‘patriots'” program.

First of all, what’s bounty land? This finding aid from NARA offers a great brief description. In short, bounty land was a right to “public” land (owned by the state or federal government). It was issued to Revolutionary War veterans as a reward for their service. Some states offered bounty land for soldiers that had supported their cause.

Connecticut was not one of them, although you’ll still sometimes hear claims that Connecticut offered bounty land. What Connecticut offered was land in exchange for damages. This land located in Ohio, called the Firelands or the Suffers’ Lands, was supposed to recompense families who had their property burned by the British. The majority of the claims were not occupied by the original claimants. See the above cited resource at the CT State Library or this profile at Ohio History Central for more details.

Lineage Society

Did Connecticut pay state Revolutionary War pensions?

Another great question from our Revolutionary War program!

While some states – most notably Virginia – paid state level pensions to increase participation in the American Revolution, Connecticut did not. If your ancestor were to receive a pension for his military service from Connecticut during the American Revolution, it was paid by the federal government. The majority of these pensions have been digitized and are accessible with a subscription from Fold3.

Happy hunting!

Lineage Society

Did Connecticut pay supply taxes during the American Revolution? And did paying them qualify my ancestor for DAR or SAR?

Thanks to all who attended our Revolutionary War program this past Wednesday. We received some great follow up questions after the program and wanted to share the answers here.

While some colonies (now states) had taxes that were gathered specifically in support of the War, Connecticut did not. Instead, towns gathered taxes for the running of government as they always had. In some cases, they allocated a specific portion for the support of the Army. You can find out when and where this occurred by reading the town meeting records of the town where your ancestor resided.

The question of DAR/SAR qualifications is a complicated one. When these taxes were paid, it wasn’t stated that the money would be going to the Army. It was allocated afterwards. Therefore, it’s less clear whether someone with loyalist leanings would have objected to paying them. We’re still waiting for a ruling from DAR or SAR on this matter. If you do decide to submit taxes as service from Connecticut, be sure to find a secondary source.

How do you document that your ancestor paid these taxes? You’ll need to access and copy two sets of documents. First, you’ll need to access the section of the town meeting records that indicates the allocation of this money. In most cases, the town meeting records are held at either the State Library or the office of the local town clerk. If you can’t locate them, the State Library should be able to help. Second, you’ll need to access the grand list, the document that indicates your ancestor paid taxes that year. Many have not survived, but those that have are generally in the office of the town clerk.

Best of luck! And if you do submit this, please let us know how it goes.

Lineage Society

I’d like to document another ancestor for the Mayflower Society, but I’m already a member. What can I do?

For most lineage societies, you can document more than one ancestor, provided all ancestors meet the society’s qualifications. That second (or third, fourth, or fifth…) application is called a “supplemental.”

When you submit a supplemental, you can build off of your existing application and connect to the new ancestor by providing the paperwork for the generations which differed from your original line. In some cases, you may be “proving” only one new generation – if both of your ancestors’ grandfathers were in the Revolutionary War. In others, it may be much more. Beyond the fact that you may not need to document the entire line, supplementals follow the same rules as initial applications.

So, why do a supplemental? For most people, it’s a chance to record a bit more of their family history. By putting an additional line “on file,” a member ensures that their family history is documented some place it will be retained.

Lineage Society

DAR’s updated DNA policy: what does it mean for you?

The Daughters of the American Revolution recently announced that they will begin accepting autosomal and mitochrondrial DNA. See and for details. What does it mean for you?

If you can document your entire line back to a qualifying ancestor “on paper,” little to nothing will change. DAR will continue to verify applications in the way that they have always done.

If you have an adoption or other case of “not expected parentage” more than three generations into the line, nothing will change. You can make a case using y-DNA in combination with documentary evidence.

The big change comes if you have a case of adoption or other “not expected” parentage in the first three generations. For those generations, you are now allowed to submit autosomal DNA evidence and/or mitochrondrial DNA evidence in combination with your documentary evidence to make a case. Be aware, this is far more complex than just handing over a list of your DNA matches.

You will need to test or have access to the test kits of the individuals who share enough DNA in common with you to make your case, whether that is a series of likely first cousin matches or a half-sibling. Those individuals will need to sign permission to share their DNA results with DAR and upload their kits to the DAR group on FamilyTreeDNA. You’ll be asked to complete a form with their signatures, an indication of how they connect to your common ancestor and what you are trying to prove by DNA. With that form, you’ll also need to submit documentary evidence.

DNA cannot stand alone. If you choose to use DNA, be sure that all arguments are adequately documented and supported with “paper” evidence. Above all, be sure to obtain consent from your matches. To turn in results without permission is an ethical violation.